COVID Antiviral Pills Offer Promise, But Only If Delivered Quickly – and Equitably

A recent New York Times article called the new antiviral pills designed to treat COVID a “game changer” and a “huge deal.” Renowned digital health strategist, physician and entrepreneur Dr. Shantanu Nundy agrees – with some important caveats.

Author of “Care After Covid: What the Pandemic Revealed Is Broken in Healthcare and How to Reinvent It” (May 2021), Dr. Nundy is optimistic about the efficacy of these treatments and what they can do to return life to some level of “normal” – especially for those returning to offices and classrooms. But, because people need to start taking the pills within five days of a positive COVID test, and they require a prescription, Dr. Nundy says we still have to overcome one of the biggest hurdles facing our health care system: a full 25% of Americans don’t have a primary care physician. And even for those with access, the wait time for primary care is often days to weeks – well outside the narrow time window for beginning treatment.

A leading authority on technologies that improve public health, mental health and health care systems, Dr. Nundy recently outlined practical steps that can be taken to ensure timely and equitable access in a December 1st op-ed in Medpage.

 

“To overcome these challenges, we need to pair biomedical innovation with delivery system innovation,” he emphasizes. “We need new care models to improve timely and equitable access, just like we did by administering COVID-19 tests in drive-thrus and community testing sites, and by getting shots into arms at pop-up vaccination sites, nursing homes, and pharmacies.”

In a September 2021 Harvard Business Review article, “How U.S. Employers Can Help Provide Better Health Care,” Dr. Nundy and his co-author go even further, outlining a holistic plan for fixing America’s broken health care system.

“To succeed in population health and value-based care, large employers will need to take the lessons from their pandemic response and make permanent structural changes that reflect their ultimate accountability for their employees’ health and for the total cost of their care,” wrote the authors. “In many respects, employers were the bright spot in our country’s response to COVID-19. Now they can lead the way to a better health system post-pandemic.”

Praise for “Care After Covid”

“Few physicians have accomplished as much as Shantanu Nundy to reinvent medicine—from pioneering improvements in teamwork in operating rooms across the world at the World Health Organization and building the world’s largest open medical project with tens of thousands of doctors to revolutionizing employer healthcare at Accolade. This new book translates Shantanu’s vision for the future of healthcare into a pragmatic and highly applicable guide for employers, technologists, policymakers, and patients to transform our healthcare system after this terrible pandemic.” — Marty Makary, MD, MPH, Chief of Islet Transplant Surgery and Professor of Surgery at Johns Hopkins and New York Times bestselling author of “The Price We Pay”

“’Care After Covid’ is essential reading for anyone in healthcare who seeks to turn understanding into action. Written with a sense of urgency and grounded in his clinical practice, Dr. Nundy helps us look around the corner at what could be in our post-pandemic reality. His imagination and vision are rooted in a humility that offers fresh perspectives on healthcare delivery.” — Dave A. Chokshi, MD, MSc, New York City Health Commissioner

“We’re at the start of a new golden era for tech-enabled healthcare, and Shantanu Nundy artfully illustrates the primary forces that are driving the reimagination of our care delivery system from the ground up. Shantanu’s work is a call to arms for both innovators who are building virtual-first care models, as well as incumbents that will need to reinvent themselves to stay relevant in the post-pandemic ‘next normal.’” — Julie Yoo, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz

Marianne Kelly: