Young male doctor in telehealth concept

Call for Abstracts: Looking Forward to a Post-Pandemic Landscape

By Carmel Shachar and Katie Kraschel

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted virtually every facet of day-to-day life.

This disruption has forced us to examine baseline choices and assumptions about how to deliver health care, participate in public discourse, provide access to education, and support the workforce. This “great revision” will continue in several iterative stages: an immediate response to the crisis, a modulation as the pandemic continues, and a resolution into a “new normal.”

The Petrie-Flom Center and the Solomon Center for Health Law Policy are interested in tracking when crisis settles into the new normal and articulating how public policy and law should respond to that evolution.

Our goal is an edited volume tracking COVID-19-related disruption in public policy and suggesting areas for innovation in the coming years. Interested collaborators should keep in mind that this volume will likely take a year or more to be published and think about what intellectual contribution will still be interesting and relevant then. Please consult our detailed call for abstracts for more information.

We are especially interested in the regulation of health care and health care policy in the coming years. What opportunities will we have to revisit our fundamental choices regarding health care delivery, access to care, and public health? What will be the impact on vulnerable populations, such as communities of color or people living with disability or chronic conditions?

When a pandemic disrupts virtually every facet of the health care industry, what innovations will arise?

For example, in order to facilitate safe access health care, the Department of Health and Human Services almost immediately relaxed data privacy and security restrictions to allow medical providers to use services such as FaceTime to see their patients. This was a necessary and quick regulatory change to respond to a rapidly developing crisis. But as the pandemic continues, allowing use of such services to provide telehealth may no longer be appropriate. How do we modify our regulatory expectations to connect patients to care while balancing the need to protect their privacy?

Many COVID-related disruptions require navigating this gauntlet of competing concerns – weighing the mental health dangers of isolation versus the protection of social distance, or balancing the urgent need for treatments and vaccines with the time required to ethically gather quality clinical evidence to support their use.

But other disruptions demand a different inquiry into the underlying motives and evidentiary support behind them. For example, conservative governors and state attorneys general in eleven states sought to restrict access to abortion by deeming it an “nonessential” health care service. They did so under the guise of preserving scarce medical supplies, despite evidence-based objections by national professional organizations including American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Responses to COVID-19 have affected, and will continue to touch, our lives in profound and unexpected ways, influencing virtually all facets of public policy.

We welcome forward thinking about other areas of public policy, including education and the balance between federal and state leadership.

Carmel Shachar

Carmel Shachar, JD, MPH, is the Executive Director of the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School. She is responsible for oversight of the Center’s sponsored research portfolio, event programming, fellowships, student engagement, development, and a range of other projects and collaborations. She is Co-Lead of the Center’s Involvement with the Regulatory Foundations, Ethics, and Law Program of Harvard Catalyst | The Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center.

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