A year ago, if you’d
used or even heard about Zoom, you were probably in the tech industry.
Today, if you haven’t used Zoom, your friends or colleagues must not like you
very much. COVID-19 has made most of us homebound most of the time, and video
services like Zoom are helping make that more bearable.
healthcare is finally paying attention.
Zoom was founded in 2011, poking along under the radar for several years, overshadowed by competitors like Skype or WebEx. For the entire month of May 2013 it only had a million meeting participants. Even by December 2019 it could boast “only” 10 million daily users.
Then — boom — COVID-19 hits and people start staying at home. Daily users skyrocketed to 200 million in March and as many as 300 million in April (well, not quite). Daily downloads went from 56,000 in January 2020 to over 2 million in April. Zoom is now used by businesses and families alike, drawn by its simplicity and ease of use.
By all rights, we should
be using WebEx for business video calls and Skype for personal ones. Both
had been around longer, offered credible services, and still exist. But
both were acquired along the way, WebEx by Cisco, and Skype ultimately by
Microsoft. As with its acquisition of Nokia, once acquired Microsoft
didn’t quite seem to know what to do with it. Each left openings that
Zoom plunged through when the pandemic hit.
There are so many
stories about the coronavirus pandemic — some inspiring, some tragic, and
all-too-many frustrating. In the world’s supposedly most advanced
economy, we’ve struggled to produce enough ventilators, tests, even swabs, for
I can’t stop thinking
about infrastructure, especially unemployment systems.
We’d never purposely shut down our economy; no nation had. Each state is trying to figure out the best course between limiting exposure to COVID-19 and keeping food on people’s tables. Those workers deemed “essential” still show up for work, others may be able to work from home, but many have suddenly become unemployed.
The U.S. is seeing
unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression, and occuring in a matter
of a couple months, not several years. As of this writing, there
are over 22 million unemployed; no one believes that is a complete count (not
everyone qualifies for unemployment), and few believe that will be the peak.
systems could not manage the flood of applications.
Episode 6 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed on Thursday, April 23 at 1pm PT- 4pm ET! 4-6 semi-regular guests drawn from THCB authors and other assorted old friends of mine will shoot the sh*t about health care business, politics, practice, and tech. It’s available below and is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.
Our lineup included: Saurabh Jha (@roguerad), Ian Morrison (@seccurve), Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard), Grace Cordovano (@GraceCordovano),Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis), Brian Klepper (@bklepper1), and a special guest – Alexandra Drane (@adrane, founder of Eliza, Queen of the Unmentionables, CEO of ArchAngels and sometimes Walmart cashier). Lots of great conversation especially around palliative care, patient experience, the real prevalence of COVID-19 and much more.
We’re not through the
COVID-19 pandemic. We’re probably not even near the end of the beginning
yet. That hasn’t stopped many pundits to start speculating about how our
society (and our healthcare system) are likely to be permanently changed as a result,
such as continued reliance on telecommuting and telemedicine.
OK, I’ll play too: I
believe we need to greatly expand the role of robots, and begin something that
resembles Universal Basic Income (UBI). They’re not the only changes that
may result, but they are two that should.
We’ve been seeing robots infiltrating the workforce for many decades, such as in manufacturing but also in many other industries.
Still, though, as our
economy pares down to “essential businesses” during the pandemic,
I’ve been alarmed at how many of the jobs remain done by humans. Not just
healthcare workers on the front lines but also all those people doing the
cleaning for essential businesses, all those people in the supply chain of food
and other vital materials, all those people making deliveries, all those first
responders, all those people all those people keeping the power on, the water
running, and the internet streaming, among others. And so on.
Episode 5 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed Thursday, April 16 at 1pm PT- 4pm ET! 4-6 semi-regular guests drawn from THCB authors and other assorted old friends of mine will shoot the sh*t about health care business, politics, practice, and tech. It tries to be fun but serious and informative! If you miss it, it will also be preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.
Crises — like our
current COVID-19 pandemic — force people to come up with new solutions.
They slash red tape, they improvise, they innovate, they collaborate, they cut
corners. Some of these will prove inspired, others will only be temporary,
and a few will turn out to be misguided. We may not know which is which
except in hindsight.
Each week an episode of “The THCB Gang” (this was Episode 3) is streamed live here (below) and is also preserved as a weekly podcast and available on our Itunes & Spotify channels a day or so later. Each week 4-6 semi-regular guests drawn from THCB authors and other assorted old friends of mine will shoot the shit about health care business, politics, practice, and tech. It tries to be fun but serious and informative!
If, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention, then you’d have to say that the COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be the mother of invention and innovation. And, like Isaac Hayes sang about Shaft, it is a “bad mother…(shut your mouth).”
Many believe that the Allies won WWII in large part because of how industry in the U.S. geared up to produce fantastic amounts of weapons and other war materials. It took some time for businesses to retool and get production lines flowing, during which the Axis powers made frightening advances, but once they did it was only a matter of time until the Allies would prevail.
Similarly, COVID-19 is
making scary inroads around the world, while businesses are still gearing up to
produce the number of ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPE), tests,
and other badly needed supplies. COVID-19 is currently outnumbering
these efforts, but eventually we’ll get the necessary equipment in the needed
This piece is part of the series “The Health Data Goldilocks Dilemma: Sharing? Privacy? Both?” which explores whether it’s possible to advance interoperability while maintaining privacy. Check out other pieces in the series here.
If you live in one of the jurisdictions that have imposed stay-at-home requirements, you’re probably making your essential excursions — grocery store, pharmacy, even walks — with a wary eye towards anyone you come across. Do they have COVID-19? Have they been in contact with anyone who has? Are they keeping at least the recommended six feet away from you? In short, who is putting you at risk?
Well, of course, this
being the 21st century, we’re turning to our smartphones to help us try to
answer these questions. What this may lead to remains to be seen.
We long ago seemed to
shrug off the fact that our smartphones and our apps know where we are and
where we have been. No one should be surprised that location is of
importance to tracking the spread of COVID-19. No one should be surprised
that it is already being used. We may end up being surprised at how it
will be used.
We are in strange days, and they
are only going to get stranger as COVID-19 works its way further through our
society. It makes me think of Benjamin Franklin’s response when asked
what kind of nation the U.S. was going to be: “A Republic, if you
can keep it.”
The versions of that response that COVID-19 have me wondering about are: “A federal system, if we can keep it,” and, more specifically, “a healthcare system, if we can keep it.” I’ll talk about each of those in the context of the pandemic.
In times of national emergencies — think 9/11, think World Wars — we usually look to the federal government to lead. The COVID-19 pandemic has been declared a national emergency, but we’re still looking for strong federal leadership. We have the Centers for Disease Control, infectious disease experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, and a White House coronavirus task force. But real national leadership is lacking.