COVID-19 has taught us a lot over the past two years. One of the key learnings to come out of the pandemic is the importance of collaboration. Early in the pandemic we saw companies assemble crisis management teams that brought together different skill sets that needed to act swiftly and effectively against a threat that at the time we didn’t know much about.
Although many of those unknowns remain, what we do know is that we work better together. The same applies at the global level where we saw countries sharing information on case numbers, hospitalisation rates, and overall disease trends that ultimately helped us to better understand this new virus that had emerged. Two years down the road, information sharing has become a critical part of mitigating the impact of emerging variants. By quickly sharing information on new variants, we can act quickly in a much more efficient and effective manner.
However, information sharing has not come without its difficulties. By nature, when an unknown arises, our eagerness to quickly understand and make sense of it all pushes us to absorb as much information as we can; a natural problem-solving technique inherited from our ancient ancestor. In today’s world however, we are presented not only with a tremendous amount but also with a large number of platforms to access this information. This has forced the medical and scientific community to improve the way it processes information as well as refine its method for disseminating it into the general public.
A reliance on local public-health advice has been considered the de facto advice in the past for some employers – but in 2022 and beyond, a more tailored, joined-up approach will be needed.
How International SOS recommends building confidence in the accuracy and appropriateness of guidance:
- Challenge the data and all the assumptions that sit underneath
- Cross-reference multiple best practices to define what is the best approach for the greatest number of organisations e.g., contact tracing and testing approaches
- Define global minimum standards and support tools
- Tailoring of guidance for the organisation based on their specific needs and any national or regional requirements.
COVID-19 has created many more ‘grey areas’ – what we know and do today may need to change tomorrow, based on ratified guidance: an organisation’s ability and willingness to be agile here will help build resilience in the future.
At international SOS for instance, we have had to create new knowledge management teams just so that we can keep up with the thousands of medical articles that come out on a weekly basis related to COVID-19. We then distill it to help businesses leaders and individuals make critical decisions when it comes to keeping their workforce safe. The work however does not stop there.
As we work at a global level, we have then had to go a step further and disseminate key messages in a way that is consistent clear and relevant to local languages and cultures.
Most experts agree that we eventually will transition from a pandemic scenario where the virus continues to be prominent in most of the world to an endemic scenario where pockets of countries and regions continue to struggle with COVID-19 for a longer period of time. While the virus may continue to circulate for years to come, the damage and disruption that it causes to individuals, health care systems and economies will improve. As more and more people become vaccinated the likelihood of new variants will continue to decrease. Our hope is that the severity of the illness will also decrease as new variants emerge similar to what we saw with H1N1 a few years back. Additionally, treatments will continue to get better. Just recently, new oral treatments have been approved in the US and in the UK for patients that contract COVID-19 that might be at high risk of developing severe forms of the disease. This is likely just the beginning of and improving arsenal that clinicians will have at their disposal in the near future.
When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change. Let us use the last two years to improve on what wasn't working, to do more of what was working and to maintain our ability to quickly adapt for the next challenge.