What the Coronavirus Crisis Reveals About American Medicine (New Yorker)

Medicine is a system for delivering care and support; it’s also a system of information, quality control, and lab science. All need fixing. I spoke to David Simchi-Levi, an M.I.T. professor who studies supply-chain economics and how enterprises respond to disasters. “Cost is easy to measure,” he told me. “But resilience is much harder.” Simchi-Levi is particularly interested in two variables that could serve as metrics for resilience. The first is the “time to survive”; that is, how long can an enterprise endure when there’s a sudden shortage of some critical good? The second is the “time to recover”: how much time will it take to restore adequate supplies of some critical good? By quantifying each variable under different scenarios, a business can model its ability to recover from a disaster. He told me about floods in Thailand that shut down factories responsible for critical computer and automotive parts. Afterward, some companies expanded their supply lines to other parts of Asia. Having seen the fragility of a tight chain, those companies had now established a network with some spring in it. In the future, their “time to survive” would exceed the suppliers’ “time to recover.”

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