COVID-19 Business in Action Interview Series: The COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition

June 22, 2020

The unprecedented spread of COVID-19 has brought a great deal of uncertainty to our world, with communities, businesses, and governments taking drastic measures to adapt to this new reality. As the coronavirus situation continues to unfold, one thing is clear: the business community is on the frontlines of the fight against the pandemic, demonstrating unparalleled agility and innovation to help our country navigate this health and economic crisis as fast and effectively as possible. 

We sat down with business leaders driving the global corporate response to COVID-19 to learn more about their efforts, how they are navigating this uncharted territory, and what advice they have for others. 

Q1: Thank you for participating in our COVID-19 Business in Action interview series. Can you tell us a little about the work of the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition and why it was formed? 

Thank you to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation for this opportunity. 

We have the privilege of serving as co-chairs of the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition. Back in late February, faculty from MIT, Mayo Clinic, and Leavitt Partners recognized the need for a collective industry response to coronavirus here in the United States. The coalition was formed with the belief that private sector organizations, with vast data, expertise, capabilities, and insights, could respond quickly to help preserve healthcare delivery, and save lives.

The interest in, and response to, the new group have been tremendous. We have grown to more than 900 volunteer-members from healthcare organizations, technology firms, nonprofits, academia, and startups.

This incredible diversity of expertise and capabilities has enabled us to organize around the most immediate, near-term challenges confronting healthcare delivery systems. For example, when it became apparent that demand for personal protective equipment far outstripped supply, we began working on fast, innovative ways to help protect frontline healthcare workers. We worked with startups, academia, and other research organizations on new ways to sterilize and reuse N95 masks, to 3D print equipment, and to adapt existing products—such as snorkel masks—into healthcare protection. 

Furthermore, we have collected, analyzed and published over 275 resources, data sets and best practices available on the website C19HCC.org to provide situational awareness and real-time insights. 

Q2: From technology firms to nonprofits and academia, the Coalition brings together a wide range of stakeholders to improve COVID-19 related health outcomes. What is the value of cross-sector partnerships particularly in emergencies like this? 

We are fighting a virus that does not care about the borders or business sectors that our vital supply chains traverse. It was apparent early that most facilities in the United States did not have enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to survive a surge of COVID-19 cases. While the government had stockpiles that it delivered to the states, it was simply not enough. 

This is exactly when cross-sector partnerships and collaborations made all the difference. 

In very short order our members tapped their extensive contacts and worked with international suppliers and Governor Cuomo’s procurement office to deliver 575,000 FDA-certified respirators – KN95 masks – to New York City hospitals, and 100,000 more to Masks4America.

From coalition members who financed these purchases up front, to those that volunteered their cargo transportation capabilities – it was an incredible example of teamwork between organizations. And we need more of this type of deep collaboration.

As the country begins to relax NPIs like social distancing and open back up, we are bringing together companies from various fields to figure out the best way to support increased testing and contact tracing. Our discussions involve pharmacies, health systems, commercial and nonprofit labs, pharma companies, logistics and transportation companies, and suppliers from around the world. It is critical to bring everyone together to make sure we can successfully move through this phase. 

Q3: Data analytics and visualization have emerged as key drivers of the global COVID-19 response. How is the Coalition leveraging data and modeling to inform our understanding of COVID-19 and drive solutions?

The coalition recently published the COVID-19 Decision Support Dashboard. This new tool synthesizes large amounts of complex, essential data into easy-to-use key findings for public and private-sector leaders navigating the ‘reopening’ of communities and businesses. It provides a structured understanding of how a state or county is performing by adding red-yellow-green indicators for key areas.

This dashboard is inspired by criteria outlined in the National Governors Association’s Roadmap to Recovery Report, and the free, web-based tool displays COVID-19 virus reproduction rates, confirmed case growth and decline, and mortality trends. The content is driven by publicly available data from nearly a dozen trusted sources, including Kaiser Family Foundation, Johns Hopkins University, and data.medicare.gov. 

Many of our coalition members have deep experience in data analytics and visualizations, as well as data storage. Since day one we have been identifying and curating the best data and models and publishing them online, so they are easily available to decision makers. Today the website’s resource library contains hundreds of items from information on ventilators, telehealth practices, and NPIs to worldwide maps of outbreaks.

Q4: Over the course of this crisis, we’ve seen unprecedented agility and ingenuity from the business community, as they’ve rearranged operations or shifted production overnight to find real-time solutions to COVID-19 challenges. What do you think this crisis has shown about the role of business in society?  

Businesses are traditionally credited with being able to adapt rapidly to changes in technology, human behavior, competition, and the environment. And that has certainly been our experience where we have seen members quickly step outside of their core businesses and fight COVID-19 with an incredible sense of urgency. 

COVID-19 also highlighted another trait of the business community – its ability to work together towards a common goal.

Each of our members agreed to a set of guiding principles in order to join: everyone participates for the benefit of the country only, everyone cooperates and openly shares their plans, and nobody will get paid for coalition work—without exception.

Many of our members are considered longtime rivals and fierce competitors, and the fact they have agreed to these principles tells us we have the right organizations at the table, setting aside differences and collaborating across the board for the greater good.