Forward Thinking brings together the leading industry voices from health, technology, and economics to discuss COVID-19 recovery efforts and the most pressing issues of the crisis.

In today’s first session of Forward Thinking, Forward Founder and CEO Adrian Aoun moderated the discussion with Dr. Jim Yong Kim, Dr. Sara Cody, Dr. Nate Favini and Dr. Bob Wachter.

We opened by looking back at the early days of COVID-19. Dr. Wachter spoke about the anticipation of the waves of COVID-19 patients, and Dr. Favini credited his team with building an in-app risk assessment tool and operationally standing up a testing process overnight back in early March. Dr. Kim was frustrated that he felt that public health officials gave up on containment, but everyone agreed with Dr. Sara Cody, that

“compared to the recovery decisions, the call to issue Stay in Place orders in mid-March felt like a piece of cake.”

The discussion turned to creating effective infrastructures. Dr. Cody spoke about how necessary it is for a highly-functional local government, and Dr. Kim supported that sentiment with offering his Five Part Public Health Response Plan as a solution. Shelter in place has allowed the country time to put up guardrails, and both Cody and Wachter agree that a measured reopening plan will allow the county to make sure the policies in place are working.

There were a variety of opinions on how to scale solutions, starting with Dr. Kim who strongly advocated for contact tracing. He shared examples of how the contact tracing program in Massachusetts where he has played a role, has turned out to be a support program for people in disadvantaged communities who are more likely to live in close quarters and cannot isolate themselves. Kim said,

“This is not just a public health issue, this is a deep social justice issue. If we don’t support those most at risk and make it possible for them not to infect their family members, then we are going to continue to see very high mortality rates disproportionately affecting communities of color.”

Cody echoed the importance of isolation and believes there must be infrastructure in place to isolate those who test positive for widespread testing and contact tracing to be beneficial. Dr. Favini feels we have failed to sell shoe-leather epidemiology and that we must aim for a more ambitious testing program to convince the public. Dr. Wachter was excited about the impact of new innovations, saying,

“Telemedicine will be the biggest game changer. We’ve seen 5 years of transformation in 2 months and it will stick because both patients and physicians like it.”

When it came to the economic tradeoffs, everyone agreed that the investment in contact tracing, testing, isolating individuals and other large-scale efforts would be substantial, but pale in comparison to the long-term costs of letting COVID-19 spread undeterred. The discussion ended on the explosion of innovation and hopes for the future. Dr. Favini expressed,

“This is an incredible opportunity to rethink the way we do healthcare in this country. We are facing unprecedented unemployment and we currently have an employer based healthcare system. There has never been a better time to break the connection between having a job and having health insurance.”

Deepest thanks to Dr. Jim Yong Kim, Dr. Sara Cody, Dr. Nate Favini and Dr. Bob Wachter for being generous with their time, experiences and insights on pandemic recovery. The next session of Forward Thinking will take place in June–follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn for more details.

Meet the Panelists

Sara H. Cody, MD is a physician, epidemiologist and public health official serving as the health officer and public health director of Santa Clara County, California. Her timely implementation of stay-at-home orders in coordination with other San Francisco Bay Area health officials is credited with preventing an estimated 188,000 hospitalizations and 19,000 deaths in major Bay Area cities.

Nate Favini, MD, MS is a physician and serving as Medical Lead at Forward. Prior to joining Forward, he was Director of Primary Care at CareMore Health System, an innovative health plan and care delivery system with over 100,000 members in eight states.

Jim Yong Kim, MD is a physician and anthropologist. He is Vice Chairman and Partner at Global Infrastructure Partners, a fund that invests in infrastructure projects across several sectors around the world. He served as the 12th President of the World Bank from 2012 to 2019.

Robert Wachter, MD is a prominent academic physician on the faculty of UCSF, where he is chairman of the Department of Medicine, the Lynne and Marc Benioff Endowed Chair in Hospital Medicine, and the Holly Smith Distinguished Professor in Science and Medicine.

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