COMMENTARY

COVID-19: Positive Takeaways From 2020

Prof Mamas Mamas

Disclosures

December 29, 2020

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Hi, welcome to Medscape UK. My name is my Mamas Mamas, I’m a professor of cardiology based at Keele University.

Today, my focus is going to be around what are the positives that have come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are all aware of the many negatives, that we have experienced - the unnecessary deaths in the community, the way that it has impacted our working life, the impact on our ability to deliver care to patients, the impact that it has had on cardiovascular health in the population, but also from a personal perspective, the ability to travel, the ability to see friends, and the ability to see our loved ones, particularly our elderly parents and relatives that are at greatest risk from COVID-19.

Nevertheless, despite all these negatives, I think that COVID-19 has resulted in many positives.

Closer Global Working

First and foremost, I think that it has brought healthcare workers across the globe much more close together.

Let's bring our mind back to the start of 2020, where we were faced with an unknown virus, a virus in which we knew very little about its transmissibility, a virus in which we had very little insight about its impact on the whole body system, and how to treat it, and how to deliver our services safely.

For these and many different questions, we looked to colleagues in the Far East and Southern Europe, in China and in Italy, that bore the brunt of the virus very early on.

These colleagues were generous in their time, and shared with us protocols, pathways, treatment strategies, and how they restructured their services, so that we could prepare better for when COVID arrived on our shores.

This was done through webinars, through social media posts, and through direct communications at the societal level.

Scientific Advances

I think secondly, that the way that COVID has been a positive has been in science and the advancements of science. A year ago, we knew very little about the molecular biology of the virus - how it acts, how it can be targeted, even how to treat it. And here we are less than a year down the line in which several novel vaccines have been developed. They have been trialled out in tens of thousands of patients, and now we're implementing their receipt.

Furthermore, several randomised control trials have been undertaken, investigating therapies used for treating COVID. And while some of these were disappointing, particularly around some of the regimes that were advocated at the start of the pandemic, nevertheless, it shows how quickly randomised controlled trials can be delivered and published in the hour of need.

Science became much more open access. Preprint servers allows the latest COVID-related research to be dispersed amongst healthcare communities so that we can read and learn from it. It was no longer behind a paywall. And to their credit, many of the publishers made COVID-related research freely available so that all members of the community could benefit.

Conferences

I think also education has been increased and been made more accessible to people from all over the community and at different levels of career.

It is interesting to see that in 2019, the number of attendees at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) were close to 30,000. And yet, in 2020 on the virtual platforms, the number of attendees have increased to greater than 110,000 attendees from all over the globe. And similar large increases in attendances have been seen by the ACC, by SCAI, by EuroPCR, and by TCT.

I think this is important in that it almost democratises education, it makes it freely available to all. It allows people that traditionally would not have the finances or the means to travel halfway across the globe, to receive education, and be part of education.

Secondly, it also allows people to upload educational content for the benefit of others. It gives people accessibility to their voice, whereas in the past people that were on the podium, were often a very select few individuals with perhaps diversity suffering.

Zoom webinars have allowed the democratisation of voices, and the democratisation of the delivery of educational material.

I think also, the COVID pandemic has brought us much closer together. We have all faced problems and yet support networks have built up all over social media in the virtual world. And these can impact on our wellbeing and mental health.

New Ways of Working

I think also it has also influenced our ability to deliver care. I think as healthcare professionals, we have really taken up the challenge and completely changed the way that we deliver services to protect our elderly and our most frail. If anyone had told me a year ago, that I would be delivering virtual clinics or telehealth clinics, I would have laughed. And I'm sure that would be the case for many of us watching this. And yet here we are a year down the line in which we deliver virtual clinics to our elderly, frail patients to protect them from the impact of the virus.

We often underestimate what impact it has on patients that are multimorbid and perhaps are unable to walk, who have to rely on hospital transport to get to hospital appointments. This introduces a large number of stresses into these patients and surely, the way that we have delivered healthcare over the past year must be the way forward, particularly for stable outpatients.

Hope

I think now we're at a place of hope. Whilst the virus has increased in many parts of the world, we see the delivery of the vaccine, and we see an end in sight. I hope that many of the lessons that we have learned during the COVID pandemic will change how we practise, how we deliver education, and how we interact with each other.

I wish you all happy holidays, and all the very best for 2021. I hope the New Year brings much joy and happiness and is better for all of us. But let's not forget the lessons that we have learned from 2020.

You can follow Mamas Mamas on  Twitter

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