Do you believe we’re at the stage of the COVID-19 pandemic where the industry can finally start to think about the new normal?
Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips: Let me phrase it this way. We’ve had, I don’t want to call them waves; we’ve had several tsunamis that have come through, particularly last winter and this winter. In the future they’ll be much more wave-size and then ripple-size as time goes by. I do think we’re approaching the endemic stage. There will still be waves, but not tsunamis.
Dr. Alexander Garza: I’ll caveat everything with, “Hey, we’ve seen instances in the pandemic where it’s thrown us a curveball.” But I think we’re in as good of a spot as we’ve ever been. After the omicron wave, there are very few people in the community, either where we are in Missouri or the across country, that haven’t built up some sort of immunity to the coronavirus through vaccination or infection.
A lot of routine screenings, preventive care and elective procedures were deferred over the past couple of years. How concerned are you about the long-term effects of that?
Compton-Phillips: If you want to know what keeps me awake at night, that’s a huge one. Our workforce has been decimated and we have patients who haven’t received care. Now we have good evidence that there’s some impact of COVID on the risk of heart disease. It’s deferred care for people with heart disease, but we’re just seeing this blip in patients who have cardiovascular problems.
Garza: We are going to have to at least follow some of the outcomes in the future years to see what sort of impact there was with delayed care. Whether that’s things like colonoscopies and other preventive measures and if that has an impact on cancer rates, mortality and things like that moving forward. … It’s certainly going to be greater than zero.
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Looking back at the past two years plus of the pandemic, can you see any kind of silver lining given what the country and the industry have endured?
Compton-Phillips: In every industry outside of healthcare, adding technology has simplified the experience for consumers and lowered costs. We added technology in healthcare and that made it more complicated and raised costs. But during COVID, we were finally able to take advantage of things like telehealth and hospital at home, and started using a lot of digital tools to ease the way for our patients and caregivers.
Garza: Early in the pandemic, we helped form the St. Louis Pandemic Task Force. It really was a coming together of all the healthcare systems here in St. Louis, along with public health and the business community. I think one of the benefits was this metropolitan area collaboration, across many different sectors, to address a common challenge.