Tag: Wolters Kluwer’s Health Learning

How COVID-19 Changed Medical Research 

Vikram Savkar

By Vikram Savkar, vice president and general manager of the medical segment, Wolters Kluwer’s Health Learning, Research and Practice business

The pandemic has shone a critical light on every aspect of the medical ecosystem, revealing which systems were adequate and which were not – in a way that only a global crisis could have done. There has been widespread discussion since the start of the pandemic, concerning changes to public health systems, medical supply chains, medical education, telehealth infrastructure, and more. Less often discussed, but just as disrupted by the pandemic, is medical research communication.

Encompassing peer-reviewed scholarly journals, books, websites, conferences, point-of-care devices, and more, the medical publishing ecosystem is a critical connection point, ensuring that clinicians and healthcare leaders around the world have access to current information about new and emerging treatment approaches.

Looking Beyond the Journal

The pandemic generated needs that went well beyond the comfort zone of this traditional set of tools. Even in the fastest scenario, a journal article once submitted takes months to reach readers and is preceded by additional months of research. This ultimately means that a hypothesis that a clinical researcher is exploring will take half a year or more to progress from concept to readership. In the early months of the pandemic, front-line clinicians could not wait six months to consider therapies for their COVID-19 patients. They needed to act immediately.

In the absence of peer-reviewed research in the early months of the pandemic, clinicians turned to preprint servers, case reports, and even social networks – through which they were able to receive real-time advice from fellow clinicians in other hospitals and other countries on “what was working and what was not.”

Now that a year has passed, there is a substantial body of peer-reviewed, well-established work on COVID-19 in traditional journals, and we can expect to see the global community’s therapeutic and public health approach returning to traditional research-based foundations for the remaining years of pandemic response. But the need that the onset of the pandemic revealed – for much faster and less formal channels of information sharing to sit alongside the more traditional channels – cannot be “put back in the bottle”. The need must be addressed with new systems, new technologies, and new approaches –  so that the global community can be better prepared for future crises.

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