The Changing Face of Research And Healthcare During COVID-19

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Although we cannot say that it was unheard of, collaboration on the basis of interdisciplinary and interprofessional elements has always been crucial in any research and care-based setting. And why not; when there are experts coming from varied specialized outlooks, better outcomes are what one can expect from any given scenario.

The World Health Organization has always given thrust to interprofessional education which underlines the fact that it is pivotal to establish a collaborative and a practice-ready health workforce so as to better be prepared for the unknown health needs that can arise from nowhere.

That said there are loads of obstacles that come in the path of interdisciplinary and interprofessional partnerships ranging from frameworks that are rigid and incompatible to a lack of targeted funding source that is trusted. The only silver lining coming out of pandemic is the motivation that it has provided to various specialists from unidentical disciplines and a multitude of professions to fight together in overcoming the difficulties and differences that have been in prevalence. Another leaf of experience to take out from the current pandemic is that the researchers have had more and better access to both national as well as international funds as the strife to develop to the point vaccines in order to deplete the rising scale of infection has been more than ever.

Vaccine Development – Eyeing the pinnacle of collaboration 

When the process of vaccination began across the world, people from all walks of life expressed their concerns about receiving them, and why not! The timeline of vaccine development as we are all conditioned to believe takes much longer than what happened exclusively in the case of COVID-19. To gauge the effectiveness and safety of any vaccine before the pandemic struck, took anything between 10-15 years, and here we were getting access to a jab that was developed in a year’s time. So how come, something phenomenal like this occurred? Well, the answer lies in interprofessional collaboration and the thought and implementation of which led to generous funding.

A decade or two down the line, when we look back and cite an example of interdisciplinary and interprofessional partnership, the development of the COVID-19 vaccines will be written in golden letters. Nothing can match the whole of the industry come together and fight it out against a pandemic enveloping the entire world. Just look at the collaboration that took place; AstraZeneca got the support of Oxford University, while Moderna & NIH teamed up for their vaccine and BioNTech collaborated with Pfizer. To be fair to transparent and collaborative approach as well as thinking, some of the best outcomes that have pacified the world have come through them and that too in a matter of not even a year, just months. The backbone of any development is funding and this one-of-a-kind urgency required loads of it. Funding bodies mostly divide the funds into projects and disciplines, but these were extraordinary times that required extraordinary moves. In the United States of America, the entire gamut of vaccination development was called Operation Warp Seed which went all out in developing, manufacturing, and distributing the vaccines in whatever short time was allocated. As far as Europe is concerned, it was European Commission that went on to pledge $8 billion that involved the COVID-19 research and the development which went into it. The entire era of COVID-19 has given a new life to the debate of why a collaborative approach is the need of the hour and must be paid heed to.

Collaborative Clinical Setting

And it is not only the research where collaboration tops the charts but in clinical settings as well where to the point communication between health experts and the public, in general, was possible due to effective partnerships. Communication, collaboration, and coordination are the essence of making things work and which is what took place at the time of COVID-19. This all has in a way led to healthcare workers not getting bogged down because of the strain that they have had due to the consistent influx of COVID-19 patients. Interprofessional collaboration is not new to clinicians as it is a practice of health workers to engage in stronger communication every time across departments and between specialists, so as to have a holistic focus on patient monitoring and care. The inpatient and outpatient physicians scenario has been in existence for a long time. As hospitals do not have advanced knowledge of patients coming-in in unless they are visiting for another round, it is the frequent understanding amongst the inpatient and outpatient physicians that paves the road. In the case of COVID-19, the spirit with which the collaboration took place has raised the bar even higher. Although COVID-19 treatment is very different from the regular ones, communication and that too timely one at that, between specialists, critical care, ER, and others needed to be impeccable. And that’s not it. Access to medical records across departments has been a key feature during the time that we have gone through and that has been possible due to consistent interdisciplinary care.

Checking The Mental Stiffness

Mental health has also been a bone of contention in the entire world. Travel restrictions, be it domestic or international, or regular movement of people has led to a series of events that have had a severe impact on the overall mental well-being of populations of all ages. Again interdisciplinary partnership, as well as professional collaboration, has stepped in to form 10 year goals that are in line with the community of mental health research.

Significantly, a collaboration between human capacity and infrastructural capabilities holds the key to successfully getting rid of the mental trauma one could go through in such events. In the past year, many groundbreaking projects that have experts from data science, neuroscience, and people with issues of mental health have come together to tackle discrepancies and have indeed come out strong.

The holistic approach has given an in-depth understanding of the virus’ impact and has opened gates to more research that can be done. Cross-cultural data has also stamped its presence on the treatment that goes in. The work that has interdisciplinary and interprofessional elements imbibed in it is here to stay and when the knowledge is shared across the spectrum during the trying times which we are in, its relevance becomes all the more important.