Adapting Health Care Delivery in Response to COVID-19: International Lessons for the United States

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the U.S. health care delivery system — including hospitals and other facilities, health care workers, payers, and policymakers — has been facing unprecedented challenges. NORC worked on behalf of the Commonwealth Fund to explore how five diverse countries (Australia, Finland, Germany, Singapore, and South Korea) adapted and innovated to meet the challenges of operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the goal of identifying lessons for care delivery in the United States. NORC convened and advisory board of U.S. health care experts, conducted literature reviews and 20+ interviews with experts from selected countries to collect examples of effective health care delivery practice and innovations. NORC developed an issue brief outlining The research findings.

When COVID-19 began to spread, countries scrambled to implement sweeping responses across their public health and health care delivery systems. Lack of preparation often meant international leaders were slow to identify and respond to the crisis, and many health care delivery systems were overwhelmed — short on critical infrastructure, supplies, and staff. Beyond the initial challenges posed by the pandemic, its prolonged duration has strained health care facilities and providers.

Policies and actions that address staffing, access to care, decision-making, data infrastructure, and communication can help countries prepare for a pandemic, respond quickly, and sustain the response for the duration of the public health threat.

As COVID-19 cases rise once again, planning and investment can help the United States confront future health crises.

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