Co-creation in Innovative Healthcare during COVID-19

World Health Organization’s Director-General (WHO DG) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the historic virtual and de minimis 73rd World Health Assembly in May 2020 said that the world had come together virtually to confront the defining health crisis of our time.

Our virtual 9th Global Patients Congress 16-17th September 2020 (GPC 2020) is an equally important moment to reflect upon the impact of the pandemic on our global patient community and our health systems. It is also a moment for patients to engage in focused discussion on health systems strengthening and preparedness through patient led and co-created innovative solutions. 

The world now needs a whole-of-government and whole-of-society response to engage and empower people and communities to keep themselves and others safe to control the COVID-19 pandemic. The WHO DG has reminded us of the challenge ahead: it will take hard work and high fidelity to science in all decision-making, especially within some exceedingly difficult decisions to come in maintaining effective test, treat, cure and shield programmes without breaching human rights and privacy of patients with pressure to end lockdowns and jump start economies. 

From the initial global COVID-19 infection related mortality and morbidity statistics, we can see that patients with chronic conditions, especially those with multimorbidity, had the worst outcomes. It was also noticeably clear that many of our health systems did not have capacity to shield immunocompromised patients behind effective patient centred and evidence based shielding programmes. It is important that we address this failure.

However, we also saw some innovative patient led good practice as many health systems began to provide virtual and digital healthcare services. A lot of primary healthcare reverted to telemedicine and remote peer-to-peer (expert-patient to new patient) supported self-care and home-based care solutions that alleviated some of the mental health pressures affecting those in self-isolation. Patients must continue participating in co-creating other innovative solutions. Nothing about us without us.

 

Window of opportunity

Holding our 9th Global Patients Congress in the middle of a pandemic gives our global patient community a strategic opportunity to share our patient experiences and patient perspectives with our healthcare policy makers through a global platform. It opens a door for us to join the whole-of-government and whole-of-society effort to control the pandemic and rebuild our health systems as a whole-of-patient community.

The World Health Assembly Resolution WHA73.1 Agenda item 3 (May 2020) gives the GPC 2020 a great mandate to ensure that the World Health Organization Member States (MS) quickly strengthen and fix the disrupted healthcare services. COVID-19 has damaged many services and WHO MS must accelerate the implementation of patient centred measures to provide a sufficient quantity of safe, quality, accessible, acceptable and affordable healthcare services, medicines and devices (including PPE) to all again. 

IAPO will hold Day 2 of the GPC 2020 to mark the World Patient Safety Day on 17th September 2020. We will bring home the theme of the day that the COVID-19 pandemic has proved that without health worker safety, there can be no patient safety.  

Never have we witnessed a situation where patients lost complete trust in their health systems en masse. Fearing acquiring nosocomial COVID-19 infections from their health facilities, patients avoided seeking medical services in droves. Many even shunned acute healthcare needs by avoiding the accident and emergency services in falls and suspected strokes and heart attacks. 

COVID-19 shamed and overstretched our health systems and demotivated the health workforce, many are now experiencing severe mental health trauma. The damaged healthcare systems can no longer continue providing safe, quality, acceptable, affordable, and patient centric healthcare services, and medicines. This will impact negatively on outcomes of most noncommunicable diseases that needed secondary prevention services and regular monitoring clinics and follow-ups. 

The GPC 2020 is an opportunity for us to start rebuilding and strengthening our health systems and co-create safe, innovative, robust and resilient health systems future proofed against any upcoming health related emergency shocks.   

It will also be a moment to remind ourselves of WHO DG’s words that health is not a cost; it is an investment. Health is not a reward for development; it is a prerequisite. Health is a pathway to security, prosperity, and peace. We must address this common problem through national unity and global solidarity. The GPC 2020 is very special for us this year.