HEALTHCARE: THE NEW NORMAL

May 21, 2020

HEALTHCARE: THE NEW NORMAL

As states across the US begin the process of reopening, establishing a sense of normalcy becomes a top priority. Healthcare systems are facing a significant challenge as they work to resume normal operations while still focusing efforts on decreasing the virus.

It is estimated the American healthcare system has lost $200 billion dollars resulting in the job loss of over 1.4 million healthcare workers. While healthcare systems begin to resume full services, several key factors are important to consider.

In March, the CMS first recommended limiting the non-essential care in an effort to save critical PPE supplies. As healthcare systems reopen and PPE supplies still remain limited, the CMS has updated its recommendations for facilities in order to allow health systems to safely provide nonemergent non-COVID-19 care. The CMS will continue to publish recommendations and updates to existing guidelines to help carefully phase in normal hospital operations. More information on the guidelines and regulations established by the CMS for phase one can be found here.

Healthcare IT departments have shifted gears to best assist their hospitals during COVID-19. Hospitals across the US have pressed “pause” on many projects unless considered critical – shifting their focus to support COVID-19 initiatives.

Tim Pugsley, CIO for Titus Regional Medical Center in Mount Pleasant, TX, has dispatched analytics, informatics and technical teams to support their clinical leaders across many platforms. They have created new dashboards which track PPE consumption rates, temperature tracking for staff, video visit encounters and record call center statistics for the CV-19 hotline.  In addition, they have updated their EHR to record the latest COVID-19 documentation requirements all while supporting a remote workforce.

TRMC has also expanded their telehealth presence. Prior to COVID-19, TRMC focused on telehealth equipment in the ambulances and extending specialty care to outlying communities. Since the pandemic, they have enabled video visits in TRMC operated and independent ambulatory clinics, inpatient floors and on the COVID unit. Patient’s visitors also have an option to become “virtual visitors” enabling them to interact with loved ones.

                 “We understand the importance of social interaction with family and friends. To address that need, we supply the patient with a tablet and technology to have a video interaction” added Pugsley.

While preparing to reopen, Telehealth initiatives are the front runners for helping to safely allow these healthcare systems to better assist, treat and safely diagnosis their patients while working to decrease the possibility for COVID-19 exposure. Titus Regional Medical Center’s clinical leaders are developing a strategy and tactical plans to safely provide care by partnering with physicians and key stakeholders. Policies and procedures are reviewed constantly to adapt to the changing landscape and processes continue to evolve to support our community, our providers, and our staff.

As elective services begin to slowly reopen, Titus has leveraged their telehealth solution to keep the community informed. Through the use of MyChart, public radio and social media platforms – like Facebook – Titus has been able to communicate with the community about the virus, guidelines, and regulations being implemented.

Telehealth will continue to play a vital role as phase one of reopening begins to occur. CMS will likely start to remove the waivers they once had in place for telehealth solutions (for example, enforcing HIPAA compliance). Ensuring your telehealth solution is effective and compliant is more crucial than ever. Demonstrated by TRMC, telehealth solutions allow healthcare systems to safely and efficiently communicate, treat, and assist patients during this pandemic.

Excite Health Partners offers the knowledge and experience to implement the right fit telehealth solution. We can develop new workflows and data integration, improve the efficiency of care and help recover revenue. As healthcare systems continue to adapt during these unprecedented times, we can help ease the burden of implementing the best telehealth solution to meet your organization’s needs.

Todd Klein, CIO, VP of EHR Services & Digital Solutions