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The Art of Being Nimble in the Age of COVID-19

Power of Ideas
The Art of Being Nimble in the Age of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented challenge to our nation’s health-care system, putting severe strains on medical facilities, resources, and personnel. As cases spike, hospitals scramble for critical medical supplies, treatments, diagnostics, cures, protective equipment, and ICU beds, while Americans shelter in place, hoping to flatten the curve.

My first experience in a national emergency was during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. As a public health physician who was pregnant at the time and unable to fly, I was deployed to the US Public Health Service’s command center in Maryland. When Hurricane Gustav hit the Gulf Coast three years later, I was deployed with the National Disaster Medical System as part of the Public Health Service response team in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. There, we staged a field hospital on the Louisiana State University campus to treat evacuees from nearby nursing homes and hospitals. These experiences crystallized for me the urgent need for a rapid response during a public health emergency and provided an important perspective on the art of being nimble

Now, as the chief medical officer at Danaher and tasked with leading our coronavirus coordinated response, we have had to pivot quickly to meet the growing demands of the pandemic. Our priorities were crystal clear from the beginning. The health and safety of our workforce—approximately 67,000 associates across more than 20 operating companies worldwide—was paramount. The valuable lessons learned during my public health service have been crucial to achieving a nimble, coherent strategy to support associates working from home, those required to come to our manufacturing facilities every day, and those servicing our products on site at clinics and hospitals.

As a company, we evaluated our production priorities to make sure we were well-positioned to meet the near-term needs of our customers during this global emergency. Then, we got focused on deploying what each of our companies could deliver.

In the post-COVID world, sweeping changes to our health-care industries will be profound, and human creativity will be essential to moving through it quickly.

Several of our operating companies are at the forefront of providing essential technologies, medical supplies, and services to hospitals around the world. Among them are Cepheid, Beckman Coulter Diagnostics, Integrated DNA Technologies, and Radiometer. 

The US Food and Drug Administration granted emergency-use authorization (EUA) to Cepheid, a leading molecular diagnostic company, to provide a diagnostic test for real-time management of patients in hospital settings with COVID-19. Cepheid’s test became the first point-of-care test, delivering results in only 45 minutes.

At Beckman Coulter Diagnostics, a new serologic test is under development for COVID-19. This test will allow medical personnel to identify patients without antibody protection who are most susceptible to the virus until the pandemic subsides. This test may also enable clinicians to clear hospital staff, emergency responders, and others who have developed immunity to return to work without fear of exposing others to the virus.

Another Danaher company, Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT), became the first company in the nation to have its primer and probe kits approved by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for use as a key component in EUA testing protocols for the diagnosis and detection of COVID-19. IDT was able to scale up manufacturing quickly, enabling testing of millions of Americans for COVID-19.  

Finally, to meet the needs of the critically ill, Radiometer’s blood gas instruments play an important role in evaluating the patients’ respiratory status, helping hospital personnel make quick, life-saving decisions for patients with COVID-19-related respiratory problems.  

At Danaher, our shared purpose is to help realize life’s potential. I’m extremely proud of the tireless work and efforts of Danaher’s global family. Our efforts have driven us closer as a global workforce as we strive to provide needed products and services to patients, providers, vaccine researchers, and hospitals.  

In the post-COVID world, sweeping changes to our health-care industries will be profound, and human creativity will be essential to moving through it quickly. Throughout the coming weeks and months, leaders from around the world will invest significant time and energy into forging a new roadmap to confront future pandemics. As we look ahead to rebuild meaningful lives, I’m reminded how much we all need to practice the art of being nimble. My hope is that lessons drawn from this crisis will usher in a new era of global cooperation, efficiency, and creativity that strengthens a more robust partnership between the private and public sectors with a shared goal of strengthening public health. The health and well-being of people all around the world will depend on it.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Danaher Corporation, its subsidiaries, or employees.