During COVID-19 and the response to systemic racism in the United States, companies have released hundreds of statements and donated millions to nonprofits. But what can be done within and by the private healthcare sector companies that want to make a bigger impact and help shift the healthcare system to support more inclusive and equitable care?
Recognizing the opportunity for humanistic leadership in the private healthcare sector in America, The Arnold P. Gold Foundation – which champions humanism in healthcare – formed the Gold Corporate Council (GCC) in 2017. The members of GCC are vanguard companies that want to serve as models for how large multinational companies can help effect real change through humanistic practices: BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company), CVS Health, Henry Schein, Inc., IBM Watson Health, Medtronic, Quest Diagnostics, Siemens Healthineers, and Teladoc Health. Each member is selected for its commitment and support of humanism in healthcare and works with the Gold Foundation to help instill humanism throughout its culture and work.
The Gold Foundation defines humanism as compassionate, collaborative, scientifically excellent care. Such optimal care puts human interests, values and dignity at the core. Among its many programs and awards, the Gold Foundation oversees the Gold Humanism Honor Society, an honor society of approximately 40,000 members and chapters in 170+ medical schools, and the White Coat Ceremony, which emphasizes the importance of compassionate patient care from the very start of training.
In 2020, the demand for change spiked, fueled by the tragedy of COVID-19 and the spreading outrage over the injustice faced by people of color, especially Black Americans.
“We are obviously in very upside-down, challenging times in both our country and the world right now,” said Pia Pyne Miller, MPH, Senior Director of Strategy and Business Development at the Gold Foundation, at a Gold Corporate Council Strategy meeting, noting the rising urgency to address social justice and the immense challenges of COVID-19. “Instead of a moment, this is a movement – a demand, a shift, a focus on social justice itself and how we will fix the system to address equal access to tools and opportunities, and also, to the right to healthcare itself.”
In that pivotal year, the Gold Corporate Council has stepped up. Together, in 2020, the Council members committed to donating more than $700 million to COVID-19 and social justice work and partners. The Council members have been at the forefront of ensuring hospitals, health systems, community health centers, labs – and thus patients and clinicians – receive the equipment, resources, tests, and medications they need.
As patients, families, hospital CEOs, company presidents, and other stakeholders look for humanistic corporate leadership in the turmoil of 2020, here are eight concrete examples of humanism in action from Gold Corporate Council members. We hope these stories will inspire more companies to join this movement to elevate humanism in healthcare:
Humanism at work in the COVID-19 pandemic:
1. Share desperately needed technology to expand care
Medtronic made ventilator design specifications and technical files publicly available
The outbreak of COVID-19 raised alarms across the globe. One of the most serious concerns was the possible shortage of ventilators, which can provide life-saving support for patients so ill that they can no longer breathe effectively on their own.
Guided by its Mission, first written in 1960, Medtronic mobilized quickly to map a course of action to help healthcare professionals around the world continue to treat patients safely and effectively. In particular, by June 2020, the company increased its internal production of ventilators five-fold to address unprecedented demand for this critical technology. Medtronic realized, though, that its efforts alone would be insufficient to meet global needs. To further meet global demand, Medtronic openly shared its ventilator designs by publishing open-source design specifications, which allowed other companies, inventors, startups, and educational institutions to join the global effort in ramping up manufacturing. Within the first few weeks of publication, these hardware-design specifications and manufacturing instructions, ventilator-design documents, and software source-code files were accessed more than 200,000 times.
“It was a big decision,” Medtronic CEO Geoff Martha explained in an interview with TriplePundit. “I really believe that if it hadn’t been for our mission and focusing on the task at hand we might not have done such an unprecedented move… In the end, I think we are making a huge contribution to society and to healthcare and to patients.”
2. Help create equal access to care
Quest Diagnostics and Quest Diagnostics Foundation dedicated more than $100 million to help undeserved communities, including expanding access to COVID-19 tests
Quest Diagnostics is a leading provider of COVID-19 tests in America, with 41.8 million test results delivered and another 6.2 million COVID-19 antibody tests.
“Through our role providing testing to the nation, Quest has seen how underserved populations have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 with tragic consequences. This major initiative is designed to address health disparities in the communities hardest hit by the pandemic,” said Steve Rusckowski, Chairman, President and CEO of Quest Diagnostics. “This values-based commitment builds on existing work we have done with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and others. Quest plans to donate testing services and fund a range of initiatives estimated to total more than $100 million aimed at improving access to testing and awareness of the value of diagnostic insights, which are the basic building blocks needed to build healthier communities.”
The initiative will focus on serving people of color, elderly people and those experiencing homelessness.
3. Work together to secure and deliver urgent supplies
Henry Schein helped fortify the supply chains health professionals rely on
Henry Schein, Inc., a leading provider of healthcare products and services to office-based physicians and dentists, worked closely with partners across the public and private sectors to strengthen the supply chain to support pandemic response and increase global health security.
“Henry Schein has long advocated that in our increasingly interconnected world, a health crisis anywhere is a global health crisis everywhere. Infectious diseases do not carry passports,” Stanley M. Bergman, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Henry Schein, said in an interview.
As a member of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)/U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force, the company advised on key healthcare supply chain issues and responded to urgent needs. And as the co-founder and private-sector lead of the Pandemic Supply Chain Network, Henry Schein worked with the World Health Organization, World Food Programme, World Economic Forum, World Bank, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more than 60 companies to address global supply chain challenges.
The company also created a COVID-19 Resource and Education Center to help healthcare professionals navigate the wide range of issues impacting their practices. Programs included webinars for practitioners on available financial assistance and practice preparation, new safety and infection control protocols and implementation, and patient communications.
Henry Schein donated more than $38 million in cash and healthcare products globally, including more than 10 million items, such as face shields, hand sanitizer, isolation gowns, thermometers, coveralls, and face masks, to help with COVID-19 relief efforts in over 40 countries and territories. The company partnered with the Black Coalition Against COVID to promote health equity and launched the Wearing is Caring Campaign to raise awareness of healthcare disparities in underserved communities, the need for social distancing, and the importance of wearing face coverings to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
4. Go beyond barriers and borders to those who need help
BD created virtual trainings for remote healthcare workers in Papua New Guinea
COVID-19 has created new and urgent needs around the globe. Each of the Gold Corporate Council members has served patients and clinicians in the United States in tremendous ways, from processing millions of COVID-19 tests to procuring desperately needed PPE to funding community health centers and other essential clinics that provided critical out-patient care to prevent additional strain on overwhelmed emergency departments.
Within the United States, the need has been great. Humanism – putting human interests, values, and dignity at the core – includes looking beyond borders.
BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) has many deep nonprofit partnerships, including with Direct Relief, National Association of Community Health Centers, and Australian Doctor’s International (ADI). As just one example, BD and ADI have worked for years together to bring training to hospitals in the New Ireland and West New Britain provinces in Papua New Guinea, which is thick with tropical rainforest and volcanic mountains.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, “I read an article that [healthcare works in Papua New Guinea] were using empty rice bags as gloves,” said Debra Davidson, a clinical nurse consultant with BD in Australia who has expertise in infection prevention. “From an infection prevention point of view, not having access or having minimal access to PPE – and also not always having water to wash their hands – was a big concern for me.” ADI approached BD for support in providing infection prevention training to Papua New Guinea clinicians virtually, and Ms. Davidson was one of many who volunteered immediately.
ADI donated PPE and, together, BD and ADI quickly built a virtual training program tailored to health care teams in Papua New Guinea. Beginning with very isolated facilities that have only basic equipment, BD and ADI volunteers remotely trained healthcare workers on topics like how to properly use PPE, social distancing, good general hygiene practices and triage.
Humanism at work in addressing racism and social injustice:
5. Measure what matters: Incorporate metrics for community health and equity
IBM Watson Health collaborated with Johns Hopkins University to create a measure of hospital contributions to community health with a focus on equity, which was incorporated as part of the 2021 Fortune/IBM Watson Health 100 Top Hospitals rankings.
Hospitals have progressively started to recognize the importance of elevating community health and equity for the patients they serve, their employees, and their communities with investment in programs that address issues such as affordable housing, community health worker employment and employee livable wages. However, hospital performance methodologies have not kept up with these changes, causing hospitals’ efforts and impact on community health or equity to go unrecognized. But what should those methodologies and metrics be, and how might they be incorporated in meaningful ways that advance dialogue and spur action?
In the summer of 2020, IBM Watson Health and faculty from the Center for Health Equity and the Bloomberg American Health Initiative at Johns Hopkins University collaborated to answer that question by creating a measure of hospital contributions to community health with a focus on equity. From the beginning, the goal was to incorporate this new measure into the Fortune/IBM Watson Health 100 Top Hospitals methodology and ranking process in 2021. Fast forward to 2021, and this years’ rankings. In addition to the traditional four measures of clinical outcomes, operational efficiency, patient experience and financial health, the crucial fifth “community health with a focus on equity” measure developed by IBM Watson Health and Johns Hopkins University was successfully incorporated in the Fortune/IBM Watson Health 100 Top Hospitals rankings.
“Health is not just limited to what happens within the health care system,” said Irene Dankwa-Mullen, Chief Health Equity Officer at IBM Watson Health, in a Fortune article explaining the new metrics. “During the pandemic, we really got to understand how social factors and economic determinants contribute to health and we have so much to learn from what hospitals are already doing in this regard. If anything, the past year has been a call for action to learn even more.”
6. Invest in BIPOC employees and inclusion training
CVS Health commits nearly $600 million to address racial inequity, including building on its longstanding commitments to foster diversity in its workplace
CVS Health announced it would invest nearly $600 million over five years to advance employee, community, and public policy initiatives that address inequality faced by the Black community and other disenfranchised communities. The company will also use its position to advocate for public policy that addresses the root causes of systemic inequities and barriers, including efforts to address socioeconomic status, education, and access to health care.
CVS Health is focused on mentorship, sponsorship, development, and advancement at all levels with a heightened focus on the Black employee experience. Additionally, company-wide training and corporate culture programs that promote active and purposeful inclusion.
7. Expand access to free mental health services for people of color
Teladoc Health provides free mental health resources to support the Black and African American community
Last year, as public outrage grew over George Floyd’s killing and the long-standing injustices that people of color face, Teladoc Health recognized the need for counseling services and support. African Americans are less likely to receive care for mental health. The company moved to address that gap by offering free services through its BetterHelp brand, committing $100,000 to individuals in need. They noted that patients wishing to work with a counselor of color can indicate their preference when requesting their appointment.
Teladoc Health also contributed $100,000 in counseling services to all staff, volunteers, trainers, directors, and alumni of the nonprofit BOLD (Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity) and $50,000 to the Black Mental Health Alliance, a national organization that develops forums, training, and referral services to support the health and well-being of Black people and other vulnerable communities.
“As our society moves to confront racial injustice, hatred and violence, we remain committed to standing up for equality and playing a role in driving positive change,” said Jason Gorevic, chief executive officer, Teladoc Health, in a news release. “Consistent with our values, creating greater access to mental health services for the Black and African American community is a first step in countering disparities that have persisted for too long.”
Finally, Teladoc Health has made available a continuing education (CE) course, “Tending to Racial Trauma During Crisis,” that is designed to equip mental health professionals with the tools necessary to provide culturally responsive care that supports communities of color.
8. Protect institutions that help people of color thrive, such as HBCUs
Siemens Healthineers donates COVID-19 testing technologies to support reopenings at HBCUs
As universities around the globe began to reopen, Siemens Foundation and Siemens Healthineers joined with Testing for America (TFA) to donate nearly $3 million in funding COVID-19 testing technologies to support the safe reopening of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) across the country.
Siemens Healthineers will contribute technologies including serology tests, which look for antibodies that develop once a virus becomes present in a person’s system. Testing for America will work closely with Siemens and advise HBCUs on protocols and incorporation of these technologies on their campuses.
HBCUs enroll only 3 percent of college students in America but produce nearly 20 percent of all Black graduates, according to a report by UNCF, the United Negro College Fund. HBCUs play a critical role in ensuring more equitable higher education in the U.S.
“Siemens Healthineers is proud to support Testing for America and the HBCUs as they undertake reopening,” said Dave Pacitti, Siemens Foundation Board of Directors member; President of Siemens Medical Solutions USA, Inc.; and Head of the Americas for Siemens Healthineers. “This activity underscores the company’s commitment to ensuring underserved communities have access to healthcare.”
These are just eight examples of a vast array of work underway to support humanism in healthcare, undertaken by the Gold Corporate Council members.
“The pandemic reveals our healthcare system to be very far away from the ideal we aspire to. The Gold Corporate Council members exemplify how humanism in healthcare – putting human dignity, values, and interests at the core of care – can flourish in the corporate sector,” said Dr. Richard I. Levin, President and CEO of the Gold Foundation. “We hope the entire corporate sector will take their inspiring lead and join in transforming healthcare for the better for all of us.”
To learn more about the Gold Corporate Council and the work of the Gold Foundation, please visit www.gold-foundation.org