While we still face the human destruction that COVID-19 has caused, we have to be thankful for the technology that brought vaccines to market at unprecedented speed. This experience is going to have a positive impact on the development of vaccines when new viruses raise their ugly head. Can you imagine what it would have been like had this pandemic occurred 20 years ago?

In a Kiplinger Letter special edition (Dec. 18, 2020) on “The Next Pandemic” it was pointed out that artificial intelligence (AI) will see advances to help decode viruses, discover drugs, track infections, make outbreak predictions, and even answer a flood of citizen questions using AI chatbots. The Kiplinger Letter went on to say that the adoption of digital tech will transform how we cope with future disruptions.

Because of the technology we have today, telehealth got a kickstart last year thanks to the federal government’s $200 million in funding. Telehealth enabled patient-provider contact to continue during the lockdowns and social distancing mandates. While not a true substitute for in-person visits, telehealth nevertheless became an important part of the health-system infrastructure in this country.

Virtual connections were possible thanks to platforms such as Zoom. This enabled business entities to stay connected to a remote workforce. It provided an alternative to live conferences and meetings. The business community was able to continue to operate and schools continued to teach. Expect to see web-based solutions continue to evolve.

Now that we have the rollout of vaccines, pharmacies are well equipped with the technology at hand to document and report the vaccines administered. Pharmacies are set up now to do just this with flu vaccines and other vaccines administered. There will be software modifications necessary to report additional data elements for COVID-19 vaccines to the registries, but I do not see this as a major problem — just a little more data entry. Pharmacies have already stepped up to the plate with COVID-19 testing.

Fortunately, pharmacies use a robust technology platform that keeps them connected with their patient population and insurers, and now steps are being taken to provide this connectivity with other healthcare providers. The technology is largely responsible for pharmacy’s recognition as a main-line health provider player.

Hopefully, 2021 will be the year of returning to normal after a most disruptive 2020. CT

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