COVID-19's impact on healthcare

Posted at 5:43 PM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-19 19:43:32-04

In this week’s Wellness Wednesday, we’re talking about how the world had changed over the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, including our healthcare system.

FOX 13’s Kelly Chapman spoke with Dr. Marc Harrison, President and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare.

Kelly: “Thank you Dr. Harrison for taking the time. Where do we even start looking over the past two years?”

Dr. Harrison: “Well, I think we can take real pride in what we as a healthcare system have learned about the importance of wellness.

Probably the single greatest determinant of whether somebody was going to do well or badly with COVID was how healthy they were at baseline.

In the United States, the people with underlying healthcare conditions – lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, etcetera, faired very poorly in the face of COVID.

Why does the United States have a problem? It’s because we don’t have a healthy population at baseline.

More and more we recognize the importance of staying fit, eating well, not becoming obese, and we’ve also learned how to adapt to incredible stresses like the COVID pandemic.”

Kelly: “When we talk about our population not being healthy, people think well gosh, we live in America. We have resources for everyone. Are people not receiving those resources, or is it an education factor?”

Dr. Harrison: “It’s less about our healthcare system, which is spectacular. You know if you need cancer care or heart surgery, or if you’re in a car accident, there’s no country in the world that’s better at taking care of those things than the United States.

But what we’re not good at, at this moment in time, is we’re not good at keeping you healthy. And so, it’s what you eat, how you exercise, whether you manage stress well, whether you have social connectedness, those are the things that really make a difference in terms of how well you are. We call those social determinants of health.”

Kelly: “Dr. Harrison, a lot of changes have been made over the past two years for individuals and their families. What would you tell people, what sort of advice if they are saying, OK, I’m going to get healthy this year. How would they start? What’s the first thing they should do?”

Dr. Harrison: “The first thing they need to do is they need to be willing to be honest with themselves. Are they exercising? Are they walking every day? What are they putting in their mouth? Are they getting in the car when they could get on a bicycle or use their feet? Are they smoking? Are they drinking alcohol to an excess?

I’m an ICU doctor – a pediatric ICU doctor by trade, and I love taking care of really really sick patients. It’s one of the greatest pleasures of my life. But what we’ve never asked ourselves is how do we prevent that patient from ending up in our ICU? And more and more the COVID pandemic has put a lens on the fact that so much illness that we see is highly preventable.”

Kelly: “Wow, that’s powerful. Highly preventable. And it starts today. It’s never too late to start.

Dr. Marc Harrison, President and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare, thank you so much for joining us.”