The crisis we are going through is total: sanitary, political, economic, social, geopolitical. Faced with Covid-19, each country chooses its own strategy and reacts more or less quickly, more or less clearly, to an unprecedented health danger. Of course, political decisions regarding population containment and border closures will undoubtedly play an important role in the fight against this epidemic, but beyond these measures, some healthcare systems appear to be better prepared than others to face the epidemic.
What are the key measures that are proving particularly effective in the face of Covid-19? Does the French healthcare system, known for being highly efficient, have the equipment and the organisation best able to protect the population and avoid a health catastrophe? Three assets seem to predict an appropriate response to the crisis: knowing how to use health data and carry out mass screening; having a healthcare sector that is not essentially relying on hospitals; and the capacity to control personal protective equipments’ stocks.
Using health data and carrying out mass screening
Faced with such an epidemic, targeted and rapid measures are particularly effective. This has been shown by some countries who have successfully achieved the stratification of their populations in terms of risk levels, while other countries have made no distinction in the measures adopted. Taiwan, for instance, was able to effectively control the spread of the epidemic by cross-checking health databases with customs data from January onwards. By quickly identifying and confining people who had travelled to high-risk areas, as well as those at higher risk from the virus, the Taiwanese authorities have avoided many deaths and protected the most vulnerable citizens. As of March 16th, only 100 people have been infected and only one person has died from Covid-19.
To concentrate efforts, prevent the epidemic from spreading rapidly through the population and protect those most at risk of death – the elderly and frail – health data is an invaluable asset. The French health insurance database enables us to accurately identify those most likely to be severely affected by the virus and hospitalized. These people are known; most of them have a referring physician. Contacting them, targeting them in a personalized manner, screening them regularly, equipping them with masks and monitoring them over time is a priority. France hasn’t yet activated this possibility and is reacting to the crisis as it would have done fifteen or twenty years ago, when big data and artificial intelligence tools were non-existent.