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Ezekiel Emanuel smiles while standing in a garden on a fall day.

Ezekiel Emanuel on Innovation in COVID-19 and Health Care

We’ll never entirely eradicate COVID-19. So, we need to re-orient ourselves to how we can live with it by building precautions and safeguards – ventilation systems, for example – into the background of daily life.

So said Ezekiel Emanuel, M.D., Ph.D., Vice Provost for Global Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania, responding to one of the many questions following his noon Thursday, Feb. 3, presentation on NEOMED’s VITALS program.

An oncologist, medical ethicist, professor and former health adviser to President Biden’s transition team, Dr. Emanuel had been invited to speak on any of the VITALS topics: value-based, innovation, technology, advocacy, leadership or service. He focused on three areas of health care that are in transition: automation, telemedicine and care at home.

Dr. Emanuel suggested that we think of automation as “a savior, not a villain” at this time of critical staff shortages. In his view, automation is especially useful for routine tasks, leaving health care providers more time to spend on the fulfilling aspects of their jobs.

Many patients would benefit from increased home care options such as remote patient monitoring – including for COVID-19 patients – said Dr. Emanuel. He noted that some 30 years ago, when he trained at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, he could never have conceived that chemotherapy could be delivered at home, but now it’s happening. For example, he said, infusion nurses from Penn Medicine have now administered 30 kinds of cancer drugs in home settings.

Taking care of more people at home is “the wave of the future,” said Dr. Ezekiel – but to do it successfully, the nation’s home care system needs to employ people in the role of a quarterback who can coordinate the varied needs of any given patient. And institutions and providers need incentives to expand home care options.

Betty Lin-Fisher, a medical reporter and consumer columnist for the Akron Beacon Journal and USA Today Network, moderated the Q&A session, closing with questions that led to Dr. Ezekiel’s musings on a personal hero – Benjamin Franklin – and what students and professionals alike can take from his leadership across many areas.

Next on VITALS: Nancy Schlichting, M.B.A., Chief Executive Officer (retired), Henry Ford Health System; former COO at Summa Health. The webinar is free and CE credit is available.

Register here for Nancy Schlichting on VITALS, March 10 at noon.