Health IT leaders are preparing for teams to return to the office and elective procedures to begin again as the pandemic hits its peak across the country.
But the return has to be strategic and will require COVID-19 testing to safely relax social distancing and avoid another surge of the disease. The pandemic has permanently changed some aspects of healthcare delivery, including the adoption of telemedicine, and accelerated the need for digital health.
Here are 10 updates for health IT leaders today.
1. Cleveland Clinic shared its predictive model to help hospitals plan for patient volume in the future. The health system built its model in partnership with SAS and is now sharing it with other health systems via GitHub. The analytic model is designed to help organizations create a best-case, worst-case and most-likely-case scenario and then adjust in real-time to data changes. Cleveland Clinic used the predictive model to make the decision about launching a 1,000-bed surge hospital at its education campus and coordinate new labor pool activation.
2. Epic CEO Judy Faulkner spoke with Business Insider about the effect of digital health and data-sharing initiatives on healthcare delivery. She made the following four big predictions about the future of healthcare:
· There will be more future mergers, acquisitions and layoffs due to COVID-19
· Hospitals will continue to push patient remote monitoring and telehealth programs
· Hospitals will need to standardize data definitions for more mobility in a crisis
· There will be a greater focus on public health surveillance
3. CIOs are preparing for their administrative teams to return to work. The White House has released a plan for reopening the economy, and many states are making plans to lift restrictions on social distancing and resume elective surgery at surgery centers and hospitals. IT leaders will likely be among the first back in the office to prepare for everyone else. The IT needed includes mobile device sterilization stations, transitioning remote-work capabilities to enable some longer-term remote work, and implementing artificial intelligence and automated processes to support employee COVID-19 testing and contact tracing efforts.
4. Teams at hospitals and health systems across the country began using Microsoft Teams to coordinate their work remotely. Microsoft recently reported that it fixed a vulnerability in Microsoft Teams that allowed hackers to tap into a subdomain takeover flaw using a malicious GIF that could extract personal user data. The company fixed the issue last month and issued a patch; it is also developing more security features to prevent similar software flaws.
5. Telehealth is likely a permanent beneficiary of the pandemic, with many projecting it will remain a key mode of healthcare delivery even after restrictions are lifted. While CMS has not officially updated its policies to make payment and coverage changes permanent post-pandemic, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said: “I think the genie’s out of the bottle on this one. I think it’s fair to say that the advent of telehealth has been just completely accelerated, that it’s taken this crisis to push us to a new frontier, but there’s absolutely no going back.”
6. The Federal Communications Commission has approved several hospitals’ applications to receive funding for expanding its telehealth program. So far, the FCC approved three waves of grant applications for $9.5 million in funding to healthcare providers in 10 states, with the most being granted to Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans and NYU Langone Health in New York City. The program has $200 million to grant and was developed as part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to cover the cost of internet-connected monitoring devices, broadband connectivity and telecommunication devices.
7. Investment is flowing into telehealth and digital health companies. Optum, part of UnitedHealth Group, is reportedly in talks to acquire virtual therapy provider AbleTo for $470 million. AbleTo has seen an uptick of users during the pandemic. Telehealth startup Medici reported it raised $24 million in Series B funding on April 27.
8. Google’s parent company Alphabet released its first-quarter financial report, stating that revenue increased 13 percent year over year to $41 billion. The company also reported $6.8 billion in net income. “Performance was strong during the first two months of the quarter, but then in March we experienced a significant slowdown in ad revenue,” said CFO Ruth Porat. “We are sharpening our focus on executing more efficiently while continuing to invest in our long-term opportunities.” In recent weeks, Google has cut its marketing spend by 50 percent and implemented a hiring freeze.
9. Hospitals are beginning to release their financial reports from the first quarter and continue to take action as revenue declines due to the pandemic. Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic said it will furlough or cut the hours of around 30,000 staff members to partially offset the $3 billion in losses it sustained from the COVID-19 pandemic. The furloughs will affect around 42 percent of Mayo’s 70,000 employees. On April 24, the health system received $1 billion in grants and loans from the federal government to help offset the damage as well.
10. A new study in Health Affairs estimates that caring for COVID-19 patients could cost the U.S. healthcare system hundreds of billions of dollars. The researchers estimated treating one symptomatic patient costs a median of $3,045 over the course of the infection, and if 80 percent of the population is infected, the median number of hospitalizations could be 44.6 million and cost $654 billion.
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