Therma Fisher Acquires Rapid COVID-19 Test Provider Mesa Biotech for $450M

Therma Fisher Acquires Rapid COVID-19 Test Provider Mesa Biotech for $450M

What You Should Know:

Thermo
Fisher Scientific Inc.
has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire
Mesa Biotech, Inc., a San Diego,
CA-based molecular diagnostic company, for approximately $450 million in cash.
Under the terms of the agreement, Thermo Fisher will pay up to an additional
$100 million in cash upon the completion of certain milestones following the
close of the transaction.

– Mesa Biotech designs, develops, manufactures, and commercializes next generation Rapid PCR tests, bringing the superior diagnostic performance of nucleic acid PCR amplification to the point-of-care (POC).

– Mesa Biotech’s Accula™ SARS-CoV-2 test was among the first
POC tests to obtain Emergency Use Authorization, providing results within 30
minutes, with higher accuracy than other rapid tests on the market.

– The company has approximately 500 employees and reported
$45M in revenue in 2020.

Leveraging Technology and Data for COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Leveraging Technology and Data for COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution
Kevin Grauman, President and CEO, QLess

After months of uncertainty, hope is finally on the horizon as three viable COVID-19 vaccine candidates are moving closer towards approvals for public distribution. Getting to this stage was extremely labor-intensive, but unfortunately, it’s not the end of the hardships. The coronavirus vaccine will represent the largest vaccine distribution in U.S. history, and manufacturing and distributing the vaccines will have its own fair share of difficulties for healthcare systems. In order to optimize the distribution of vaccines, healthcare providers will need to employ technology and data collection to stay organized. Unfortunately, vaccine approvals are quickly looming, meaning that the necessary technology infrastructure needs to be implemented soon. Healthcare facilities need to understand what solutions can be deployed to facilitate a safe and efficient distribution plan — and how to implement them before it’s too late. 

Vaccine Organization and Distribution

With three potential vaccines, each with different vaccination schedules and side effects, managing distribution will be a complicated effort. Patients will need to be matched to the appropriate vaccine, with consideration paid to medical history. Once a patient is matched to their vaccine, healthcare providers need to track side effects, and in the cases of Pfizer and Moderna, when the patient will receive their second dose. This requires significant data collection, which may leave healthcare providers vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. Data breaches have increased by 171 percent this year due to the pandemic, meaning that cybersecurity and secure data storage need to be at the forefront of any healthcare IT strategy.

The CDC is working to implement a data use agreement to determine which information needs to be reported to various levels of government. This will include information on patient matching, which can help determine how much of each vaccine is being used, the remaining supply and what will need to be ordered. Once these guidelines are in place, healthcare facilities will need to start planning and implementing their cybersecurity strategy. Information sharing will be important over the next few months as the vaccines roll out, but this needs to be balanced with access management to reduce the risk of breaches. Ensure that all members of the team, as well as anyone else who has access to important personal data, understand the risks, as well as the protocols that are in place.

Once vaccines are administered, governments will need to monitor both patients and those who chose not to receive a vaccine closely. Shots are voluntary, which means that there may be parts of the population that refuse to get vaccinated. Many governments and businesses are already discussing the implications of that, including restricting access to things like travel and communal spaces. This means that further data will need to be collected and shared that can inform the public of who is not vaccinated. In the U.K., there has been discussion of an app, similar to the contact tracing app, that discloses the status of a person’s vaccination. In Canada, they have discussed an immunity and vaccination passport. It remains to be seen what route the U.S. government will choose, but there are clear implications for data collection with these new technologies.  

Technology Implementation 

Vaccine distribution will also cause problems for healthcare providers due to the sheer volume of patients needing access to services. Currently, hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. It is also flu season, meaning that flu vaccine appointments are rising. In order to provide safe distribution of the flu vaccine, many governments have implemented an appointment-only system where all patients have to pre-register to receive their dose. Similar systems will be crucial for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations in order to support the observance of physical distancing requirements. With clinics and healthcare facilities already strained, adding more patients that require vaccinations could cause many issues. Appointments need to be closely managed to ensure that healthcare facilities will still be able to operate safely. Healthcare providers will also need to monitor the number of patients during each distribution phase to ensure that they can handle everyone who needs a vaccine. 

Vaccine distribution could begin any day, which means that the technology infrastructure to support the initiative needs to be implemented immediately. This doesn’t leave much time to create new solutions, so healthcare facilities will need to work with existing technology providers to create a secure infrastructure that supports distribution. When selecting a technology provider, careful consideration needs to be paid to both the services it provides and the security protocol that it has in place. Choose trusted vendors that have experience in the healthcare industry. With all healthcare providers going through the same experience, information sharing will also be important. Discuss with other healthcare IT departments what solutions and providers they are considering for vaccine distribution. 

Preparing for Distribution

There is no doubt that this vaccine distribution plan will be unlike anything the U.S. has ever experienced. With distribution broken down into phases to determine the priority of who receives the vaccines, healthcare providers will be forced to contend with sick patients at the same time that they are distributing vaccines. This will require extra effort to keep everyone safe and healthy. With the vaccines set to begin distribution at any moment, healthcare providers need to act quickly to ensure that the necessary technology and data collection infrastructure is in place to facilitate a safe and efficient distribution.


About Kevin Grauman
Kevin Grauman is the President and CEO of QLess, a line management system used by retail, education and government industries. He is no stranger to the world of startups, with a proven track record as a successful U.S.-based executive leader and entrepreneur. Kevin has been recognized as one of the “100 Superstars of HR Outsourcing in the USA” by HRO Today Magazine.


New Resources Track State Vaccinations by Race/Ethnicity and Examine Demographics of Health Workers

A new Policy Watch, Early State Vaccination Data Raise Warning Flags for Racial Equity, explores the latest state-reported data on vaccination by race/ethnicity available on KFF’s COVID-19 state data and policy tracker. As of January 19, 2021, 17 states were reporting some vaccination data by race/ethnicity, including 16 states reporting the distribution of vaccinations byMore

Nearly 6 in 10 Older Americans Don’t Know When or Where They Can Get a COVID-19 Vaccine; Black and Hispanic Adults among the Groups Least Likely to Have Enough Information

Despite Optimism about COVID-19 Vaccines in the Future, Half Say They are Frustrated with the Current Situation and Nearly a Quarter are Angry While older Americans are a high-priority group for getting a COVID-19 vaccine, the latest KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor report finds that, among those who have not yet been vaccinated, most people ages 65 andMore

87% of Americans Want to Receive COVID-19 Vaccine Information From Their Providers

87% of Americans Want to Receive COVID-19 Vaccine Information From Their Providers

What You Should Know:

According to a recent Updox survey, 87% of Americans say
they want to receive information from their healthcare provider on COVID-19
vaccine-related news/updates, with their healthcare providers cited as the most
trusted source on the topic (34%) — behind health protection agencies (32%),
government entities (9%), and the biotechnology companies developing the
vaccines (4%).

When it comes to means of communication with their
healthcare provider, consumers’ preferred method for receiving COVID-19 vaccine
news and updates is by email (46%), followed by phone call (34%) and text
message (33%).


Majority of Americans say they want to receive COVID-19 vaccine-related
news/updates from their healthcare providers, according to a recent result of a
study by Updox. The survey designed to
better understand the public’s view on the COVID-19 vaccine was conducted
online by The Harris Poll on behalf of Updox among 2,057 U.S. adults aged 18+.

Updox finds that 87% of Americans say they want to receive
information from their healthcare provider on COVID-19 vaccine related
news/updates, with their healthcare providers cited as the most trusted source
on the topic (34%) — behind health protection agencies (32%), government
entities (9%), and the biotechnology companies developing the vaccines (4%).
When it comes to means of communication with their healthcare provider,
consumers’ preferred method for receiving COVID-19 vaccine news and updates is
by email (46%), followed by phone call (34%) and text message (33%). 

The survey key findings underscore the strong need for more frequent communications between healthcare providers and patients and demonstrates the critical role technology plays in ensuring an effective vaccine rollout, with information such as vaccine education, eligibility, and scheduling.

Additional key findings of the survey include:

– Americans ages 55-64 are more likely than those ages 18-34
and 65+ to say they would like to ask questions or receive communications from
their healthcare provider regarding vaccine-related news and updates via their
patient portal (34% vs. 17% and 24%)

– 28% of Americans would like to hear from their pharmacist
about COVID-19 vaccine-related news and updates weekly or more often

– Males are more likely than females (44% vs. 33%) to say
they would like to receive vaccine-related news and updates from their
healthcare provider weekly or more often

Why It Matters

“As millions of Americans await their turn to receive the
critical COVID-19 vaccine, the entire healthcare industry is working diligently
to ensure effective communications between providers and patients surrounding
distribution, while simultaneously facilitating safe, efficient delivery of
immunizations,” said Michael Morgan, president, Updox. “But these efforts must
be taken a step further. Nearly 2 in 5 Americans would like to hear from their
healthcare provider weekly or more often about the vaccine, demonstrating that
even if providers are not the ones physically distributing the vaccine,
patients rely on them for insights and information. Physicians play a role more
vital than ever before as trusted resources for their patients in today’s
healthcare environment. Consistent communications both inside and out of the
office is key.” 

The COVID-19 Vaccine Priority Line Continues to Change as States Make Further Updates

This analysis updates the approaches states are taking to manage the limited initial supply of COVID-19 vaccines based on revised federal guidance and balance the desire to vaccinate those at greatest risk first with the need to ensure a fast and effective statewide vaccination effort. It includes a state data table.

Analysis of Recent National Trends in Medicaid and CHIP Enrollment

This data note looks at national and state-by-state Medicaid and CHIP preliminary enrollment data through September 2020, as states were still in the early stages of experiencing the health and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. After declines in enrollment from 2017 through 2019, preliminary data show that total enrollment grew to 77.3 million in September, an increase of 6.1 million from actual enrollment in February 2020 (8.6%), right before the pandemic and when enrollment began to steadily increase.

To Beat COVID-19, We Need A Modern Approach to Public Health Data

To Beat COVID-19, We Need A Modern Approach to Public Health Data
Ed Simcox, Chief Strategy Officer at LifeOmic

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken 270,000 American lives to date, has shined a light on another crisis — the U.S. currently has no standardized system for reporting public health data. Health departments all over the country resort to using paper, fax, phone, and email to transmit and receive critical information, and essential healthcare workers are spending precious time retyping data into systems from printed reports and PDFs.

At the heart of this lack of a centralized infrastructure for reporting public health data is the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Because of this amendment, the federal government — including the CDC — is not able to mandate that states, providers, or public health entities use a centralized reporting mechanism for managing all public health data. Further, the 10th Amendment also allows states to set up their own IT systems independently of other states and the federal government. The CDC then has to beg for data that sits in bespoke, disparate information systems in each state and territory.

Congress has tried three times in the last fourteen years to fix the issue. In 2006, it passed the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA), which required the CDC to establish the near-real-time, electronic, nationwide, public health data-sharing capability. Four years later in 2010, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that not even the most basic planning steps were taken to establish the network. 

Then in 2013, Congress passed the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act (PAHPRA), which unsuccessfully called for a near real-time interoperable public health data exchange network. Finally, just months before the current pandemic, Congress passed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act (PAHPAI), and our need for such a system is now greater than ever.

An Interoperable Public Health Data System

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) needs to lead the creation of a modern public health data approach on behalf of all public health agencies throughout the country, including the CDC. HHS was given $1 Billion for public health data infrastructure modernization in the recently passed CARES Act.

A modern approach to public health data would cost a fraction of that and must consist of three things: the creation of a gateway to link and securely move data between public health entities, the adoption of and adherence to widely accepted health data standards, and the creation of a cloud-based data hub for transparent analysis and reporting of data.

Creation of a Data Gateway

Data must be complete, timely, and accurate. A single federal data gateway would allow for the secure, two-way flow of data between all of the components of the public health ecosystem. The idea is not to create new, custom systems as we have done in the past, but to create a single gateway system at the federal level that stitches all existing data systems together using modern application programming interfaces (APIs). Such a system will allow data to timely flow between jurisdictions and up to the CDC so that we can collectively inform public health decision-making and public policy. 

We should leverage recently adopted interoperability standards to connect data from existing Electronic Health Records (EHR) and insurance claims systems wherever possible to avoid duplicate entry of data by essential workers.

Adoption of a Standardized Data Model

We need to encourage state and local health organizations to use and promote a standardized approach to collecting data at the points of care, testing, and immunization. 

Fortunately, the public health data interoperability challenge can be solved by supporting the private sector’s move to a standardized data model for healthcare data. Congress spent billions of taxpayer dollars over the past several years incentivizing healthcare providers to adopt electronic health record systems and data interoperability standards, most recently as part of the 21st Century Cures Act, which just saw its regulations go into effect this year. Healthcare providers are busy preparing to accommodate the Cures Act’s updated standards and requirements. The federal government should eat its own dog food by adhering to the same standards when creating the new gateway.

The two main standards to pay attention to are Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) and the United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI). Major IT and EHR companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Salesforce, and Cerner have pledged to support these standards meaning they can immediately begin supporting a new gateway and helping America’s public health system quickly modernize. 

A Cloud-Based Data Hub

Once the data is available, flowing, and standardized, we need a national, cloud-based data hub to begin gaining insights from COVID infection rates, vaccinations, and many other key indicators important to recovering from the pandemic.

Led by HHS with support from OMB and the White House, this new system could be set up within months. There are well-known tools and virtual computing environments that could be put to use right away. A modern data hub would benefit not only the federal government but also the research community and academia, as these organizations play very important roles in helping us further understand and respond to the pandemic.

Most importantly, such a hub would provide transparency and accountability, giving confidence in the data being reported by providing independent reproducibility of conclusions from data analysis.


About Ed Simcox

Ed Simcox is the chief strategy officer of LifeOmic, the creator of LIFE mobile apps, JupiterOne cloud compliance and security operations software, and the Precision Health Cloud platform in use at major medical and cancer centers. Prior to joining LifeOmic, Ed served as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the largest civilian government agency in the world. He led efforts at HHS to effectively leverage data, technology, and innovation to improve the lives of the American people and the performance of the Department’s 29 agencies and offices. While CTO, he also served as Acting Chief Information Officer at HHS, where he oversaw the Department’s IT modernization efforts, IT operations, and cybersecurity


3 Steps to Maintain Telehealth’s Momentum Post-Pandemic

In the face of COVID-19, healthcare witnessed how crises can become the long-awaited push for creativity and innovation that the industry needs. When our healthcare infrastructure’s weaknesses were exposed, telehealth helped to stitch them up, with the number of telehealth claims increasing 8,336% nationally from April 2019 to April 2020. Out of need, patients quickly turned to telehealth as a new model of care delivery; clinicians adapted to a new avenue for engaging with patients, policymakers began to improve incentives for its use; and home became our hospital. 

As we continue the fight to control the virus in 2021, the industry is at a pivotal moment in ensuring this year’s telehealth momentum continues post-pandemic. Healthcare organizations should take time now to strategize how best to hardwire telehealth, so it is embedded into care delivery models long-term. In order to achieve this, leaders need to consider their collaboration with other stakeholders, longitudinal integration strategies that go beyond piecemeal solutions and transform the perception of what “home” means in healthcare to meet consumers where they are. 


Step 1: Collaborate to advance technology

If we’ve learned anything from healthcare’s digitization over the years, it’s that technology for technology’s sake is not enough – solving healthcare’s issues is a systems problem, not a disease problem. For telehealth to last, there needs to be a clinical transformation where workflows are rewritten, policies strongly incentivize its use and companies and hospitals partner on outcome-based models that support its scalability. 

In the last six months, we have seen more innovation and adoption in healthcare than we’ve seen in the last decade, with typical innovation timelines of years becoming weeks or days. In many ways, this creativity and open innovation saved the U.S. healthcare system from collapsing and helped us survive the initial surge. We also saw the collaboration of all sorts reach new heights, with organizations, federal agencies, private and public companies from different industries coming together to manage surge capacity while maintaining quality care. Another benefit of these partnerships is the emphasis on long-term policy changes that will empower lasting change and adoption of these innovative approaches. Industry efforts, like ours with the ATA, aim to promote telehealth’s growth and support hospitals, payers, and patients across care settings. The pandemic’s productive collaboration cannot stop here. Instead, we should continue to bring dimensions of policy, clinical experience, and consumer voices to imbed telehealth into our everyday systems. 


Step 2: Determine avenues for seamless data integration across settings

Telehealth’s power is not in its technical claims, but in the power of presenting caregivers with actionable, meaningful patient data so they can make data-driven care decisions with confidence. This is only made possible with interoperable, cloud-based solutions that collect, digest, and analyze data to inform care. With constant transfer of key patient data through connected devices, such as hospital-grade wearables and biosensors, and translating the data into useable insights, remote patient monitoring empowers care teams with the knowledge needed to intervene earlier and keep patients healthy at home. 

Telehealth’s power expands beyond the home, supporting a continuum of care no matter what setting a patient is in. Remote monitoring within the hospital is the crux of minimizing infection risk, handling sudden increases in patient volumes and allocating resources appropriately. These include solutions such as centralized clinical command centers to achieve remote, holistic patient views, or technology that activates scalable patient monitoring for ICU ramp-ups. The solutions we deploy need to be enablers of seamless data transfer – from the ED to ICU, to post-acute and home setting. We now must ensure our informatics backbones mature with these solutions, eliminating gaps in care while ensuring a secure flow of data where and when it’s needed. Deploying cloud-based platforms that bring together the right information across the care continuum will make for a powerful, integrated system that enhances patient and staff safety improves outcomes, and reduces costs.  


Step 3: Transforming what “home” means in healthcare 

2020 has transformed how we view “home.”  Home has become the center of life operations for people across the globe – we work from home, we educate our children at home and we exercise at home. Healthcare is now becoming another cornerstone of the home. With a growing volume of telehealth offerings and household names providing care services, consumer behavior is changing to expect customization, convenience, and instant gratification. The consumer’s voice is loud, and tomorrow’s healthcare will move it from a whisper to a shout – We must be prepared to deliver care when and where patients want to receive it, increasingly let go of healthcare’s brick-and-mortar blueprint, and enable healthcare to match the ease and convenience of other areas of a patient’s life. 

However, just like all these other ‘at-home’ activities that require getting used to or training, we need to support health literacy and engagement for all users. The pandemic has made the inequalities in our health system raw. Even before the pandemic, 5% of the patients account for about half of U.S. healthcare spending. This is a sign that they are not receiving the proactive care and support they need. We have an opportunity to change this equation with virtual care and bridge the digital divide by tailoring solutions to meet each patient’s needs and ensuring equitable availability to all patients.


Transforming telehealth into a standard of care

Technology isn’t the answer to telehealth’s success alone – it is virtualizing care where it is needed most and ensuring it is fully integrated across an institution. Healthcare organizations should reflect on where their greatest challenges and populations are, and look for systematic solutions for telehealth so that virtualization can scale efficiently and build from existing technology and workflows. With productive collaboration across sectors, robust data integration infrastructures, and an evolved perception of how we view healthcare, these tools have the power to influence how patients view and engage with their health, pushing the industry toward more proactive care that will have long-term benefits on outcomes and cost.


About Karsten Russell-Wood

Karsten Russell-Wood, MBA, MPH is the Portfolio Leader for Post-Acute and Home at Philips where he is responsible for Innovation and cross-business platform strategy and portfolio optimization. Prior to joining Philips, Karsten held global product management roles within GE’s healthcare businesses with an orientation to targeted patient populations and continues to be active in venture capital and startups in the digital health space.


Transitioning from Traditional to E-Fax: How Healthcare Communications are Transforming Post-COVID

Telehealth After COVID-19: What's Next for the Healthcare Industry?
Michael Morgan, CEO of Updox

The majority of industries have decreased or eliminated their use of the traditional fax machine over the past decade, including aviation, retail, and even finance. While the healthcare industry is at the forefront of disease research and treatment, however, it is still heavily reliant on this aging technology. 

Traditional fax has become ubiquitous in healthcare. It worked for health systems for many years, but the overwhelming volume of patient data and paper documents the healthcare industry is now processing makes traditional faxing more challenging. In today’s environment, fax is no longer the most convenient, safe, or secure communications format but it is still an ingrained part of practice workflows. The good news is, there is no need to “axe the fax” in order to improve office communications and alleviate paper overload. By transitioning to electronic fax, healthcare providers can maintain their workflows and the benefits of fax, while incorporating it into their overall virtual communications strategy – further simplifying the business of healthcare. 

The Traditional Fax Challenge

The challenge with traditional fax isn’t new. In fact, in 2008 the Obama administration allocated nearly $30 billion to incentivize American hospitals and doctor offices to switch from paper to electronic systems. Since then, the industry has made small steps towards a more digitized system via fax servers and virtual patient communications such as secure text and broadcast messaging. While this solved part of the problem by making documents electronic and streamlining communications, it did not address the issue of inefficiency at its core, as practices are still printing, signing, and scanning paper documents. This inefficiency is causing a bottleneck when it comes to getting information transferred quickly, creates unnecessary costs for practices, and causes a lack of integration between health technologies across our healthcare system. 

A recent poll by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) found that 89% of healthcare organizations still use a fax machine, primarily to: 

  • Share patient records and lab and/or test results
  • Referrals
  • Payer communication
  • Pharmacy communication

This fragmented, outdated way of communication is not only inefficient and costly, it also impacts patient privacy and safety. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, one Texas health department received so many test results via fax in one day that it simply couldn’t keep up with the amount of paper being spit out – resulting in hundreds of confidential results being dumped on the floor. In addition, the vast differences between old and new technology being blended together are making it difficult to keep track of patient records, share data between practices or report to the government, and more, including important racial, ethnic and geographic data that the Trump administration required for COVID tests. In addition to these challenges, traditional fax eats up staff time that could instead be spent on patient care.  

Addressing Outdated Systems and Driving Transformation 

While on the surface the solution seems simple, actually addressing this challenge at its core is not as easy as it seems. Many providers and large health systems face barriers when it comes to implementing this technology, such as: 

  • Compatibility between systems 
  • Fear of competition and/or losing patients to other health systems if e-fax enables patients to easily share data with other physicians
  • Cost considerations
  • Regulatory issues around the transfer of data between providers/EHRs through electronic fax

Despite these challenges, the pandemic has highlighted the delayed, disjointed communications that exist within our healthcare system – and underscored the need for practices and health systems to adopt electronic fax technology. For example, a CNBC survey found that due to COVID-19 tests results coming in via fax in such large amounts, almost 40% of Americans had to wait more than three days for their results, which was too late to be clinically meaningful.  

It’s time to address this challenge industry-wide. Last year’s MGMA 2020 virtual conference theme, Rise Above, focused on giving providers actionable tools to navigate through the challenges COVID-19 has presented. The importance of virtual care solutions, including communications tools like electronic fax and forms, are unprecedented. Electronic fax technology can help alleviate the bottlenecks and inefficiencies that currently exist in healthcare. These solutions can: 

  • Reduce costs spent on traditional fax hardware, such as paper, ink, toner, etc.
  • Increase accessibility, allowing providers to view documents via mobile, etc.  at their convenience 
  • Improve practice workflow and efficiency, allowing practices to edit, organize, assign and complete patient forms online

Additionally, electronic fax should integrate seamlessly with other patient management solutions that practices are leveraging, such as video chat, SMS text, electronic forms, and a virtual waiting room, ultimately streamlining the entire patient experience.

Healthcare has transformed dramatically this year and will continue to do so — there’s a new expectation of patient care post-COVID. In order to improve patient communications, practice efficiency, system interoperability, and data sharing, practices must adopt an entire virtual care strategy, including electronic fax. Offering telehealth but still communicating via traditional fax will hold your practice back. It’s time for our healthcare system to ditch outdated systems and go completely paperless. This is how we will tap into the true power of the inbox, drive practice profitability and efficiency, and better serve patients. 


About Michael Morgan, CEO of Updox
With a successful track record in helping organizations use technology to transform the way healthcare is delivered, Mike has more than 25 years of healthcare leadership within software, behavioral health, and HIT organizations. Updox was named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies in America for the past six consecutive years.


MEDITECH Launches Quick Vaccination Solution to Streamline COVID-19 Vaccination Process

20 COVID-19 Predictions and Trends for 2021 - Executive Roundup

What You Should Know:

– MEDITECH launches a web-based Quick Vaccination solution enabling healthcare organizations to efficiently administer the vaccine to their patients from multiple care venues, including through tablet devices.

– With Quick Vaccination, healthcare organizations have
the speed and mobility to distribute the vaccine at high-volume locations,
including pop-up inoculation sites.


To accelerate
healthcare organizations’ administration of the COVID-19
vaccine, MEDITECH is extending its
capabilities to include a complimentary, short-form Quick Vaccination solution.
This web-based solution streamlines vaccine administration, enabling healthcare
organizations to efficiently administer the vaccine to their patients from
multiple care venues, including through tablet devices.


MEDITECH
Quick Vaccination Overview

With Quick
Vaccination, healthcare organizations have the speed and mobility to distribute
the vaccine at high-volume locations, including pop-up inoculation sites. And,
since the solution leverages integration within the MEDITECH Immunization
Interface, it automatically transmits vital vaccine data to state immunization
information systems.

Quick Vaccination is a stand-alone solution that can also be
added to any menu within the EHR. The solution allows for automatic defaults of
key vaccine and administration data using flexible parameters. This
significantly shortens the amount of time it takes to document vaccine
administration, so sites can vaccinate more patients in less time.


How It Works

Per CDC guidelines, Quick Vaccination automatically generates a
certificate of COVID-19 vaccination, which is also accessible from the
patient’s portal. The certificate includes administration details such as the
vaccine’s manufacturer, the date the patient received the vaccine, and the care
setting in which it was administered.

Patients will bring the certificate with them to their
appointment for the second dose to ensure the proper next dose is given. The
next certificate will show validation of receipt of both doses within the
appropriate time frame.

MEDITECH provides guidance and scenarios for vaccine administration
across all integrated care areas, and the EHR has the flexibility for sites to
easily add new vaccine codes. Additionally, MEDITECH’s Scheduling solution
enables customers to schedule vaccine administrations as part of an appointment
set, which means the first and second doses can be scheduled at the same time
with the appropriate eligibility interval between doses. Appointments are
integrated with the patient portal, so the patient is reminded of the second
dose appointment.

Furthermore, patient registries can identify eligible patients
and vaccine distribution by phase ― such as residents of long-term-care
facilities or those with specific preexisting conditions. Eligible employees
can also be identified and registered as patients. In addition, registries keep
track of patients who have not received a full course of the vaccine, and may
also be used to alert staff of high-risk patients who may require follow-up
after vaccination.

“Time is essential in fighting COVID-19, and we recognize that immunizing as many people as possible is imperative,” said MEDITECH Vice President of Client Services Leah Farina. “We developed the Quick Vaccination solution to streamline the process and enable care providers to efficiently administer the COVID-19 vaccine to their patients while meeting CDC guidelines.”

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A new analysis of KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor survey data finds that most Hispanic adults across the country want to get a COVID-19 vaccine at some point though younger adults are more hesitant, in part because of lower confidence that it is safe and effective. Overall a quarter (26%) of Hispanic adults say they willMore

Despite Efforts to Slow the Spread of the Virus in Long-Term Care Facilities, KFF Analysis Finds Many States Experienced the Worst COVID-19 Outbreaks and Highest Number of Deaths in December

For some regions of the country, recent months have brought the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities since the start of the pandemic, a new KFF analysis of state-reported cases and death shows, underscoring the importance of current efforts to vaccinate this high priority group. The novel coronavirus has had a disproportionate impact onMore

How COVID-19 Reshaped Healthcare Consumerism & 4 Key Trends to Know for 2021

How COVID-19 Reshaped Healthcare Consumerism & 4 Key Trends to Know for 2021

What You Should Know:

– NRC Health today released its 2021 Healthcare Consumer
Trends Report, which surveyed 2 million healthcare consumers against the
backdrop of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

– The latest report highlights the major trends that came to light last year, and how they will continue to impact the healthcare industry in 2021 and beyond – from declining brand loyalty, increased care deferment, the fast adoption of telehealth, a rise in wearable tech, and a broader focus on social media marketing.

– Hospital leaders will also find value in learning how
to recapture patient volumes lost in 2020 and how to bring more human
understanding into the care experience.


NRC Health, a provider of in-depth
customer intelligence in healthcare, today released its 2021 Healthcare Consumer Trends Report. For its
third-annual industry review, NRC Health surveyed millions of healthcare
consumers against the backdrop of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. From
declining brand loyalty, increased care deferment, the fast adoption of
telehealth, a rise in wearable tech and a broader focus on social media
marketing, NRC Health’s latest report shines a light on consumers’ evolving
preferences and behaviors related to key healthcare trends and offers insight
into how provider organizations can recapture patient volumes in 2021.


COVID-19 Accelerated the Trajectory of Consumerism in
Healthcare

“It cannot be overstated just how dramatically COVID-19 has accelerated the trajectory of consumerism in healthcare,” said Helen Hrdy, Chief Growth Officer, NRC Health. “The onus falls on healthcare leaders to move the industry forward by ensuring patient safety, building consumer trust and bringing more human understanding into every care experience. Those organizations that are willing and able to evolve with the times will be best-positioned for success in the aftermath of COVID-19.”

“For years, consumers have made consistent appeals for autonomy, convenience, and freedom of choice,” said Hrdy. “As unsettling as it’s been, COVID-19 has brought some of these consumerist-driven measures to the forefront. While healthcare leaders have proven they can be nimble and adaptable, even in the face of crisis, consumers want a partnership with their providers and a care experience that exceeds their expectations moving forward. But only with the right data and the right understanding, can we ensure that healthcare is capable of adapting.”


4 Key Healthcare Consumerism Trends to Know in 2021

1. Consumers favor convenience, provider rapport over brand loyalty

Consumer loyalty is a major driver of health system
profitability, but unfortunately for hospitals and health systems, overall
brand preference among healthcare consumers continues to decline, from 31% in
2018 to 36% in 2020. More than a third of consumers expressed no particular
preference for a healthcare brand, when compared against independent
practitioners, and 62% anticipate their brand preferences to change after the
pandemic.

Ironically, providers themselves are in the best position to
earn back consumer trust. An analysis from NRC Health’s Real-time Feedback
database shows that consumers report an overwhelming fondness for their
providers, especially since the outbreak began. To capitalize on that goodwill
and bring patients back into the healthcare fold, all evidence points to
convenience. Almost half of consumers say a convenient location is the number
one factor in their healthcare decision-making.


2. Patient deferment rates will continue to rise

Prior to the pandemic, healthcare deferral rates were
approaching a five-year low. But with consumer anxiety at an all-time high due
to the pandemic, those rates rose significantly in 2020, up from 22.4% at the
end of March to 30.4% by the end of June. Forty percent of patients who delayed
care in 2020 cited the coronavirus as the reason, while 17.2% said they prefer
to manage their care on their own for now.

Delaying care can have a number of repercussions, from
threatening hospital revenue streams in the near term to causing far more
serious outcomes for consumers in the long term. Patients 75 and older
accounted for nearly 68% of all care delays, revealing a huge challenge for
health systems as they try to recruit this generation back into regular care.


3. Future of care delivery looks
uncertain after rapid telehealth adoption

Lagging in widespread adoption for years, the pandemic fast
tracked virtual care delivery from optional luxury to operational necessity.
Fortunately, consumers have been receptive to the shift, with an overwhelming
92% reporting positive telehealth experiences during this time. However, only
27% of consumers say they will consider telehealth as a potential alternative
for future visits, underscoring what is still an uncertain future for virtual
health and overall care delivery beyond the pandemic. Prioritizing provider
time and attentiveness, as well as financial transparency, will be key as
healthcare organizations work to cultivate effective telehealth practices long
term.


4. Patients and providers still disconnected over digital
innovations

Telehealth
may have brought healthcare into consumers’ homes, but it is by no means the
only avenue to reach customers outside of the healthcare facility. By and
large, consumers are enthusiastic about digital innovations that bring them
closer to their provider — even as these innovations are underutilized by
healthcare organizations.

Wearable
tech
, for example, has become a huge part of the average consumer’s daily
life in regards to how they manage their health and wellness from home. Yet
only 50% of providers are asking about wearable tech data during appointments,
despite the fact that 57% of consumers believe this data would be useful in
conversations with their healthcare providers.

Social media is another under-used digital venue for patient
interaction. Even though 72% of Americans have some kind of social media
profile, many health systems have not yet found an optimal strategy for
engagement. And while currently, only 23% of Internet users are actively
seeking health information on social media, that number is likely to soon rise
as 70% percent of consumers expressed interest in getting healthcare
information via social channels. Another 62% said they trust the health information
they get on social media, so long as it comes directly from their provider.
This was especially true during the worst of the pandemic, when consumers
trusted news from local healthcare organizations more than any other sources.


The Challenge of Vaccine Hesitancy In Rural America

In his latest Axios column, Drew Altman looks at the challenge of vaccine hesitancy in rural America and its implications. One of them: a highly tailored outreach campaign is needed. “Addressing this hesitancy will require convincing rural Americans about the seriousness of the pandemic, and then that the vaccine is a way to protect them, their families and their way of life,” he said.

New Analysis Takes In-Depth Look at How States are Prioritizing Who Gets a COVID-19 Vaccine

A new KFF analysis examines the different approaches states are taking to manage the limited initial supply of COVID-19 vaccines and balance the desire to vaccinate those at greatest risk first with the need to ensure a fast and effective statewide vaccination effort. Based on a review of state vaccination plans, the analysis finds thatMore

This Week in Coronavirus: January 1 to January 7

Here’s our recap of the past week in the coronavirus pandemic from our tracking, policy analysis, polling, and journalism. It’s a new year, and while Democrats won control of the U.S. Senate with the results of the Georgia runoff elections and lawmakers dealt with the riot on the Capitol during Electoral College certification, the pandemic raged on. Three daysMore

Get Ready for a Lot of Biden Executive Orders on Health Care

In this column for the JAMA Health Forum, Larry Levitt explores what President-elect Biden might do to advance his health care vision both through legislation and through executive orders and waivers and demonstrations.

January 14 Web Event: A Shot in the Arm For Long-Term Care Facilities? Early Lessons from the COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout to High Priority Populations

With the pandemic taking a heavy toll among older Americans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and most states have placed a high priority on vaccinating residents and staff of long-term care facilities. People in nursing homes and other long-term care settings account for 8 percent of cases but 40 percent of deaths fromMore

Cone Health Transforms Maternity Campus into COVID-19 Only Hospital in 28 Days

Cone Health Transforms Maternity Campus into COVID-19 Only Hospital in 28 Days
Cone Health’s Green Valley Campus

What You Should Know:

– Cone Health transforms its maternity campus into North
Carolina’s first designated COVID-19 hospital in 28 days.


Cone Health transformed
its former women’s health campus into a designated COVID-19
hospital
in 28 days. Using teamwork and technology, the Cone Health Green Valley campus
in Greensboro, North Carolina became the area’s first specialized COVID-19
hospital, boasting the latest development in coronavirus care, negative
pressure ventilation, and hands-free communication throughout the facility.

Transformation Journey

More than 80 leaders from multi-disciplinary teams across the health system were involved in redesigning the former Women’s Hospital and opening it as a COVID-19 only facility in April of 2020. By year-end, more than 1,500 patients had received care at the 116-bed COVID-19 hospital. A place once dedicated to bringing new life into the world is now dedicated to keeping life from ending too soon.

Innovative Solutions to Address COVID-19

The health system’s
Lean team and infectious disease team joined forces to ensure that clinical
workflows, operational processes, and technology solutions were safe and
efficient. Among the approved innovations used to protect and connect care
teams in the COVID-19 hospital is the wearable Vocera Smartbadge.

The voice-controlled Smartbadge enables team members to communicate hands-frees and can be worn under personal protective equipment (PPE). A nurse, doctor, or other team members can initiate communication by simply saying, “OK, Vocera” followed by voice commands like “call respiratory therapist” or “call Code Blue team.” The Smartbadge, along with the Vocera Vina smartphone app, is also being used in the new Women’s & Children’s Center at Moses Cone Hospital to help care teams provide exceptional and personal care.

“Many patients need hands-on care, whether they are a sick baby or an elderly man with COVID-19, which is why hands-free communication is ideal for many clinicians; but there also are times when clinicians need to exchange more context about the patient situation, and a secure mobile app is preferred,” said Kenneth Rempher PhD, RN, executive vice president of acute care services and chief nurse executive at Cone Health.

20 COVID-19 Predictions and Trends for 2021 – Executive Roundup

Dr. Justin Graham, Chief Medical Officer, GYANT

The rapid development of a COVID-19 vaccine is a monumental achievement, but it does nothing to address our extremely fragmented healthcare system. In 2021, policymakers must create and extend incentives to providers to work together to keep patients healthy rather than maximize profit. The pandemic has devastated the traditional fee-for-service budgets of many healthcare systems, and it isn’t clear they will ever be able to catch up without additional federal or local funding, or succeeding with radically different business models. Fortunately, this time of difficult budget decisions and value-based care models coincides with an explosion in growth of digital health tools that are being readily embraced by patients that are happy to see healthcare providers adopt technology familiar to them in other settings. This convergence of demand for technology and innovation by health systems and patients will enable providers to be able to reach new populations while continuing to serve their communities that have been impacted by the pandemic.


COVID-19 Trends and Predictions

Peter S. Tippett, MD, PhD, Founder & CEO, careMESH

In 2020, COVID exposed significant gaps in interoperability
and patient data exchange between and among healthcare providers and public
health agencies. As 2021 arrives, I expect to see renewed vigor for tackling
this challenge since it has hamstrung efficiency and the quality of patient
care for a long time. I am optimistic that the Centers for Medicare &
Medicaid Services (CMS) Interoperability and Patient Access Final Rule
requiring admission and discharge summaries be sent to primary care providers,
as well as a renewed focus on electronic referrals under the Promoting
Interoperability program, gives hospitals the incentive to share patient
information and medical records with the entire patient care team. I believe
lessons learned from 2020 have set a determination across the industry to
finally break down these communications barriers.


Chris McCann, CEO, Current Health

With the second surge of COVID-19 underway, hospitals are
quickly reaching capacities that exceed the numbers we saw at the onset of the
pandemic. In the coming year, we will see an increase in home-based care models
propelled by remote patient monitoring (RPM), a technology that has proven to
be indispensable in aiding hospital staff to best allocate their current,
limited resources. Just recently, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid
Services announced steps to increase the capacity of healthcare systems to provide
acute care outside a traditional hospital setting. Similar to the telehealth
waivers we saw at the onset of the pandemic, this new program will serve as a
sandbox for health systems to explore new clinical pathways for patients in
their own home, which will look quite different than within the hospital.
Reimbursement will allow these models to scale; and with scale, we’ll be able
to explore how data can move beyond just supporting care at home to actually
predicting future risk and enabling preventive care.


Doug Cusick, CEO of TransformativeMed

As the pandemic intensified, many health IT companies were
able to adapt and create COVID-19 specific solutions. The critical hospital and
frontline clinician needs that presented early in the virus’s outbreak revealed
many communication problems within health systems and between care team
members. What became abundantly clear early on was that a lot more needed to be
done to help these healthcare workers to collaborate and communicate to
effectively track and care for their patients.

Health IT companies are taking a very close look at their solutions and asking themselves how they can be improved to better support clinical collaboration and decision making across the entire care team. Advancements in these areas can create usability and efficiency gains through specialty-specific views of information and by supporting care team collaboration by coordinating the distribution of critical and routine notifications, tasks and to-dos between mobile and desktop, and then sharing the information across various members of a multidisciplinary care team.

Moving forward, these innovations will help hospitals and health systems to maximize the ROI that would be expected from their technology investments, recover from the pandemic and support coordinated care delivery well into the future.


Siva Namasivayam, CEO of Cohere Health

COVID-19 has dramatically reinforced the need to fix the basic healthcare infrastructure including helping patients get faster access to needed medical care and moving through the system with less friction. The American Medical Association has outlined the benefits of reducing the volume of medical services and drugs requiring prior authorizations. Regulatory bodies have stated the value of prior authorization, and they also know it’s essential to alleviate the burden the current process puts on providers. Because of regulatory pressures and provider workflow issues, health plans need better technology that ties clinical guidelines and recommendations to a complete care plan, easily approves that care plan, and supports physicians in providing high-quality care to their patients.


Sean Carroll, CEO of Arcadia

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, many health systems rapidly accelerated existing plans for virtual care delivery or made brand new investments in this space.  As the pandemic continues to ravage our communities and put our health care systems under strain, healthcare leaders will accelerate investments in curated data at scale to support population health initiatives across their entire covered population.  With systems facing staffing and budgetary crises, it will be critical for them to understand the needs of the community at large and allocate those scarce resources where they can offer maximum benefit to patients.


Omri Shor, CEO of Medisafe

COVID-19: The pandemic will continue to dominate our lives
throughout 2021. I don’t anticipate a vaccine to be readily available to the
masses until mid-2021. There will likely be competition on single vs. multiple
doses, and stricter guidelines are to be expected (at least in other countries)
as we head into the flu season. I don’t anticipate a vaccine to be readily
available to the masses until mid-2021. According to Medisafe survey findings,
60 percent of respondents say they don’t expect a vaccine to be available
before the end of 2020. Additionally, 54 percent of respondents will wait to
receive a vaccine until either their doctor prescribes it, or enough have received
it to know it works.

Expect to see more widely available drugs to support the
treatment of COVID-19, in addition to the vaccine, such as steroid medications
and antibiotic drugs. COVID-19 will drive drug companies to devote more
research into pandemic treatment and monitoring of patients’ post-treatment.


David Lareau, CEO of Medicomp Systems

Once the COVID crisis is under control, expect to see
attention turn to innovation in the management of patient health status.
Current HIT systems were designed for transaction-based reimbursement, but the
industry must make the shift to condition-based reimbursement. This will
require systems to provide better tools for clinicians to manage patient
conditions at the point of care. I expect to see advances in this area start to
make their way into the marketplace by the end of 2021.


Post COVID-19: Medical Billing Finally Realizes the Value of Text-to-Pay

Bird Blitch, CEO at Patientco 

Economic and health equity gaps exposed by COVID-19 will be
addressed: As we head into 2021, organizations will commit more resources and
collaborate with others within the healthcare community to support better
health equity and ensure every patient can reach their full health potential.


Daniel Kivatinos, COO and Co-Founder of DrChrono

The Pop-Up Testing Clinic

COVID-19 has ushered in a new way of testing that has never
been seen before across the country. The white tents scattered around parking
lots and connected to medical facilities have proven that this new way of
testing is working. Furthermore, the data that is being collected, stored, and
reported at the pop-up testing clinics and then shared with various local,
state, and federal public health databases is critical. Companies are creating
integration tools to help share and analyze this data.


Lisa Romano, RN, Chief Nursing Officer, CipherHealth

Hospitals will need to counter the staff wellness fallout

The pandemic has placed unthinkable stress on frontline healthcare workers. Since it began, they’ve been working under conditions that are fundamentally more dangerous, with fewer resources, and in many cases under the heavy emotional burden of seeing several patients lose their battle with COVID-19.

The fallout from that is already beginning – doctors and nurses are leaving the profession, or getting sick, or battling mental health struggles. Nursing programs are struggling to fill classes. As a new wave of the pandemic rolls across the country, that fallout will only increase. If they haven’t already, hospitals in 2021 will place new premiums upon staff wellness and staff health, tapping into the same type of outreach and purposeful rounding solutions they use to round on patients.


Ryan Van Wert, MD, Intensive Care Physician, Clinical
Assistant Professor at Stanford University and CEO and co-founder of Vynca

The realities of COVID-19 have thrown into stark reality the need for improved advance care planning in 2021. According to many surveys and studies, few Americans would choose to die on a ventilator in an ICU. Instead, the overwhelming preference is to pass away peacefully and avoid aggressive interventions at the very end.

In 2021, more and more patients and healthcare providers will realize the importance of having a clear advance care plan that is digitally accessible and actionable. By educating and empowering healthcare providers to have advance care planning conversations with their patients, they can ensure goal-concordant care can be provided to every patient. Advance care planning is increasingly being included as a quality measure in value-based initiatives, which ties this critical activity directly to success in these programs.


Bill Paschall, VP at Vivify Health (part of Optum)

COVID-19 descended on us in 2020 like a terrible wave and
continues to swirl around the globe despite social distancing, masking, and the
drowning of economies. Vaccines promise to dilute and dry up this scourge on
mankind, but who will have access and when? Working in conjunction with the
World Health Organization, organizations like COVAX
endeavor to ensure equitable distribution in early 2021 so that all nations can
provide vaccines for up to 20% of their population. It is very likely that only
some countries will be able to vaccinate their entire population in 2021, so we
may see COVID and its impact lingering well into 2022 or even 2023.

Does this mean that the Tsunami of Telehealth in the US
enabled by CMS waivers in early 2020 will wane when the Public Health Emergency
expires? Although some services will again become more restricted, we will
likely see only a short-term dip in these services. Patient acceptance of and
engagement with telehealth has been proven, and provider willingness to invest
in and utilize technology has been demonstrated.  Providers continue the move from Fee for
Service to Value-Based care models, and health plans will support the use of telehealth
and remote patient monitoring to wider populations, lowering the overall cost
of care and improving outcomes.


Paul Jensen, President, Novarad

The global COVID-19 pandemic and its various, and often inaccurate, testing methods have led many organizations to turn to technologies like AI and AR, which are giving radiologists a better sense of how to proactively provide for their patients and predict both outcomes and how they’ll respond to various therapies.

As the medical imaging industry continues to feel the surmounting pressures from the virus, AI, when coupled with CT scans, is and will continue to play a vital role in the diagnosis and management of COVID-19. While medical imaging continues to catch up with more modern, consumer technology, leveraging AI in the fight against COVID to reduce patient vulnerability and improve medical image processing is just the beginning.


Rob Cohen, President of Appriss Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has fueled a resurging U.S. opioid
crisis that some argue has worsened in part because of the stress and anxiety
we are collectively experiencing. One bright spot is that physicians and
hospitals have greater access to in-workflow tools to not only help identify
patients at risk for opioid use disorder or overdose but also to connect
patients with behavioral health resources that can provide them with needed
treatment. This access will continue to expand to more physicians and hospitals
in 2021 – and it will help save lives.


Sara Radkiewicz, Head of Product, CarePort

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing operational issues within the US healthcare system and has also made exceedingly apparent the need for increased interoperability and streamlined care coordination. Better communication, collaboration, and transparency across the care continuum is the best way to ensure safe patient transitions between different levels of care and optimal patient outcomes.

Looking ahead to 2021, we expect increased provider communication, collaboration and transparency to be made a priority, particularly under CMS’s new patient event notification Condition of Participation (CoP) requirements, which go into effect on May 1, 2021, as part of the Interoperability and Patient Access final rule. Though COVID-19 has highlighted the need for real-time data and alerts regarding patient status, increased visibility into patient utilization history, and streamlined data-sharing between disparate providers, this actionable information will remain critically important long beyond the pandemic.


Mike Hoxter, Chief Technology Officer, Lightbeam Health
Solutions

In 2021, I think COVID-19 will eventually diminish with the
distribution of a vaccine, but efficiently delivering care without coming
face-to-face will not. The healthcare industry will continue to streamline
current processes that improve care quality through more remote and electronic
means. We have learned a lot about doing things differently and safely for
high-risk populations through virtual care, and I do not think it will be going
anywhere in the new year.


Theresa Kushner, Senior Director of Data Intelligence and
Automation, NTT DATA Services

COVID-19 will continue to compromise patient data,
setting back efforts to fight the virus

COVID-19 is an assault on privacy in the absence of data
governance. Privacy regulations and protections of personal health data have
been thrown out the window, along with the pandemic response playbook, as the
public sector and healthcare industry scramble to aggregate as much data as
they can on COVID-19 through personal health records and contact tracing –
rendered as public information. Similar to other crises in history, regulation,
privacy and governance fall by the wayside during reconnaissance. I believe the
lack of regulation and governance around healthcare data will result in
setbacks to overcoming the virus in the next several months, not to mention
that it’s compromising patient data.


Kevin Phillips, VP of Product Management and Product Marketing
at Capsule Technologies

The Coronavirus pandemic and accompanying stress on the healthcare system have shown the need for new technology that can help clinicians be more efficient and effective at delivering care, and proactively identify patients at risk.  Our caregivers are healthcare’s most precious resource, and in many cases, they are overwhelmed with the sheer volume of raw data, alarms and alerts around them.  The onslaught has forced many into reactive care. 

As we look to a new year, however, there has been a change in mindset about which alarms equate to emergent patient safety events requiring clinical intervention.  Single threshold device alarms are not actionable, and therefore, of no practical benefit.  What’s required are intelligent alerts and surveillance tools that track patient deterioration, explain the ‘how’ and ‘why’ such events occur, and detect them before they occur – all toward eliminating patient safety risks and preventable deaths. 

While machine learning and artificial intelligence have great potential, in 2021 we’ll start to see more immediate, practical examples of “augmented intelligence,” where technology is used to quickly analyze reams of live, streaming patient data to identify the relevant trends and insights that can then be used to provide the best possible treatment; all based on established, evidence-based care practices.  By focusing on these areas, hospitals and health systems will see clear benefits that can help them transition from reactive care delivery to more insight-driven, proactive care.


Kris Fitzgerald, CTO, NTT DATA Services

Technology’s Obligation in the COVID-19 Vaccine
Distribution

Healthcare workers and pharmaceutical companies have been in
the trenches the past several months treating COVID-19 patients and conducting
research to develop a vaccine. As the healthcare industry, and tangential
industries, work tirelessly to mitigate the virus and work to eradicate it, the
technology industry has an obligation to contribute to this cause, as well. The
tech sector is comprised of some of the most innovative and powerful companies
in the world, and they have a responsibility to leverage their resources to
remove technical barriers and help secure the supply chain to ensure the
vaccine can be distributed successfully and without delay.

COVID-19-specific data is being generated at incredibly high volumes and speeds – from symptoms, to contact tracing, infection and recovery rates, and more. However, the governance around this data is severely lacking. By creating one centralized data management, analytics, and governance repository, government officials, and healthcare professionals overseeing distribution of the vaccine can better analyze the data available to them to generate more accurate real-time decisions.

This allows them to move swiftly and efficiently on in-the-moment insights, such as geographical case spikes or rural areas with a lack of resources to properly store the vaccine, to increase agility and respond to constantly changing consumer and supply chain needs. Real-time, trustworthy, and transparent data management, as well as consulting from technology and data experts, has never been more important. As we learn more about the virus and how to prevent it, data will be the key that unlocks critical information around flattening the curve and efficiently and strategically distributing the vaccine.


UCHealth Taps Conversa Health to Track COVID-19 Vaccine Effects on Frontline Healthcare Workers

12-Available-COVID-19-Vaccine-Management-Solutions-to-Know-In-Depth-1

What You Should Know:

– Conversa Health’s COVID-19 programs now include patient monitoring pre- and post-vaccination, education on vaccines, and appointment reminders.

– Healthcare workers at UCHealth in Colorado are
receiving 24/7 monitoring of vital signs two days before and seven days after
receiving their vaccinations courtesy of Conversa Health.


Conversa Health, a Portland, OR-based automated virtual care and triage platform, has expanded its suite of COVID-19 programs with tools to help the vaccine effort. As part of its expansion, Conversa has partnered with BioIntelliSense to monitor healthcare workers at UCHealth in Colorado before and after receiving COVID-19 vaccinations. UCHealth physicians, nurses, and other front-line staff members wear BioIntelliSense’s BioButton medical device two days before and seven days after vaccination. The BioButton continuously monitors temperature, respiratory rate and heart rate at rest. Conversa collects information from the BioButton and integrates the vital signs data with insights from a daily interactive vaccination health survey developed by Conversa.

“Automated vaccine monitoring for our frontline healthcare workers is an important step toward scaling the program for the larger population, particularly vulnerable patient populations and seniors in long-term care environments,” said Dr. Richard Zane, UCHealth chief innovation officer and professor and chair of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “We are working closely with partners like Conversa and BioIntelliSense to navigate the ever-changing healthcare landscape and transform the way patients receive care.”

Vaccine education, tracking and screening

Conversa also is assisting health systems across the country
with the challenge of vaccinating millions of patients. This effort begins with
educating patients on the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. Patients want to
know when they will be eligible to receive vaccines and what their experience
will be like, including potential side effects. And patients need an easy way
to set up vaccine appointments and get reminders to follow through on their
visits. Health systems also want to monitor potential side effects, both to
ensure patients get needed follow-up care and to report any side effects to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“With millions of people needing to be vaccinated, we cannot have a manual, paper process to track who received a vaccine and who experienced side effects,” said Dr. Nick Patel, chief digital officer at Prisma Health, an 18-hospital system serving South Carolina. “We have to automate this process to track information accurately and at scale. With Conversa, we will be able to do that for the 1.2 million patients that Prisma Health serves annually. Digital tracking also allows us to provide vaccinated individuals with a digital badge for entering an airplane, a public building or an entertainment venue. That will be a key to allowing life to return to something close to pre-COVID normal.”

12 Telehealth & Virtual Care Predictions and Trends for 2021 Roundup

Dr. Paul Hain, Chief Medical Officer of GoHealth

Telehealth is Here to Stay in 2021

Prior to the pandemic, telehealth was a limited ad-hoc service with geographic and provider restrictions. However, with both the pandemic restrictions on face to face interactions and a relaxation of governmental regulations, telehealth utilization has significantly increased from thousands of visits in a week to well over a million in the Medicare population. What we’ve learned is that telehealth allows patients, especially high-risk populations like seniors, to connect with their doctors in a safe and efficient way. Telehealth is valuable for many types of visits, mostly clearly ones that involve mental health or physical health issues that do not require a physical exam or procedure. It’s an efficient modality for both the member and provider.

With the growing popularity of telehealth services, we may see permanent changes in regulatory standards. Flexible regulatory standards, such as being able to use platforms like FaceTime or Skype, would lower the barrier to entry for providers to offer telehealth and also encourage adoption, especially among seniors. Second, it’s likely we’ll see an emergence of providers with aligned incentives around value, such as in many Medicare Advantage plans, trying very hard to encourage utilization with their members so that they get the right care at the right time. In theory, the shift towards value-based care will allow better care and lower costs than the traditional fee for service model. If we are able to evolve regulatory and payment environments, providers have an opportunity to grow these types of services into 2021 to improve patient wellness and health outcomes.


12 Telehealth & Virtual Care Predictions and Trends for 2021

Dr. Salvatore Viscomi, Chief Medical Officer, GoodCell

2021 will be the year of patient controlled-health

The COVID-19 pandemic brought the realities of a global-scale health event – and our general lack of preparedness to address it – to the forefront. People are now laser-focused on how they can protect themselves and their families against the next inevitable threat. On top of this, social distancing and isolation accelerated the development and use of digital health tools, from wellness trackers to telehealth and virtual care, most of which can be accessed from the comfort of our homes. The convergence of these two forces is poised to make 2021 the year for patient-controlled health, whereby health decisions are not dictated by – but rather made in consultation with – a healthcare provider, leveraging insights and data pulled from a variety of health technology tools at people’s fingertips.


Bullshit Metrics: Is Patient Engagement Real?

Anish Sebastian, CEO of Babyscripts

Beyond telemedicine

Telemedicine was the finger in the dyke at the beginning of pandemic panic, with healthcare providers grabbing whatever came to hand — encouraged by relaxed HIPAA regulations — to keep the dam from breaking. But as the dust settles, telemedicine is emerging as the commodity that it is, and value-add services are going to be the differentiating factors in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Offerings like remote patient monitoring and asynchronous communication, initially considered as “nice-to-haves,” are becoming standard offerings as healthcare providers see their value for continuous care beyond Covid.


Rise of the "Internet of Healthy Things"

Daniel Kivatinos, COO and Co-Founder of DrChrono

Telehealth visits are going to supersede in-person visits as time goes on.

Because of COVID-19, the world changed and Medicare and Medicaid, as well as other insurers, started paying out for telehealth visits. Telemedicine will continue to grow at a very quick rate, and verticals like mental health (psychology and psychiatry) and primary care fit perfectly into the telemedicine model, for tasks like administering prescription refills (ePrescribing) and ordering labs. Hyperlocal medical care will also move towards more of a telemedicine care team experience. Patients that are homebound families with young children or people that just recently had surgery can now get instant care when they need it. Location is less relevant because patients can see a provider from anywhere.


12 Telehealth & Virtual Care Predictions and Trends for 2021

Dennis McLaughlin VP of Omni Operations + Product at ibi

Virtual Healthcare is Here to Stay (House Calls are Back)

This new normal however is going to put significant pressure on the data support and servicing requirements to do it effectively. As more services are offered to patients outside of established clinical locations, it also means there will be more opportunity to collect data and a higher degree of dependence on interoperability. Providers are going to have to up their game from just providing and recording facts to passing on critical insight back into these interactions to maximize the benefits to the patient.


Sarahjane Sacchetti, CEO at Cleo

Virtual care (of all types) will become a lasting form of care: The vastly accelerated and broadened use of virtual care spurred by the pandemic will become permanent. Although it started with one-off check-ins or virtual mental health coaching, 2021 will see the continued rise in the use and efficacy of virtual care services once thought to be in-person only such as maternity, postpartum, pediatric, and even tutoring. Employers are taking notice of this shift with 32% indicating that expanded virtual health services are a top priority, and this number will quickly rise as employers look to offer flexible and convenient benefits in support of employees and to drive productivity.


12 Telehealth & Virtual Care Predictions and Trends for 2021

Omri Shor, CEO of Medisafe

Digital expansion: The pandemic has accelerated patient technology adoption, and innovation remains front-and-center for healthcare in 2021. Expect to see areas of telemedicine and digital health monitoring expand in new and novel ways, with increased uses in remote monitoring and behavioral health. CMS has approved telehealth for a number of new specialties and digital health tools continue to gain adoption among healthcare companies, drug makers, providers, and patients. 

Digital health companions will continue to become an important tool to monitor patients, provide support, and track behaviors – while remaining socially distant due to the pandemic.  Look for crossover between medical care, drug monitoring, and health and wellness – Apple 

Watch has already previewed this potential with heart rate and blood oxygen monitoring. Data output from devices will enable support to become more personalized and triggered by user behavior. 


Kelli Bravo, Vice President, Healthcare and Life Sciences, Pegasystems

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only changed and disrupted our lives, it has wreaked havoc on the entire healthcare industry at a scale we’ve never seen before. And it continues to alter almost every part of life across the globe. The way we access and receive healthcare has also changed as a result of social distancing requirements, patient concerns, provider availability, mobile capabilities, and newly implemented procedures at hospitals and healthcare facilities.

For example, hospitals and providers are postponing elective procedures again to help health systems prepare and reserve ICU beds amid the latest COVID-19 resurgence. While level of care is always important, in some areas, the inability to access a healthcare provider is equally concerning. And these challenges may become even more commonplace in the post-COVID-19 era. One significant transformation to help with the hurdle is telehealth, which went from a very small part of the care offering before the health crisis to one that is now a much more accepted way to access care.
As the rise in virtual health continues to serve consumers and provide a personalized and responsive care experience, healthcare consumers expect support services and care that are also fast and personalized – with digital apps, instant claims settlements, transparency, and advocacy. And to better help serve healthcare consumers, the industry has an opportunity to align with digital transformation that offers a personalized and responsive experience.


12 Telehealth & Virtual Care Predictions and Trends for 2021

Brooke LeVasseur, CEO of AristaMD

Issues pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to be front-and-center in 2021. Every available digital tool in the box will have to be employed to ensure patients with non-COVID related issues are not forgotten as we try to free up in-person space and resources for those who cannot get care in any other setting. Virtual front doors, patient/physician video and eConsults, which connect providers to collaborate electronically, will be part of a broadening continuum of care – ultimately aimed at optimizing every valuable resource we have.


12 Telehealth & Virtual Care Predictions and Trends for 2021

Bret Larsen, CEO and Co-Founder, eVisit

By the end of 2021, virtual care paths will be fairly ubiquitous across the continuum of care, from urgent care and EDs to specialty care, all to serve patients where they are – at home and on mobile devices. This will be made possible through virtualized end-to-end processes that integrate every step in patient care from scheduling, waiting rooms, intake and patient queuing, to interpretation services, referral management, e-prescribe, billing and analytics, and more.


12 Telehealth & Virtual Care Predictions and Trends for 2021

Laura Kreofsky, Vice President for Advisory & Telehealth for Pivot Point Consulting

2020 has been the year of rapid telehealth adoption and advancement due to the COVID pandemic. According to CDC reports, telehealth utilization spiked as much as 154% in late March compared to the same period in 2019. While usage has moderated, it’s clear telehealth is now an instrumental part of healthcare delivery. As provider organizations plan for telehealth in 2021 and beyond, we are going to have to expect and deliver a secure, scalable infrastructure, a streamlined patient experience and an approach that maximizes provider efficiency, all while seeing much-needed vendor consolidation.


12 Telehealth & Virtual Care Predictions and Trends for 2021

Jeff Lew, SVP of Product Management, Nextech

Earlier this year, CMS enacted new rules to provide practices with the flexibility they need to use telehealth solutions in response to COVID-19, during which patients also needed an alternative to simply visiting the office. This was the impetus to the accelerated acceptance of telehealth as a means to both give and receive care. Specialty practices, in particular, are seeing successful and positive patient experiences due to telehealth visits. Dermatology practices specifically standout and I expect the strong adoption will continue to grow and certainly be the “new normal.” In addition, innovative practices that have embraced this omni-channel approach to delivering care are also establishing this as a “new normal” by selectively using telehealth visits for certain types of encounters, such as post-op visits or triaging patients. This gives patients a choice and the added convenience that comes with it and, in some cases, increases patient volume for the practice.


How to Capitalize on Digital Health Momentum in 2021

How to Capitalize on Digital Health Momentum in 2021
Adam Sabloff, Founder and CEO of VirtualHealth

As we re-examine the healthcare system in the wake of the pandemic, we are continually identifying opportunities to rebuild parts of the system to new and improved specifications. One critical facet is digital health, where we continue to struggle with what should really be table stakes: the ability to integrate data from disparate organizations and systems into a unified view of the whole person and take action.

During the height of the pandemic, telehealth made it possible to deliver care that was personal yet socially responsible. As a direct benefit, the use of digital health tools on both the clinical and consumer side picked up a tremendous and timely head of steam. But what will become of these innovations once we make our eventual return to normal?

Today, many healthcare consumers can talk to a therapist or a counselor through text, monitor glucose levels through a diabetes app and meet with their primary care provider over videoconference. The challenge is that a lot of this patient data is still landlocked in electronic medical record (EMR) systems that do not communicate or coordinate with one another or with payer systems or consumer apps.

The sustainability and applicability of digital health tools are still often questioned despite reports that investors had poured a staggering $5.4 billion into the digital health industry just by June of this year (Rock Health). The key to success is to seamlessly connect these tools with legacy systems and siloed access points to create a truly integrated healthcare continuum. Jumping between systems, each holding only its own limited slice of patient data, and then trying to take action on this data, is neither scalable nor sustainable.

Healthcare consumers have long looked at the seamless nature of apps in other areas of life and asked for a similar level of accessibility and on-demand, high-quality information from the healthcare system. Accenture found in its 2020 Digital Health Consumer Survey that although consumers are interested in virtual services, a cumbersome digital experience turns them off. Additionally, the survey found that concerns over privacy, security, and trust remain, along with difficulty integrating new tools and services into day-to-day clinical workflows.

The good news is that the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) has made several major data exchange rulings this year that will push providers and payer organizations to update legacy systems to make consumer health data more assessable and sharable across all parties, all for the benefit of the patient.

The Stage is Set: Healthcare Leaders Must Act, Now

The incredible investments in the industry, increasing consumer demand, and data sharing regulation show that healthcare connectivity and interoperability have never been more essential. To ensure that the digital health transformation and remote healthcare delivery models progress optimally beyond the current environment, we must support healthcare organizations in evolving their infrastructure and software capabilities to support this kind of strategy. This is where health tech has a critical role to play in building flexible pipes to connect the full spectrum of repositories and players, including doctors, specialists, nurses, care managers, health coaches, caregivers, and, of course, the healthcare consumer.

What does this look like in practice? Imagine if an unusually high heart rate warning was triggered by a patient’s smartwatch, which then alerted the patient’s care manager to check-in. With a comprehensive view of that patient, the care manager calls the patient to assess if they are okay and learns the patient ran out of their prescription which helps lower the heart rate. Knowing that patient does not have access to a car and is afraid to take public transportation due to COVID-19, the care manager then sets up a prescription delivery straight to that patient’s doorstep.

Through this process, digital health tools, patient data, and social determinants of health all came together to equip that care manager to deliver personalized care to the patient. Sound like sci-fi? This innovative approach can actually be a reality for organizations that manage large populations. The key is educating more healthcare leaders about the benefits of a comprehensive healthcare platform that improves health outcomes, lowers costs and increases member satisfaction. 

This all starts with a platform that coordinates and aggregates the siloes of data and tools (clinical and digital) into a central hub. that allows providers to oversee the access points, plans, and processes in a patient’s healthcare journey without the task of building or maintaining the system themselves. This can be a game-changer in the way we assess and treat patients and help the industry to fully realize the dream of truly comprehensive, coordinated care.


About Adam Sabloff

Adam Sabloff is the founder and CEO of VirtualHealth, provider of HELIOS, the leading SaaS care management platform, serving more than 9 million members across the U.S. Prior to VirtualHealth, Sabloff served as VP of Development and Chief Marketing Officer for Midtown Equities, a $7 billion real estate, media and aviation conglomerate, where he also oversaw its technology subsidiary, Midtown Technologies.


AMA Adds 3 Additional CPT Codes for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 Vaccine

AMA Adds 3 Additional CPT Codes for AstraZeneca's COVID-19 Vaccine

What You Should Know:

– The American Medical Association (AMA) announced the addition of three Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine.


The American Medical Association (AMA) today announced that
the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT®) code set is
being updated by the CPT Editorial Panel to include immunization and
administration codes that are unique to the COVID-19 vaccine under development
by AstraZeneca and University of Oxford.

The new CPT codes will be effective for use on the condition
that the AstraZeneca vaccine receives approval or emergency use authorizations
from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The AMA is publishing the new CPT
codes now to ensure electronic systems across the U.S. health care
system are updated and prepared for the prospect of FDA approval or
authorization for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Growing List
of CPT Codes to Support COVID-19 Vaccines

The AstraZeneca vaccine joins two other COVID-19 vaccines that were previously issued unique CPT codes to report vaccine-specific immunizations once FDA approval or authorization has been granted. On Nov. 10, the AMA announced that COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna had been issued unique CPT codes to clinically distinguish each vaccine for better tracking, reporting, and analysis that supports data-driven planning and allocation

AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine CPT Codes Overview

The new
Category I CPT code and long descriptor for the AstraZeneca vaccine are:

91302: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (coronavirus disease [COVID-19]) vaccine, DNA, spike protein, chimpanzee adenovirus Oxford 1 (ChAdOx1) vector, preservative-free, 5×1010 viral particles/0.5mL dosage, for intramuscular use

In addition to the new vaccine-specific product CPT code, the AstraZeneca vaccine has been issued vaccine administration CPT codes that are distinct to its two-dose immunization schedule. These CPT codes report the actual work of administering the vaccine, in addition to all necessary counseling provided to patients or caregivers and updating the electronic record.

For quick reference, the new vaccine administration CPT codes and long descriptors for the AstraZeneca vaccine are:

0021A: Immunization administration by intramuscular injection of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (coronavirus disease [COVID-19]) vaccine, DNA, spike protein, chimpanzee adenovirus Oxford 1 (ChAdOx1) vector, preservative-free, 5×1010 viral particles/0.5mL dosage; first dose 

0022A: second dose

In addition to the long descriptors, short and medium descriptors for all the new vaccine-specific CPT codes can be accessed on the AMA website, along with several other recent modifications to the CPT code set that have helped streamline the public health response to the SAR-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 disease.

“A mass vaccination effort with the first available COVID-19 vaccines presents enormous logistical challenges,” said AMA President Susan R. Bailey, M.D. “The ability to correlate each COVID-19 vaccine with its own unique CPT code provides analytical and tracking advantages that ensures optimal vaccine distribution and administration, especially for patients who will need to complete the two-dose immunization schedule.”


Amazon, CVS Health, Thermo Fisher Scientific Form Alliance for Employer-based COVID-19 Testing

Amazon, CVS Health, Thermo Fisher Scientific Form Alliance for Employer-based COVID-19 Testing

What You Should Know:

– Amazon, CVS Health, Thermo Fisher Scientific join forces to
promote employer-based testing As part of a comprehensive COVID-19 testing strategy.

– The coalition, named Workplace Employers Alliance for
COVID-19 Testing (WE ACT), believes
that employer-based testing programs are essential to keeping employees safe
during the current public health emergency.

WE ACT aims to
advance a comprehensive national testing strategy that includes clear guidance
for the implementation of testing programs and results reporting; to ensure
access to high-quality, FDA authorized COVID-19 tests for employers; and to
serve as a resource for any employer who wishes to launch or expand an
employer–based testing program.

– As a nonpartisan coalition, WE ACT and its partners
believe that combating the COVID-19
pandemic requires an all-hands-on-deck approach.

Analysis of Recent National Trends in Medicaid and CHIP Enrollment

This data note looks at national and state-by-state Medicaid and CHIP preliminary enrollment data through August 2020, as states were still in the early stages of experiencing the health and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. After declines in enrollment from 2017 through 2019, preliminary data show that total enrollment grew to 76.5 million in August, an increase of 5.3 million from actual enrollment in February 2020 (7.4%), right before the pandemic and when enrollment began to steadily increase.

Community Health Centers’ Role in Delivering Care to the Nation’s Underserved Populations During the Coronavirus Pandemic

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, community health centers are serving as public health responders, especially for medically underserved populations. Health centers are a national network of safety net primary care providers who provided care to nearly 30 million patients in 2019, and disproportionately serve patients who are low-income, persons of color, uninsured, or publicly insured – groups that have been especially hard hit by the pandemic. This brief examines how health centers have adapted their service delivery models during the pandemic response and the current challenges they face continuing to meet patients’ needs.

DoD Awards $2.8M to Philips & BioIntelliSense to Validate Wearable for Early COVID-19 Detection

DoD Awards $2.8M to Philips & BioIntelliSense to Validate Wearable for Early COVID-19 Detection

What You Should Know:

– Philips and BioIntelliSense has been selected by the
U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC) to receive nearly $2.8M
from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to validate BioIntelliSense’s
FDA-cleared BioSticker device for the early detection of COVID-19 symptoms.

– Working with the University of Colorado Anschutz
Medical Campus, the clinical study will consist of 2,500 eligible participants
with a recent, known COVID-19 exposure and/or a person experiencing early
COVID-19 symptoms.


Royal
Philips
and BioIntelliSense,
Inc., a continuous health monitoring and clinical intelligence company, today
announced they have been selected by the U.S. Army Medical Research and
Development Command (USAMRDC) to receive nearly $2.8M from the U.S. Department
of Defense (DoD) through a Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium (MTEC)
award to validate BioIntelliSense’s FDA-cleared BioSticker device for the early
detection of COVID-19
symptoms. The goal of the award is to accelerate the use of wearable
diagnostics for the benefit of military and public health through the early
identification and containment of pre-symptomatic COVID-19 cases.

Medical-Grade Wearable for Early COVID-19 Detection

As millions of individuals have been screened and tested, the emerging research on traditional screening methods is revealing how challenging it is to detect the risk of COVID-19 infections early. Temperature checks have proven to be unreliable and even amplified testing (PCR) has proven to be ineffective in identifying the virus in the early days of infection.

The FDA-cleared BioSticker is an advanced on-body sensor
that allows for effortless continuous monitoring of temperature and vital signs
combined with advanced analytics, enables the BioSticker to identify
statistically meaningful trends and screen for early potential COVID-19
infection.

“The medical-grade BioSticker wearable, combined with advanced diagnostic algorithms, may serve as the basis for identifying pre- and very early symptomatic COVID-19 cases, allow for earlier treatment for infected individuals, as well as reduce the spread of the virus to others,” said James Mault, MD, Founder and CEO of BioIntelliSense.

Clinical Trial Details

Working with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, the
clinical study will consist of 2,500 eligible participants with a recent, known
COVID-19 exposure and/or a person experiencing early COVID-19 symptoms.
Individuals may learn more about the study eligibility and enroll online
at www.BioStickerCOVIDstudy.com.
The research will focus on the validation of BioIntelliSense’s BioSticker for
early detection of COVID-like symptoms, as well as assessment of scalability,
reliability, software interface, and user environment testing. 

Turning Data into Actionable Insights

While previous studies have shown potential using consumer wearables in relation to COVID-19, this study will leverage BioIntelliSense’s medical-grade wearable, the BioSticker, which enables continuous multi-parameter vital signs monitoring for 30 days and captures data across a broad set of vital signs, physiological biometrics and symptomatic events, including those directly associated with COVID-19.  With its integration into Philips’ remote patient monitoring offerings, this is another example of how cloud-based data collection takes place seamlessly, across multiple settings, from the hospital to the home. Allowing data to be turned into actionable insights and care interventions, while providing connected, patient-centered care across the health continuum. 

Dr. Vik Bebarta, the Founder and Director of the CU Center for COMBAT Research and Professor of Emergency Medicine on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus added: “The University of Colorado School of Medicine and the CU Center for COMBAT Research in the Department of Emergency Medicine are excited to be a lead in this effort that will change how we care for our service members in garrison and our civilians in our communities.  The COMBAT Center aims to solve the DoD’s toughest clinical challenges, and the pandemic is certainly one example. With this progressive solution, we aim to detect COVID in the pre-symptomatic or early symptomatic phase to reduce the spread and initiate early treatment. This trusted military-academic-industry partnership is our strength, as we optimize military readiness and reduce this COVID burden in our community and with frontline healthcare workers.” 

COVID-19 Exposed The True Vulnerability of Healthcare Infrastructure

How COVID-19 Exposed The True Vulnerability of Healthcare Infrastructure
Martyn Crew, Director of Solutions Marketing at Gigamon

In 2019, 41 million patient records breached in 572 reported incidents at an average cost of $1.8 million per breach. These statistics are far from surprising with healthcare records selling for a reported average of $45 on the dark web. Unfortunately, the year 2020 aggravated these issues as COVID-19 exposed the true vulnerability of the healthcare infrastructure. Organizations not only had to manage the medical and financial impacts of the pandemic but also the security risks inherent in the work-from-home (WFH) model and the increasingly sophisticated attacks of cybercriminals intent on exploiting these vulnerabilities. In this article, we’ll dive into some of these growing threats.

The Bare Minimum of EDR

Although most organizations have now provided WFH employees with secure computers using endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions or mandated the use of virtual private networks (VPNs), this does not fully solve the security problem.

These solutions may protect the user and network from future attacks, but if network infiltration has already occurred, threats in the form of advanced persistent threats (APTs) may be lying dormant for weeks, months, or maybe even years, on an apparently secure network. To respond to these threats, a network detection and response (NDR) capability is required. This capability looks for activity or patterns of behavior from users or network servers that indicate attacks may be in progress may have taken place or may be developing.

Ideally, EDR and NDR need to be integrated and used together to provide end-to-end network visibility and security.

Exploited Fears

Cybercriminals and other bad actors were quick to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic with, for example, phishing attacks. These exploited the fears of healthcare consumers and healthcare workers who, in the early days of WFH, were often accessing corporate networks on secured mobile phones and personal computers from their home networks.

This led to a variety of security issues; for example, Mirai botnet–type attacks that exploited WFH practices to infect healthcare organizations’ networks or dropper-based attacks that loaded malware to steal users’ credentials and ultimately lead to ransomware attacks. While these attacks still continue, most healthcare organizations have taken the measures necessary to secure their networks and their patient and organizations’ data.

A Spike in State-Sponsored Attacks

Beyond threats from financially motivated cybercriminals looms the threat from highly sophisticated and well-resourced state-sponsored attackers. As widely reported in the media, there has been a spike in state-sponsored security attacks on lab and research facilities working on COVID-19 treatments. For example, the Wall Street Journal cited U.S. officials as suggesting that Chinese and Iranian hackers are targeting universities and pharmaceutical and other healthcare firms that are working to find a vaccine for COVID-19, in an attempt to disrupt this research and slow its development.

In addition to direct attacks on research institutions, software vendors that develop the tools used by these institutions are also at risk. Security is becoming a “supply chain” issue that touches not only all of the network users and assets but also all the precursors to these assets, including the network carriers and software vendors on which network users rely.

Lack of Trust

Who can you trust in this expanded threat environment? To take proper precautions, nobody. As healthcare consumers and the workforce want or need to operate on an “access anywhere, anytime” model, adopting what’s called a Zero Trust security architecture not only makes sense, it is close to an imperative for healthcare organizations.

Zero Trust means that, because the network is under constant attack from a huge array of external and internal threats, all users, devices, applications, and resources on the network must be treated as being hostile. These users and devices need to be rigorously and continuously authenticated, while patient, research, and other data and network assets need to be protected at a much granular level than traditional perimeter-based security models allow.

The Rise of IoMT Devices

Healthcare organizations must also find new, more cost-effective ways to deliver high-quality healthcare to their increasingly tech-savvy consumers – and the use of Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) devices is critical to this process. IoMT devices, ranging from simple telehealth and remote patient monitoring to surgical robots and augmented reality technologies, can reduce operating costs and increase the quality of patient care.

COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of IoMT technology, a process that will further accelerate with the availability of 5G networks over the coming one to three years. Many of the simpler IoMT devices don’t support traditional security models, so their adoption poses significant new threats unless healthcare institutions act to enhance security by, for example, ensuring that their network detection and response tools are ready for this challenge.

Looking ahead, it’s clear that the world is evolving towards a new normal, which will pose more threats and concerns for the healthcare industry. Recognizing this and preparing for the threats discussed, will create a better game plan for what’s to come and allow for necessary growth within healthcare infrastructure. 


About Matyn Crew
Martyn Crew is Director of Solutions Marketing at Gigamon. He brings a 30-year background in all aspects of enterprise IT to his role where he focuses on a number of initiatives and products including Gigamon’s Application Visibility and Intelligence solutions.


12 Recently Launched COVID-19 Vaccine Management Solutions to Know

12 Recently Launched COVID-19 Vaccine Management Solutions

An in-depth look at twelve recently released COVID-19 vaccine management solutions as COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed nationwide.

1. Microsoft

Microsoft
launches a COVID-19 vaccine management platform with partners Accenture and
Avanade, EY, and Mazik Global to help government and healthcare customers
provide fair and equitable vaccine distribution, administration, and monitoring
of vaccine delivery.

Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) has deployed over 230 emergency COVID-19 response missions globally since the pandemic began in March, including recent engagements to ensure the equitable, secure, and efficient distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

2. Accenture

Accenture recently rolled out a comprehensive vaccine management solution to help government and healthcare organizations rapidly and effectively plan and develop COVID-19 vaccination programs and related distribution and communication initiatives. Expanding on Accenture’s contact tracing capability that leverages Salesforce’s manual contact tracing solution, the platform is rapidly deployable and designed to securely track a resident’s vaccination journey, from registration and appointment scheduling to final vaccine administration and symptom follow-ups.

3. VigiLanz

VigiLanz, a clinical surveillance company launched their new mass vaccination support software, VigiLanz Vaccinate provides end-to-end management of the entire vaccination process, enabling hospitals to maximize the success of mass vaccination events for healthcare workers. VigiLanz Vaccinate streamlines vaccine administration and management by making it easy for staff to register and provide consent while automating workflows for program administrators. Its real-time insights into volume needs to reduce vaccine waste, while analytics give visibility into vaccination and immunity rates at the individual, department, hospital, and system-level.

4. BioIntelliSense

UCHealth recently deployed BioIntelliSense BioButton™ Vaccine
Monitoring Solution
, an FDA-cleared medical-grade wearable for continuous
vital sign monitoring for up to 90-days (based on configuration) to healthcare
workers receiving COVID-19 vaccine UCHealth’s staff and providers will wear the
BioButton device for two days prior and seven days following a COVID-19 vaccine dose
to detect potential adverse vital sign trends. Together with a daily
vaccination health survey and data insights, the wearer may be alerted of signs
and symptoms to guide appropriate follow-up actions and further medical management.

5. VaxAtlas

VaxAtlas launches a
digital platform to support the COVID-19 vaccination process making it easy for
anyone to schedule and manage their vaccinations. Through a comprehensive suite
of on-demand tools, VaxAtlas manages the process of getting COVID vaccinations
from beginning to end. The platform provides access to a national certified
pharmacy network for local appointment scheduling, recall alerts, second dose
reminders, as well as QR clearance passes for vaccine validation. VaxAtlas
alleviates the complexity associated with vaccine logistics and helps to get
people back to work and back to living their lives.

6. DocASAP

DocASAP launches COVID-19
Vaccination Coordination Solution to help healthcare providers and payers meet
the urgent demand for vaccinating the nation. DocASAP’s COVID-19 Vaccination
Coordination Solution will help providers and payers guide people through the
vaccination process with pre-appointment engagement, online appointment scheduling
and reminders, and post-appointment wellness tracking. This will help reduce
the burden on staff and call centers to manage the sheer volume and complexity
of these appointments, and better coordinate the influx so providers can
effectively deliver the needed care. DocASAP will support the phased approach
to rolling out vaccinations, beginning with front-line healthcare staff.

7. Allied Identity

Allied Identity announced the launch of Vaxtrac, comprehensive vaccination management and credentialing platform designed to aid in the local, national and international response to COVID-19 and other communicable diseases. Vaxtrac uses SICPA’s proprietary CERTUS™ service in order to ensure the security of vaccination records and credentials.

8. Net Health

Net Health has developed a proprietary web-based Mobile Immunization Tracking platform to more efficiently manage on-site
immunizations. To ensure compliance, Net Health’s Mobile Immunization
Tracking platform tracks verification and enables employee consent forms to be
electronically recorded. Immunization data and the Vaccine Information Sheet
(VIS) are pulled directly from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) database
and fields are auto-populated so clinicians do not have to manually enter data.
This ensures information in the employee record is accurate and saves time as
the clinician moves from one employee to the next.

9. Traction on Demand

Vancouver tech company, Traction on Demand,
has developed a COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Accelerator. The accelerator helps
health authorities track all the critical details of their clinics including
type, location, staff members, and cold storage units available on-site and
applies CDC’s COVID-19 Temporary Clinic Best Practices to a
Salesforce-based mobile app, providing organizations with a digitized CDC
checklist, auditable clinic administration including a permanent auditable
record of all vaccination clinics an organization holds, critical risk
identification, and shift tracking.

10. MTX Group

MTX Group launches a
comprehensive end-to-end COVID-19 vaccine administration, management, and
distribution Solution for state and local public health agencies built on
Salesforce. The MTX vaccine management solution brings together the various
components of a COVID-19 vaccination program, including vaccine administration
and inventory management. MTX also works with public health departments to
identify necessary steps to promote vaccination adoption within a community.
The vaccine management solution is secure, portable, interoperable, and
provides data-driven vaccination program management capabilities.

11. Infosys

The Infosys
Vaccination Management (IVM) Salesforce Solution
is an end-to-end offering
for automating tasks, integrating data sources, and delivering a seamless
vaccination program that offers supply chain visibility and future demand
forecasting. Disparate systems won’t work for this unprecedented health crisis.

12. Phresia

Phresia provides an end-to-end COVID-19 vaccine management solution for outreach, intake, reminder, and recall tools to increase vaccine uptake. Key features include communicating with patients about vaccine availability, send appointment reminders and boost recall, manage your waitlist, automate patient intake for vaccine visits, including consents, questionnaires, and patient education, and screen patients for vaccine hesitancy and maximize uptake by delivering personalized messaging based on those survey results.

Gaps in Cost Sharing Protections for COVID-19 Testing and Treatment Could Spark Public Concerns About COVID-19 Vaccine Costs

In the issue brief, KFF experts highlight the laws and regulations that are in place to ensure access to free COVID-19 vaccines for individuals regardless of their insurance status and explain how vaccine administration costs will be covered in private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, and for the uninsured.

Poll: Large Majorities Now Say They Wear Masks Regularly and Can Continue Social Distancing for At Least Six Months if Needed, though Republicans Remain Less Likely to Take Such Precautions

As winter sets in and COVID-19 cases and deaths reach records in most parts of the country, more Americans say they wear masks every time they leave home now (73%) than said so in May (52%), a new KFF Health Tracking Poll finds. A small minority (11%) say they wear masks only some of theMore

Why Some COVID-19 Testing Protocols Aren’t What You Think

Some COVID-19 Testing Protocols Aren’t What You Think
Pawel Czech, Founder of Nex.D

While countries around the world continue to flounder with regards to COVID-19 testing, everyone is wondering how national governments could get things so horribly wrong. It’s true that governments have acted incompetently, leaders can make poor judgment calls, and optimistic testing targets are rarely achieved.

But the claims of various ambitious big pharma companies—about their ability to deliver on capacity and accuracy alike—have created a smokescreen for decision-makers, one that has severely undermined crucial efforts to monitor the spread. They say the hunt for profit leads to innovation, but it can also lead to chaos.

As Jonathan Quick, author of The End of Epidemics put it: “Virus biology and vaccines technology could be the limiting factors [to COVID-19], but politics and economics are far more likely to be the barrier to immunization.”

The time it takes for people to get tested and receive results (end-to-end) has been a significant point of contention in the testing sphere. Some solutions, especially in the pandemic’s infant stages, were keen to position themselves as the go-to protocol, particularly at a time when governments were frantically pouring money into testing, hoping it would give people the confidence to return to work and reopen parts of the economy.

In their quest to promote their own protocols in the best possible light, some companies have publicized processing times that don’t span the time it takes to actually complete the entire testing process. Others have shone a light on their own testing advantages. 

Disadvantages have not only been obscured but sometimes outright manipulated or fudged to appear more appealing and competitive to the average Joe, whose statistical interests lie more in Fantasy Football than the intricacies of testing methods. For instance, in our test comparison study, Abbott’s RealTime SARS-CoV-2 test took approximately 7 hours of end-to-end processing time. It’s the claim of 90-minute completion, however, had been widely publicized, leading several budding admirers, including the White House staff, to quickly commit to its protocol. This 90-minute-only accounted for one stage of its testing protocol. 

Testing companies have also recognized the value of promoting high-capacity protocols. Testing capacity ultimately boils down to the volume capabilities of each testing machine, versus the availability, cost, and a number of these machines required to complete a test.

When some companies promote their testing capacities, the figures produced don’t always mention the cost attached to each machine or the number of machines required for the full testing process. PCR tests tend to have low throughput, laborious process, and often false-negative results, making it overwhelmingly challenging to meet testing needs even in industrialized countries. But, as the world has come to know all too well, statistics can be massaged when presented in a preferred light.

Initially, testing companies prioritized promoting low-turnaround times and enhanced sensitivity. It was only after the preliminary stages of the pandemic when capacity became more of a trait to consider. This has led some test makers to highlight testing capacity in rather vague terms, presented as daily output as opposed to capacity per machine. As a result, certain companies utilizing PCR protocols have veered away from disclosing their throughput numbers. 

False negatives pose an enormous problem because they literally mean people who have COVID-19 will go out into the world in full confidence that they don’t have the disease, and infect others. Such people are less likely to self-isolate or even exercise very basic precautions, such as wearing a mask because they are convinced they aren’t contagious. 

In its own COVID-19 testing policy for labs and commercial manufacturers, the FDA says a diagnostic test should correctly identify at least 95 percent of positive samples. Yet, even 95 percent does not give us the scientific precision we might require to truly quell the spread. It gives us a probable threshold, but false negatives are still likely to leak through, causing further potential spread as a consequence. 

When the White House itself began screening its staff using a rapid coronavirus test made by Abbott Laboratories, they didn’t expect post-analysis studies to conclude the test may return a high percentage of false-negative results. In mid-May, the Food and Drug Administration issued a rare public warning about an Abbott Laboratories COVID-19 test: test results could be wrong. The lower 80 percent threshold for the Abbott and other point-of-care tests’ sensitivity proved insufficient. As such, governments fell into the trap of buying into solutions with plenty of initial hype, but less verifiable agency. 

For some of us, much of this information can seem completely contradictory, just like the old “Coffee is good for you… no, wait it’s bad for you… no, wait, it’s good for you again,” repeated ad nauseam. Understandably, media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic has continued on full blast since the onset, this has inevitably led to a sense of informational fatigue for certain sections of society.

Tidal waves of medical statistics and information crash over us each and every day. During a global pandemic, this vulnerability to medical gossip only intensifies, meaning health authorities, as well as providers, should be re-doubling efforts to create clarity with regards to prevention; safety restrictions, testing protocols, and limitations. More clarity must be prioritized by competent legislators making vital decisions regarding institutional/national testing protocols.

More needs to be done to separate state and big pharma medicine, that’s because medical research is often financially backed by private entities. E.g. Antidepressants can be life-savers for some people. But drug company-funded studies have overplayed their benefits and downplayed their harms, contributing to overuse and unnecessary side effects.

It would be naive to think that financial gains are not a factor for budding testing companies, it would also be naive to expect that when testing companies recognize their own protocol shortcomings in the market, they will readily disclose it. Their aim is to move their product forward, not necessarily by deception, but also not always by full disclosure either. While this might be common ground for many industries, life-saving testing companies need to do better.

As Gerald Posner, author of Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America, puts it: “Pharmaceutical companies view COVID-19 as a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity,” adding that, “the worse the pandemic gets, the higher their eventual profit.” With potentially lucrative government contracts up for grabs, the clamor to present your testing solution as the answer to COVID-19 grew.

What many testing companies seem to have forgotten is that initiatives focusing on the protection of the public from a potentially terminal virus should, in no way, shape, or form, be employing misleading statistics and marketing tactics when the alternatives to effective prevention are so grave.

These companies carry a crucial responsibility: They are not simply providing the public with non-essential products for which you can choose to enjoy or not, the product here is medically crucial, and the fate of the health and livelihoods of millions of people across the globe depend on it.


About Pawel Czech

Pawel has led market entry for three global tech companies into 45 countries. Pawel specializes in helping prepare companies to scale into multiple markets with a full stack offer. Pawel founded Nex.D to be the company he would have wanted to work with as a founder. Pawel has held three global roles in the technology sectors in the last 15 years working extensively in business development, operations, and sales capacity actively serving in a governance and leadership role with those founders and management teams.


Vaccine Safety Expert Shares 5 COVID-19 Vaccine Facts to Protect 2021

Vaccine Safety Expert Shares 5 COVID-19 Vaccine Facts to Protect
Dr. Noam Tau of Sheba Medical Center

Now more than ever, public confidence is key. It’s our job as medical professionals, the FDA’s job, and public figures’ job to convince the population to vaccinate by presenting the real results of studies.

The current vaccine hesitancy, which might result in a large proportion of people refusing vaccination, will leave us with an ongoing global crisis, even with the best vaccines ever made. A vaccine only works if it is actually administered.

Five Vaccine Facts to Protect 2021:

1. Although Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19
vaccines utilize a technology not used in vaccines before, it is in no way new.
Studies on this type of vaccine have been conducted for the last 10 years, and
even earlier.

2. The approval studies conducted by Pfizer and Moderna included
more than 70,000 participants in both, compared to 4,000 participants in a
“regular” vaccine trial.

3. The FDA did not allow any shortcuts in the approval process. The main thing that sped up the proceedings was faster and more efficient bureaucracy and obtaining funding.

4. Now that the Pfizer vaccine has received an FDA emergency use
authorization, hundreds of thousands of people have already been vaccinated,
with a remarkable safety profile.

5. In vaccines, if side effects do appear, they mostly do so in the first 28 days. The studies by Pfizer and Moderna followed patients for more than 2 months and found that the vast majority of side effects were mild and short-lived.


About Dr. Noam Tau

Sheba Medical Center’s Dr.
Noam Tau was the lead researcher of a recent study assessing the safety of all
U.S.-approved vaccines over a twenty-year period. Dr. Tau’s study reviewed
57 FDA approved vaccines between 1996-2015, showing that an overwhelming
majority were safe to use on a large scale. 


Medicaid Maintenance of Eligibility (MOE) Requirements: Issues to Watch

Federal legislation provides a temporary increase in federal Medicaid matching rates to states conditioned on states providing continuous eligibility for existing enrollees and meeting certain other eligibility requirements. This brief provides an overview of these maintenance of eligibility (MOE) requirements, examines what happens when the MOE expires, and discusses key issues to consider looking ahead.

AI Algorithms Can Predict Outcomes of COVID-19 Patients with Mild Symptoms in ER

AI Algorithms Can Predict Outcomes of COVID-19 Patients with Mild Symptoms in ER

What You Should Know:

– Artificial intelligence algorithms can predict outcomes
of COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms in emergency rooms, according to recent
research findings published in Radiology: Artificial Intelligence journal.

– Researchers trained the algorithm from data on 338
positive COVID-19 patients between the ages of 21 and 50 by using diverse
patient data from emergency departments within Mount Sinai Health System
hospitals (The Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, Mount Sinai Queens, and Mount
Sinai Brooklyn) between March 10 and March 26.


Mount Sinai researchers have developed an artificial intelligence algorithm to rapidly predict outcomes of COVID-19 patients in the emergency room based on test and imaging results. Published in the journal, Radiology: Artificial Intelligence, the research reveals that if the AI algorithms were implemented in the clinical setting, hospital doctors can identify patients at high risk of developing severe cases of COVID-19 based on the severity score.  This can lead to closer observation and more aggressive and quicker treatment.

Research Background/Protocols

They trained the algorithm using electronic medical records (EMRs) of patients between 21 and 50 years old and combined their lab tests and chest X-rays to create this deep learning model. Investigators came up with a severity score to determine who is at the highest risk of intubation or death within 30 days of arriving at the hospital. If applied in a clinical setting, this deep learning model could help emergency room staff better identify which patients may become sicker and lead to closer observation and quicker triage, and could expedite treatment before hospital admission.

Led by Fred Kwon, Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, researchers trained the algorithm from data on 338 positive COVID-19 patients between the ages of 21 and 50 by using diverse patient data from emergency departments within Mount Sinai Health System hospitals (The Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, Mount Sinai Queens, and Mount Sinai Brooklyn) between March 10 and March 26. Data from the emergency room including chest X-rays, bloodwork (basic metabolic panel, complete blood counts), and blood pressure were used to develop a severity score and predict the disease course of COVID-19. 

Patients with a higher severity score would require
closer observation. The researchers then tested the algorithm using patient data on other patients in all adult age groups and
ethnicities.  The algorithm has an 82 percent sensitivity to predict intubation and death within 30 days of
arriving at the hospital. 

Why It
Matters

Many patients with COVID-19, especially younger ones, may show non-specific symptoms when they arrive at the emergency room, including cough, fever, and
respiratory issues that don’t provide any indication of disease severity. As a
result, clinicians cannot easily identify patients who get worse quickly. This algorithm can provide the probability that a patient may
require intubation before they get worse. That way clinicians can make more accurate decisions for appropriate
care.

Algorithms that predict outcomes of patients with COVID-19 do exist, but they are used in admitted patients who have already developed more severe symptoms and have additional imaging and laboratory
data taken after hospital admission.  This algorithm is different since it predicts outcomes in COVID-19 patients while they’re in the emergency room—even in those with mild symptoms. It only uses information from the initial
patient encounter in the hospital emergency department. 

“Our algorithm demonstrates that initial imaging and laboratory tests contain sufficient information to predict outcomes of patients with COVID-19. The algorithm can help clinicians anticipate acute worsening (decompensation) of patients, even those who present without any symptoms, to make sure resources are appropriately allocated,” explains Dr. Kwon. “We are working to incorporate this algorithm-generated severity score into the clinical workflow to inform treatment decisions and flag high-risk patients in the future.”

How Hackers Are Targeting COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Chain – Q/A

COVID-19 Vaccine Cyber Attacks

With the US and other major countries poised to begin national
distribution of multiple FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines, the cybersecurity threats
to secure COVID19
vaccine distribution is imminent. Earlier this month, IBM released a report on malicious cyber actors targeting
the COVID-19 cold chain—an integral part of delivering and storing a vaccine at
safe temperatures.

Impersonating a biomedical company, cyber actors are sending phishing and spear-phishing emails to executives and global organizations involved in vaccine storage and transport to harvest account credentials. The emails have been posed as requests for quotations for participation in a vaccine program. In the report, IBM urges companies in the COVID-19 supply chain — from research of therapies, healthcare delivery to the distribution of a vaccine — to be vigilant and remain on high alert during this time

We recently sat down with Nigel Thorpe, Technical Director, SecureAge, an enterprise data security and encryption company to talk about the cybersecurity risks involved with COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

HITC: What type of information are hackers trying to
seize to disrupt the vaccine distribution process?

Thorpe: Hackers will try to obtain all the data they can muster, but specifically, they are looking for data around the distribution logistics together with details of the vaccine and its packaging. Using this they could attempt to replicate and profit from a counterfeit vaccine. In addition, cybercriminals are looking for all sorts of personal information about people involved in the vaccine distribution process, plus members of the public, so they can attempt identity theft and phishing attacks.

What are the dangers and implications if foreign actors
weaponize this information?

Thorpe: One of the biggest problems that already exist is an apprehensive public who is concerned with taking the vaccine because of fears that the approval process has been rushed and circumvented. These fears can be exploited by cybercriminals simply through the use of disinformation. In terms of cybersecurity, any attack on the distribution chain feeds into the fear of those already uncertain about the whole program.

In addition, bad actors could launch ransomware and spear-phishing attacks to get into the corporate network. Here, they can steal information concerning the “cold chain” and use this to build an illegal channel for counterfeit vaccine delivery. Not only would this result in unauthorized, unsafe vaccines being distributed but also reinforce fears of vaccines that many Americans already have. Any data, no matter how small or seemingly innocuous, could be used and exploited by cyber attackers.

How can health facilities remain protected?

Thorpe: The most important aspect is to ensure
that data is encrypted at all times so even if it is stolen, hackers won’t be
able to access this scrambled information. In addition, organizations should
make sure that unauthorized processes don’t run. This can be done by blocking
any application that attempts to execute, but which is not on an authorized
list. These measures will stop the problems of both phishing messages and data
theft – even by insiders.

What other information do you think hackers will target
in the future as we head into 2021?

Thorpe: Outside of exploiting the vaccine distribution network, hackers will attempt to capitalize on the continued remote working situation that is likely to last for most of 2021. Cybercriminals will try to exploit a situation where workers are not all using secure devices, resulting in data being stolen and exploited by bad actors.

In addition, we can expect combination attacks, where
something technical and something human will be combined in ways that the
confines and physical security of office spaces would have prevented. Notices
sent by mail to homes, phone calls, and possibly even personal visits by repair
technicians will be facilitated through stolen information and credentials
online, upping the ante of the scams and other illegal shenanigans.

FDA Authorizes First Fully Over the Counter COVID-19 Home Test

FDA Authorizes Ellume COVID-19 Home Test as First Over-the-Counter Fully At-Home Diagnostic Test

What You Should Know:

– FDA grants Emergency Use Authorization for Ellume
COVID-19 Home Test for non-prescription home use in symptomatic and
asymptomatic individuals

– The first fully over-the-counter COVID-19 Home Test
demonstrated 96% accuracy in a multi-site US clinical study of both adults and
children 2 years and above

– Ellume is ramping up manufacture, with production on
track for over 100,000 tests per day in January 2021

Ellume, a
digital diagnostics announced its rapid, at-home COVID-19 antigen test has been
granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration (FDA). The test will be available for non-prescription home use
for the detection of active COVID-19 in individuals with or without symptoms,
and in adults and children aged 2 years and above. The Ellume COVID-19 Home Test is the first of its kind to be granted
an EUA and provides an essential new tool to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

How It Works

The test includes a sterile Nasal Swab, a Dropper,
Processing Fluid, and a Bluetooth® connected Analyzer for use with an app on
the user’s smartphone. Utilizing the dedicated app, the user follows
step-by-step video instructions to perform the test including a self-collected
mid-turbinate nasal swab. The sample is analyzed, and results are automatically
transmitted to the user’s smartphone via Bluetooth® in 15 minutes or less.
Results can be shared with healthcare professionals to enable optimal therapy.

Through a secure cloud connection, Ellume’s COVID-19 Home
Test can provide real-time reporting of test results to health authorities,
employers, and educators, for efficient COVID-19
mapping.

Safe & Accurate

In data submitted to the FDA from an independently run,
simulated home-setting clinical study of 198 subjects ranging in age from 2
years to 82 years, the Ellume COVID-19 Home Test demonstrated 96% accuracy,
with an overall sensitivity of 95% (positive percent agreement) and specificity
of 97% (negative percent agreement) when compared to an emergency
use-authorized RT-PCR laboratory test.

In individuals presenting with COVID-19 symptoms, the Ellume
COVID-19 Home Test demonstrated a sensitivity of 96% and specificity of 100%,
and in asymptomatic individuals, the test demonstrated a sensitivity of 91% and
specificity of 96%.

Manufacturing Scale-Up

Ellume has been able to fast-track the development of its
range of COVID-19 diagnostic tests with the support of a $30 million WP-2 grant
from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s Rapid Acceleration of
Diagnostics (RADx) initiative.

In order to meet anticipated demand, Ellume has expanded its
manufacturing facility in Brisbane, Australia, the largest of its kind in the
Southern Hemisphere, and is rapidly expanding its manufacturing efforts and
supply chain within the U.S. Production has already commenced and Ellume will
be shipping over 100,000 tests per day from next month. Ellume plans to
manufacture and deliver 20 million Ellume COVID-19 Home Tests to the U.S.
within the first half of 2021.

“As COVID-19 case numbers hit record highs, the world needs access to fast, affordable, easy-to-use home testing,” said Ellume founder and CEO, Dr. Sean Parsons. “Ellume’s COVID-19 Home Test delivers this important first line of defense – it can be widely available without the need for a prescription, enabling the U.S. to respond to the pandemic in its most urgent stage.”

Abbott Receives CE Mark for its COVID-19 IgG Quantitative Antibody Blood Test

Abbott Receives CE Mark for its COVID-19 IgG Quantitative Antibody Blood Test

What You Should Know:

– Abbott Receives CE Mark for its COVID-19 IgG Quantitative Antibody Blood Test that specifically detects levels of IgG antibodies that attach to the virus’ spike protein, which can be helpful to evaluate a person’s immune response to vaccines.

– Abbott plans to submit its test for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization soon.


Abbott, today
announced it received CE Mark for its new quantitative SARS-CoV-2 IgG
(Immunoglobulin G) lab-based serology test. IgG antibody testing that gives a
quantitative result (measuring the amount of antibodies) provides important
insights to people as they recover from COVID-19 and
helps evaluate a person’s immune response to a vaccine.

Why It Matters

Countries around the world are preparing for the
authorization and the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. As these vaccines
become available, healthcare professionals and researchers will need to assess
how individuals and communities are responding.

The quantitative IgG antibody test is the latest in Abbott’s
broad portfolio of tests to support the global healthcare community in the
fight against COVID-19. Abbott’s COVID-19 test portfolio includes molecular,
antigen and serology tests. These tests can help healthcare professionals
detect the virus at all stages of its life cycle, including tests that are done
in the lab as well as rapid tests done at the point of care.

SARS-CoV-2 IgG II Quant Antibody Test

Abbott’s quantitative IgG antibody test is designed to
detect levels of IgG antibodies that attach to the virus’ spike protein on the
virus surface in serum and plasma from individuals who are suspected to have
had COVID-19, or in serum and plasma of subjects that may have been infected by
SARS-CoV-2.

A study to determine the clinical performance of Abbott’s
SARS-CoV-2 IgG II Quant test on its Alinity i instrument found it had 99.60%
specificity (ability to exclude false positives) and 99.35% sensitivity
(ability to exclude false negatives) in patients tested 15 days or more after
symptoms began.

Availability

The quantitative IgG test will be available on both the
Abbott ARCHITECT and Alinity i platforms. Abbott is also developing a test and
plans to submit for U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use
authorization soon.

“Testing will continue to help both identify those who are infected as well as determine whether people have had a natural or vaccine-induced immune response,” said John Hackett, Ph.D., divisional vice president of Applied Research and Technology for Abbott’s diagnostics business. “Quantitative antibody testing can help provide greater understanding of a person’s immune response.”

How Might Internet Connectivity Affect Health Care Access?

A new chart collection looks at how internet access may affect health care in the U.S., as more providers turn to telemedicine during the pandemic. An estimated 25 million Americans – about 8% of the population – lack access to internet at home. Hispanic and Black Americans, seniors, rural residents, and those living in povertyMore

KFF Launches New COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor to Track the Public’s Confidence in the Vaccine and Experiences for the Duration of the Pandemic

Republicans and Black Americans are More Likely to Be Hesitant but Even Among These Groups Reasons Vary KFF has launched a new COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor to dive deeply into the public’s views about the vaccine and experiences getting it for as long as the pandemic lasts. First results released today show that Americans’ enthusiasm forMore

KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor: December 2020

This initial survey for the KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor tracks the public’s attitudes and experiences with COVID-19 vaccinations, with a focus on sub-groups of Americans. It explores confidence in vaccines, assesses trust in messengers, and highlights key challenges for vaccination efforts.

Gleaning Insights for COVID-19: Why Claims and Clinical Data Matter

Navigating Healthcare’s Uncertain Future: Three Data-Driven Approaches for Payers
Emad Rizk, M.D., President, CEO & Chairman of the Board, Cotiviti

As 170 research teams race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, some that are in late-stage approvals have seen recent progress, but it is still not yet clear when a vaccine will become widely available. Until then, healthcare organizations continue to rely heavily on data analytics to try to improve COVID-19 outcomes and public health.

Since the novel coronavirus became widespread in the U.S., healthcare data scientists have leveraged clinical and claims data to pinpoint which underlying conditions put patients at higher risk of complications from COVID-19. Health systems are mining clinical data to predict surges in COVID-19 cases and looking at key factors—including increases in hospital website traffic, such as searches for emergency department (ED) wait times and physician page clicks—to understand how COVID-19 is ramping up locally in real-time. Meanwhile, risk-based modeling has helped health plans address social determinants of health that could impede recovery.

Now, providers and health plans are refining their approach. The more they learn, the greater the benefit to public health and long-term outcomes. Three evolving use cases for using claims and clinical data to combat COVID-19 stand out.

Reduce disparities in care. Early in the pandemic, lack of complete information around patient demographics prevented the identification of members in communities that were most vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. The impact: severe differences in mortality rates. In Chicago, the rate of mortality among Black residents was alarmingly high—70% of COVID-19 deaths—even though these residents comprise just 29% of the city’s population. Meanwhile, Spanish-speaking residents account for 18.3% of the nation’s population, yet comprise 34.3% of coronavirus cases.

One of the reasons demographic data was often missing from COVID-19 lab tests is that laboratory and hospital staff were too overwhelmed with cases to have time to input all of a patient’s non-clinical information. Today, data scientists are working to fill in the gaps using clinical history and medical claims. With these analyses, healthcare organizations are closing gaps in care, such as by expanding access to COVID-19 testing for the nation’s most vulnerable populations and increasing access to professional interpreters to more effectively gather key patient details. They are also addressing social determinants of health that heighten risks, such as food insecurity and lack of access to prescription medications.

Alleviate reliance on spotty testing. Not everyone who contracts COVID-19 has a healthcare encounter. For instance, if one member of the household tests positive for the coronavirus, other members may decide not to undergo testing if their symptoms are mild. These are instances where analyses of clinical and claims information already in the system—both emerging and historical data—can help spot unconfirmed cases of COVID-19. Such analyses give public health officials the information they need to contact, test,s and quarantine individuals that have contracted the virus, helping to limit the spread of the disease.

On a wider scale, data analysis can also provide early warning surveillance of potential COVID-19 cases, strengthening the pandemic response. For example, by observing increases in medical claims for telemedicine, rapid flu tests, and chest X-rays, data scientists can detect patterns in claims that suggest a COVID-19 outbreak is likely to occur. From there, they can forecast demand for hospital care up to 10 days in advance, ensuring that facilities have sufficient staff, supplies, and beds available to meet their community’s needs. Similarly, disruptions to seasonal flu trends, which remain fairly consistent within a region year over year, could alert public health officials to a potential COVID-19 outbreak.

Avoid preventable deaths. Information regarding patients’ underlying medical conditions can be hard to come by during a public health crisis as overwhelming and widespread as the current pandemic. In fact, just 5.8% of medical records for patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Q1 2020 had data available related to their underlying health conditions and other risk factors. Today, it is known that certain chronic conditions raise the patient’s risk for severe complications from COVID-19—and that list of conditions is growing. The insight gained from these analyses not only informs how healthcare providers treat an individual’s illness, but also gives those with chronic disease the ability to make informed decisions based on their risk level for infection.

Moreover, the availability of actionable, real-time intelligence to improve health can set the stage for increased care collaboration. During COVID-19, healthcare providers across geographies are sharing their knowledge, especially regarding treatment protocols. Such learnings include the value of using high-flow nasal oxygen in treating severe cases of COVID-19. Early results show that this technique has a positive impact on patients with mild to moderate respiratory failure. It also reduces intubation rates and improves clinical prognosis for patients with acute respiratory failure. By sharing data-driven insights, organizations can work together to improve COVID-19 outcomes and reduce avoidable deaths.

Improving Outcomes and Reducing Risk

Clinical and claims data analysis helps healthcare organizations respond proactively to COVID-19. With the race toward a COVID-19 vaccine well underway, these analyses will help identify which populations should receive the vaccine first, assess reactions to the vaccine by demographic group and spot trends that could affect vaccination protocols. They also give healthcare organizations up-to-date contact information to engage patients, which will be critical to clinical efficacy if a second dose of the vaccine must be administered. In 2020 and beyond, continued focus on clinical and claims data analysis will be key to facilitating a robust response that enhances outcomes and saves lives. 


About Emad Rizk, M.D.

Emad Rizk, M.D., is President and CEO of Cotiviti and brings a 30-year, well-documented track record of delivering improved quality and financial performance to healthcare organizations through forward-thinking leadership, business acumen, and clinical expertise.

Coronavirus Puts a Spotlight on Paid Leave Policies

As the COVID-19 pandemic grows, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health officials recommend that people who are sick should stay home. Benefits such as sick leave and family leave can help employees follow these guidelines; however, the U.S. does not have national standards on paid family or sick leave. The lack of a national policy means some employees are forced to take unpaid leave, or come to work when they are ill, which could have public health consequences.

Microsoft Deploys COVID-19 Vaccine Management Platform

Microsoft Deploys COVID-19 Vaccine Management Platform

What You Should Know:

– Microsoft launches a COVID-19 vaccine management platform with partners Accenture and Avanade, EY, and Mazik Global to help government and healthcare customers provide fair and equitable vaccine distribution, administration, and monitoring of vaccine delivery. 

– Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) has deployed
over 230 emergency COVID-19 response missions globally since the pandemic began
in March, including recent engagements to ensure the equitable, secure and
efficient distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.


With COVID-19 vaccines soon to be available, Microsoft
announced it has launched a COVID-19 vaccine management platform together with
industry partners Accenture, Avandae, EY, and Mazik Global. The COVID-19
vaccine management solutions will enable registration capabilities for patients
and providers, phased scheduling for vaccinations, streamlined reporting, and
management dashboarding with analytics and forecasting.

These offerings are helping public health agencies and
healthcare providers to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine to individuals in an
efficient, equitable and safe manner. The underlying technologies and approach
have been tested and deployed with prior COVID-19 use cases, including contact
tracing, COVID-19 testing, and return to work and return to school programs.

To date, Microsoft
Consulting Services (MCS)
 has deployed over 230 emergency COVID-19
response missions globally since the pandemic began in March, including recent
engagements to ensure the equitable, secure and efficient distribution of the
COVID-19 vaccine. MCS has developed an offering, the Vaccination Registration
and Administration Solution (VRAS), which advances the capabilities of their
COVID-19 solution portfolio and enables compliant administration of resident
assessment, registration and phased scheduling for vaccine distribution. 

Key features of the solutions include:

– tracking and reporting of immunization progress through
secure data exchange that utilizes industry standards, such as Health Level
Seven (HL7), Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) and open APIs.

– health providers and pharmacies can monitor and report on
the effectiveness of specific vaccine batches, and health administrators can
easily summarize the achievement of vaccine deployment goals in large
population groups

Partnership Offerings

Microsoft partners have leveraged the Microsoft cloud to
provide customers with additional offerings to support vaccine management.
These offerings also apply APIs, HL7 and FHIR to enable interoperability and
integration with existing systems of record, artificial intelligence to
generate accurate and geo-specific predictive analytics, and secure
communications using Microsoft Teams.

EY has partnered with Microsoft for the EY Vaccine
Management Solution to enable patient-provider engagement, supply chain
visibility, and Internet of Things (IoT) real-time monitoring of the vaccines.
Additionally, the EY Vaccine Analytics Solution is an integrated COVID-19 data
and analytics tool supporting stakeholders in understanding population and
geography-specific vaccine uptake.

Mazik Global has created the MazikCare Vaccine Flow that is built on Power Apps and utilizes
pre-built templates to implement scalable solutions to accelerate the mass
distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Providers will be able to seek out
specific populations based on at-risk criteria to prioritize distribution.
Patients can self-monitor and have peace of mind to head-off adverse reactions.

Who Didn’t Get a Second Shingrix Shot? Implications for Multidose COVID-19 Vaccines

As the U.S. prepares for nationwide distribution of vaccines to combat COVID-19, some are asking whether people who get the first of two doses will return to complete the series in order to be fully immunized. This analysis draws on Medicare Part D prescription drug claims data for the herpes zoster vaccine Shingrix, which also requires two doses, to shed light on this potential challenge of the leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

As Telehealth Surges, Are Seniors Being Left Behind?

As Telehealth Surges, Are Seniors Being Left Behind?
Anne Davis, Director of Quality Programs & Medicare Strategy at HMS

A global health crisis has thrust us into a scenario in which lives quite literally depend on the ability to virtually connect. Telehealth has rapidly emerged as a vital tool, enabling continuity of care, allowing vulnerable individuals to access their physician from home, and freeing up resources for providers to treat the most critical patients. The acceptance of telehealth and expansion of covered services for the senior population demonstrate that this technology will endure long after COVID-19 subsides. 

Prior to the pandemic, just 11% of Americans utilized telehealth compared to 46% so far this year, and virtual healthcare interactions are expected to top 1 billion by year’s end. While the technology has been a life-saver for many, usage depends heavily on the availability of audio-video capabilities, internet access, and technological prowess – potentially leaving vulnerable patients behind.

Seniors Face Physical, Technical and Socioeconomic Barriers to Telehealth

Despite telehealth’s surge, there is growing concern that the rapid shift to digitally delivered care is leaving seniors behind. Telehealth is not inherently accessible for all and with many practices transitioning appointments online, it threatens to cut older adults off from receiving crucial medical care. This is a significant concern, considering older adults account for one-quarter of physician office visits in the United States and often manage multiple conditions and medications, and have a higher rate of disability. This puts an already vulnerable population at a higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19.

Research published recently in JAMA Internal Medicine found that more than a third of adults over age 65 face potential difficulties accessing their doctor through telehealth. Obstacles include familiarity using mobile devices, troubleshooting technical issues that arise, managing hearing or vision impairments, and dealing with cognitive issues like dementia. Many of these difficulties stem from the natural aging process; it is imperative for provider organizations employing telehealth and telehealth vendors to improve offerings that consider vision, hearing, and speaking loss for this population. 

While barriers associated with aging are a key factor within the senior population, perhaps the greatest challenges in accessing telehealth are socioeconomic. The rapid shift to digital delivery of care may have left marginalized populations without access to the technological tools needed to access care digitally, such as high-speed internet, a smartphone or a computer.

According to the JAMA study, low-income individuals living in remote or rural locations faced the greatest challenges in accessing telehealth. A second JAMA study, also released this summer indicated that “the proportion of Medicare beneficiaries with digital access was lower among those who were 85 or older, were widowed, had a high school education or less, were Black or Hispanic, received Medicaid, or had a disability.”

These socioeconomic factors are systemic issues that existed prior to the pandemic, and the crisis-driven acceleration of telehealth has magnified these pre-existing challenges and widened racial and class-based disparities. Recent initiatives at the federal level, such as the FCC’s rural telehealth expansion task force, are a step in the right direction, though more sustained action is needed to address additional socioeconomic challenges that are deeply rooted within the healthcare system.   

Fortunately, Telehealth Hurdles Can Be Overcome

Recognizing that telehealth isn’t a “one-size fits all” solution is the first step towards addressing the barriers that disproportionately impact seniors and work is needed on multiple levels. Telemedicine consults are impossible without access to the internet, so the first step is to provide and expand access to broadband and internet-connected devices. With more than 15% of the country’s population living in rural areas, expanding broadband access for these individuals is especially crucial. In addition, older adults in community-based living environments need greater access to public wi-fi networks. 

Access to mobile and other internet-connected devices is also essential. Products designed with large fonts and icons, closed captioning, and easy set-up procedures may be easier for older adults to use. For example, GrandPad is a tablet designed specifically for seniors and has an intuitive interface that includes basic video calling, enabling seniors to virtually connect with their caregivers.

To address affordability, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) allowed for mid-year benefit changes in 2020 to allow for payment or provision of mobile devices for telehealth. Many Medicare Advantage organizations are enhancing plans’ provisions of telehealth coverage and devices for 2021.

In addition to increasing access to broadband and internet-connected devices, providing seniors with proper educational resources is another crucial step. Even if older adults are open to using technology for telehealth visits, many will need additional training. Healthcare organizations may want to connect older patients with community-based technology training programs. Some programs take a multi-generational approach, pairing younger instructors with older students.

For example, Papa is an on-demand service that pairs older adults with younger ‘Papa Pals’ who provide companionship and assistance with tasks such as setting up a new smartphone or tablet. 

From a socioeconomic perspective, careful consideration is needed to address the concerns that telehealth may reinforce systemic biases and widen health disparities. Providers may be less conscious of systemic bias toward patients based on race, ethnicity, or educational status.

In turn, providers must address implicit bias head-on, such as offering workplace training and incorporating evidence-based tools to adequately measure and address health disparities. This includes pushing for policies that enable widespread broadband access funding to better connect communities in need. 

Health plans can support expanded access to care through benefit design, reducing costs for plan members. To match members and patients with the right resources and assistance, health plans and providers should launch outreach campaigns that are segmented by demographic group. Outreach initiatives could include assessments to determine each person’s ability and comfort level with telehealth. 

The Path Forward 

Without question, telehealth is playing a central role in delivering care during the current pandemic, and many of its long-touted benefits have been accentuated by the current demand. Telehealth, along with other digital monitoring technologies, have the potential to address several barriers to care for seniors and other vulnerable populations for whom access to in-person care may not be viable, such as those based in remote locations or with mobility issues.

In the post-pandemic era, telehealth can provide greater access and convenience, but if not implemented carefully, the permanent expansion of telehealth may worsen health disparities. Careful consideration and collaboration will be essential in embracing the value of telehealth while mitigating its inherent risks. 

If implemented correctly, telehealth can provide continued access to care for our vulnerable aging population and can significantly improve care as well. Enhancing the ability to connect with healthcare providers anytime, anywhere can give seniors the freedom to gracefully age in place.


About Anne Davis

Anne Davis is the Director of Quality Programs & Medicare Strategy at HMS, a healthcare technology, analytics, and engagement solutions company, where she’s focused on the company’s Population Health Management product portfolio.

New National and State Estimates for Recommended COVID-19 Vaccination Priority Population

This month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adopted a recommendation that health care workers and long-term care residents should be the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine once it is authorized or approved by the FDA. A new KFF analysis estimates there are 15.5 million people working in health care settings whoMore

Kleva Health Launches FDA Authorized Saliva At-Home COVID-19 Test Kit for $149

Kleva Health Launches FDA Authorized ‘Saliva At-Home COVID-19 Test Kit’ With $1.8M in Seed Fundraising

What
You Should Know:


Digital health startup Kleva Health launches FDA authorized saliva at-home
COVID-19 test kit and raises $1.5 million in seed funding.


Kleva Health’s At-Home COVID-19 Saliva Test Kit will be available for orders on
its website, klevahealth.com, and will retail for US$149. Test results will be
reported on klevahealth.com and available within 48 hours after the test has
arrived at the lab.


Kleva Health, a San Francisco, CA-based digital health company, today announced the availability of its FDA Authorized at-home COVID-19 testing kits to offer Americans the choice to self-administer COVID-19 tests. In addition to the launch of at-home COVID-19 test kits, the company is also announcing $1.8M in seed funding from VCs including IMO Ventures, Human Longevity, and Performance Impact Venture Fund and Zenni Optical.


At-Home COVID-19 Saliva Test Kit

Kleva Health Launches FDA Authorized Saliva At-Home COVID-19 Test Kit, Raises $1.8M

Kleva Health’s At-Home COVID-19 Saliva Test Kit uniquely
includes a Kleva Health saliva DNA/RNA collection device. This enables Kleva
Health to rapidly scale up its supply, without being dependent on distributors.
But a saliva test also enables the company to offer the ability to test for a
wider assortment of diseases and viruses – not just COVID-19.


Availability

Kleva Health Launches FDA Authorized Saliva At-Home COVID-19 Test Kit, Raises $1.8M

Kleva Health’s At-Home COVID-19 Saliva Test Kit will be
available for orders on its website, klevahealth.com, and will retail for US$149. Test results
will be reported on klevahealth.com
and available within 48 hours after the test has arrived at the lab.


Kleva Health Background

Kleva Health is founded by Harvard Business School
classmates and medical industry executives, David Yu, Bernie Siu and Kai Lim.
But the company started following a familiar story. Bernie Siu (Kleva Health’s
Chief Medical Officer and Doctor of Medicine from Stanford University’s School
of Medicine) had fallen ill from contract COVID-19 but discovered that getting
access to testing solutions ahead of his family reunion was easier said than
done. Not qualified for immediate testing at the time, Bernie believed that
there had to be a better solution. But he’s not alone. As many as 55.1% of
people do not know that at-home COVID-19 testing is an option for Americans,
according to the survey.


Responding to the New Normal

Fortunately, Kleva Health’s launch comes at an opportune
time. 55.4% of Americans are prepared for COVID-19 to be around longer than one
year. An additional 31.7% believe that COVID-19 will be around until a vaccine
is available. Not surprisingly, respondents overwhelmingly believe that
COVID-19 has made them realize the need for maintaining healthy habits,
including regular testing. As a digital health tracking company, Kleva Health
encourages healthy habits by offering Americans the convenience of at-home
tests, amid this new normal, and an online platform for keeping track of their
biomedical health.

 “With COVID-19, many of us have a heightened awareness for not only our personal well-being, but also for those family members and friends around us. As the holidays are fast approaching, Kleva Health’s FDA authorized saliva-based COVID-19 self-testing kit, offers Americans the convenience and assurance that they can spend time with loved ones with peace of mind,” said David Yu, CEO and co-founder of Kleva Health. “But this product and the Kleva platform is just the start for us. Supported by our investors including IMO Ventures and the Human Longevity Fund, we plan to scale and introduce additional products that will make biomedical testing as easy and common as brushing one’s teeth.”


Future Plans

In addition,
Kleva Health will introduce in January 2021 a patent-pending and FDA authorized
next-generation COVID-19 saliva rapid testing kit that enables Americans to
self-test for the virus at home and read the results in just minutes.


Potential Health Policy Administrative Actions Under President Biden

This brief outlines the potential health policy actions that President Biden could take using executive authority, based on campaign pledges, and actions that would reverse or modify regulations or guidance issued by the Trump Administration.

COVID-19: How Hospitals Can Create Better Inpatient Bed Capacity through Math

COVID-19: How Hospitals Can Create Better Inpatient Bed Capacity through Math
Dr. Pallabi Sanyal-Dey, Associate Professor of Medicine at UCSF & Director of Client Services at LeanTaaS

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, key elements of hospital operations such as managing inpatient bed capacity, and access to ventilators and PPE have taken center stage. The general public got a crash course on what hospitals need in order to function successfully when disaster hits, and daily news and discussions were centered around ICU bed capacity as cases accelerated across the country.

The nightmarish predictions and reality led to the development of creative measures to help meet such catastrophic needs such as popup temporary screening and triage sites, non-medical and medical spaces being repurposed for COVID units, increased patient transfers to hospitals that had more space, and mathematical models to predict upcoming numbers of new COVID-19 cases. 

With the latest surge of COVID-19 cases (see figure 1), some states have or will begin opening up field hospitals (Wisconsin, Texas) while others are considering transfers to other locations (both in and out-of-state), and even the concept of ‘rationing care’ has surfaced. 

1Figure 1. The Covid Tracking Project

This public health crisis intensified what happens when hospitals and healthcare providers run out of the right space and resources. As alarming as it has been to watch this play out, the reality is that these capacity and resource challenges are not unique to the pandemic; they happen often in hospitals across the country, just on a different scale. Bed capacity is something hospital leaders manage every day – only 1 of 3 hospital beds are available on any given day in the U.S., per research by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2.  Of course, there’s further variation when looking at urban versus rural regions. Many systems are forced to go on ‘diversion’ (patients will literally be re-routed to other hospitals) when the reality is that they are bursting at the seams. 

Clearly, the pandemic has been devastating, yet it has (finally) propelled healthcare toward innovation and adoption of technology that was much needed in order to improve access to and utilization of quality and cost-effective care. Although the waves continue, organizations are starting to answer the following questions: What newly applied practices do we keep from the pandemic moving forward as we head into additional COVID-19 waves and the flu season? Can we more vigorously apply lessons of the past and present to tackle our future needs? Are our incentives aligned such that the solutions we pursue can be sustained and still “keep the lights on”?

Delayed access to care and, even worse, lack of access to care, have been among the most devastating consequences of the capacity crises during the pandemic.  Though many of our systems started to transition back to their usual state of affairs by July, other factors in addition to the current surge continued to highlight the ongoing need for creating and sustaining ‘good patient flow’.

Under “normal” circumstances, daily chaos is anticipated and actually expected, as hospitals experience the inability to move patients from the emergency room (ER) or operating room (OR) due to a “lack of beds” in the hospital. While this inevitably requires hospital leadership to ‘do something’ about it, it is a scenario that plays repeatedly throughout the day, every day.  

The chaos that comes from the lack of visibility into available beds, let alone appropriately available levels of care, can have negative downstream impacts not only on the patients but also on the frontline staff. Patients are subject to suffering the consequences of inappropriate levels of care, poor clinical outcomes, and/or poor provider/patient experiences.3 Staff are subject to the stress of caring for patients for whom they are not necessarily appropriately trained to care for.

Despite the known implications, this lose:lose cycle continues. These “risks” plus the impact of significant revenue losses from the pandemic highlight the urgent need to address poor, inefficient patient throughput. We are at a critical point where healthcare systems must do what is necessary to improve existing practices when it comes to bed management.  

Some examples of improvement include: 

– Create machine learning models for all locations and patient movements within the hospital, and adjust space and schedules accordingly

  – Place patients using sophisticated demand-supply model

  – Make data-driven internal transfer decisions

  – Right-Sized unit capacity

  – Look hard at the degree of specialization to pool capacity where possible

  – Smooth the patient flow from the OR

Take a magnifying glass to internal operational workflows – Identify practices that work, areas where support is needed, especially when it comes to discharge planning, and whether or not there are financial implications.

– Improve provider workflow

– Don’t let “a dime hold up a dollar”: take a hard look at staffing, hours of operations, and transportation

– Use predictive discharge planning to focus on case teams and social services

Identify clinical workup that can be prioritized according to disposition, treat outpatient setting 

– Prioritize discharge patients in queues for labs/clinical procedures

– Transition some procedures to outpatient

With the recent surge of COVID-19 cases across the nation and the impending flu season, hospitalizations will continue to rise.  Although health systems will be able to resurface earlier crafted emergency plans from previous surges, set up incident command centers more quickly, and have a more stable supply inventory, they will likely continue to manage their bed capacity through a very manual process.  It is imperative that we start to do things differently to achieve better outcomes!

Implementing operational change and deploying new but proven technologies that incorporate both artificial intelligence and lean principles will increase patient access, improve provider, patient, and staff experience, and, of course, smooth inpatient capacity. As a result, terms such as chaos and crisis can, in time, become things of the past. 


References:

1. The Covid Tracking Project Nov. 10, 2020. Retrieved from https://covidtracking.com/data/charts/us-currently-hospitalized

2. Blavin F., (March 1, 2020). Hospital Readiness for Covid-19: Analysis of Bed Capacity and How It Varies Cross The Country The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/research/2020/03/hospital-readiness-for-covid19-analysis-of-bed-capacity-and-how-it-varies-across-the-country.html

3. Mohr et al., Boarding of Critically Ill Patients in the Emergency Department. Critical Care Medicine 2020; 48(8): 1180–1187

4. Agrawal S., Giridharadas M., (2020) Better Healthcare Through Math: Bending the Access and Cost Curves. Forbes, Inc. 


About Dr. Pallabi Sanyal-Dey

Dr. Pallabi Sanyal-Dey is the director of client services for ‘iQueue for Beds’ Product at LeanTaaS, a Silicon Valley software innovator that increases patient access and transforms operational performance for more than 300 hospitals across the U.S. Dr. Sanyal-Dey is also a visiting associate professor of medicine, providing career mentorship to trainees at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center (UCSF) where she attends on the internal medicine inpatient teaching service. Prior to joining LeanTaaS, Dr. Sanyal-Dey was at UCSF, as an assistant clinical professor and an academic hospitalist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital where she directed clinical operations for the Division of Hospital Medicine, and oversaw the faculty inpatient services.


Innovaccer Launches COVID-19 Command Center to Help Healthcare Organizations Manage Their COVID-19 Operations

Innovaccer Launches COVID-19 Command Center to Help Healthcare Organizations Manage Their COVID-19 Operations

What You Should Know:

– Innovaccer launches COVID-19 Command
Center to assist healthcare organizations in optimizing their COVID-19
operations.  

– The solution offers a unified
information hub to manage COVID-19 resources and operations and empower teams
with unprecedented visibility into their environment.


Innovaccer, Inc., a San
Francisco, CA-based healthcare technology company, today announced the launch
of its COVID-19
Command Center
to assist healthcare organizations in optimizing their COVID-19
operations. The solution provides real-time insights and predictions into
patient and resource status and helps organizations adjust to their fluctuating
demands.

Connect Your Systems to Create a COVID-19 Command Center

Innovaccer helps healthcare organizations build a network of
intelligence while sitting on top of systems of records to provide
enterprise-wide insights and improve efficiencies in financial, operational,
and clinical outcomes. Innovaccer’s COVID-19 Command Center provides a
unified information hub for users to manage their COVID-19 resources by
integrating data from Electronic Health Records (EHRs), supply chains, human
resources, and financial systems.

Manage Your COVID-19 Resources and Information in Real-Time

Dashboards on the solution provide real-time monitoring of
bed capacity, medication inventory, staffing plans, PPE supplies, and other
critical resources. It also automatically generates CDC-compliant reports on
these resources and gives an up-to-date detailed overview of the consumption
rates at each facility.

360-Degree View into COVID Operations

The plug-and-play integrations of the Command Center provide
360-degree visibility into all COVID-19 operations and a system-wide overview
of daily and total year-to-date COVID-19 cases. Its descriptive pandemic
population maps allow continuous tracking of cases across the region and the
entire network.

COVID-19 Resource Optimization and Inventory Management

Additionally, the solution enables healthcare organizations
to take full control of their COVID-19 management activities by furnishing them
with smart analytics and forecasting capabilities and action plans based on
detailed analyses of COVID-19 trends and resources. The COVID-19 Command Center
provides visibility of their caseloads, inventory, and resource requirements to
more accurately predict upcoming demands. 

Why It Matters

“The need for visibility across the network has never been more crucial than during these pandemic times. Healthcare organizations are struggling to gain an edge with visibility into their patients, resources, and facilities,” says Abhinav Shashank, CEO at Innovaccer. “With our COVID-19 Command Center, we aim to solve this problem by providing them with true transparency and in-depth visibility across their networks, operations, and patients. Our solution is built to support the digital transformation of their COVID-19 operations and to help them care as one.”

5 Myth-Busting New Hospital ADT Notification Requirements

5 Myth-Busting New Hospital ADT Notification Requirements
 Claudia Williams, CEO of Manifest MedEx

When doctors know their patients have been to the hospital, they can act fast to provide needed support. Widespread use of hospital event notifications is associated with all kinds of health benefits, including a 10 percent decrease in readmissions for Medicare beneficiaries. These event notifications are one of the simplest, easiest (most-bipartisan!), and most impactful changes we can make to improve patient outcomes in U.S. healthcare. 

To this goal, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released new regulations in March that will require hospitals to share event notifications with community providers when a patient is admitted, discharged, or transferred (ADT). Hospitals have to comply by May 2021 if they want to keep getting paid by Medicare and Medicaid. 

This policy will improve care, reduce costs, and save lives. It’s also simple and straightforward.  CMS explains, “Lack of seamless data exchange in healthcare has historically detracted from patient care, leading to poor health outcomes, and higher costs.” ADT notifications close these gaps and many healthcare organizations have been using them for years, vastly improving care for patients.

Take the Utah Health Information Network (UHIN) which has utilized ADT notifications to reduce costs and readmissions for over a decade. According to the former UHIN President and CEO, Teresa Rivera,

“This level of care coordination quite literally saves both lives and money.” She continues, “This secure and cost-effective method provides the patient’s entire medical team, regardless of where they work, with the important information they need to coordinate care. That coordination is important to reducing readmission rates, and helps health care professionals provide a better experience to patients.”

ADT notifications are a standard set of messages that most electronic health record (EHR) systems can generate with minimal set-up. In fact, in a 2019 letter from the National Association of ACOs in support of CMS’ proposal to require hospitals participating in Medicare and Medicaid to send event notifications, they expressed that new standards efforts are not needed for the successful implementation.

The authors wrote, “In numerous conversations with HIEs, other intermediaries and providers, we were unable to find a single example where a hospital was unable to send an ADT notification today due to lack of standards.”

But you wouldn’t know it if you listened to the misconceptions that are currently being spread to hospitals about this requirement. Here are five myths that I’ve encountered just this month:

Myth 1: The ADT notification policies are strict and difficult to comply with. Not true. CMS listened to feedback that Meaningful Use requirements were too regimented and promoted a “check the box” not “get it done” mentality. CMS purposely worked to keep these ADT requirements broad and non-prescriptive. Hospitals don’t need to comply with any specific technical standard. The CMS regulations released in March are final.

Myth 2: You have to connect to a nationwide network. Wrong. Hospitals can choose from a wide variety of regional and statewide health information exchange (HIE) partners. The policy requires “reasonable effort” to send notifications to providers in your community. An intermediary can be used to comply with the rule as long as it “connects to a wide range of recipients.” Unlike what some nationwide companies are saying, the regulations do not mandate out-of-state alerts.

Myth 3: The policy creates a big technical burden for hospitals. More than 99 percent of hospitals have EHR systems in place today, and most of those can produce standard ADT transactions with relatively minimal effort. While the time to activate ADT notifications varies, it can usually be done in as little as a day by a hospital IT team

Myth 4: The timing isn’t right. It’s happening too fast. A global pandemic is exactly the moment when we need this kind of data sharing in our communities. With COVID-19, it is even more crucial that care teams are alerted promptly when a patient is seen in the emergency department or discharged from the hospital so that they can reach out and provide support. Regardless, CMS has given an additional six months of enforcement discretion for hospitals, pushing back the deadline to May 2021.

Myth 5: There’s no funding available for this work. Wrong again. In California and several other states, hospitals can take advantage of public funding to connect to regional HIEs that provide ADT notification services. There’s $50 million in funding available just in California. 

This new policy is an exciting step forward for patients and providers. It gives primary care and post-acute providers crucial, needed information to improve patient care. Hospitals can meet the requirements with minimal burden using existing technologies. Patients will have a more seamless experience when they are at their most vulnerable.

In healthcare, it’s easy to assume that great impact requires great complexity. But time and again the opposite is true. So let’s bust the myths, get it done, and keep it simple. 


About Claudia Williams

Claudia Williams is the CEO of Manifest MedEx. Previously the senior advisor for health technology and innovation at the White House, Claudia helped lead President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative. Before joining the White House, Claudia was director of health information exchange at HHS and was director of health policy and public affairs at the Markle Foundation.

Northwell Health Offers COVID-19 Screening Chat for NY Schools and Employers

Northwell Health Offers COVID-19 Screening Chat for NY Schools and Employers

What You Should Know:

– Northwell Health announced that its Northwell Direct unit, which works with large employers, will be offering Conversa HealthCheck to screen employees, customers, students, and visitors.

– HealthCheck is a quick, chat-based electronic screening
for symptoms and signs of exposure to COVID-19. If cleared, users receive a
digital “badge” that allows entry to a facility. If not cleared, they
are given additional information on staying home and steps for testing and
care.

– Employers use aggregated, de-identified results to
determine workforce needs and make decisions about reopening or temporarily
closing locations.


Northwell
Direct
today announced that it is partnering with Conversa Health to offer the COVID-19
HealthCheck, a screening chat tool for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The
tool is easy to use, efficient and confidential, and allows retailers, schools,
hotels, sporting and entertainment venues and other employers to create and
maintain a safe environment for employees, customers, students and visitors.

The rollout marks the first introduction of the COVID-19
HealthCheck to the tri-state region. In use more than 125,000 times every
workday, HealthCheck has proven to help businesses, universities, health
systems and other venues across the country.

COVID-19 HealthCheck: How It Works

Employees use the HealthCheck from home before each workday,
clicking on a secure link on their phone, tablet or computer to engage in a
simple, conversational automated chat that checks for possible exposure to the
new coronavirus and potential symptoms of infection. The chat takes about a
minute and a half, and after completion, employees who are cleared for the day
receive a digital “badge” that they can display for entry to the workplace. If
they are not cleared, they are instructed to stay home and are given guidance
on the appropriate steps to take for testing and care. The process is similar
when colleges and universities provide the HealthCheck for use by faculty and
students.

Aggregated, De-identified Results of Workforce Daily
Screens

Employers who roll out the HealthCheck are notified of the
aggregated and de-identified results of their workforce’s daily screens,
providing information that can help them manage their business, adjust staffing
and make decisions about reopening or temporarily closing specific worksites.
The HealthCheck is continually updated to reflect the latest coronavirus
guidelines from the CDC and other scientific organizations.

Northwell Direct COVID-19 Solutions

Northwell Direct clients can use the HealthCheck solution on
its own or as part of a portfolio of tools built to help curb the spread of
COVID-19. For example, if a client uses Northwell Direct’s clinical concierge
service, employees whose responses raise any concerns will be guided to connect
with that service, which includes a 24/7 nurse line and an extensive care
management team.

Northwell Direct can also provide diagnostic (PCR) and
antibody testing for COVID-19 and
return-to-work assessments. Overall, Northwell Direct offers a holistic
approach that leverages the knowledge of Northwell Health’s experts in
infectious disease, occupational health, workforce safety, behavioral health
and well-being.

As businesses throughout New York and the country confront rising caseloads in their area, the first job of every employer is to ensure a safe and healthy workplace,” said Nick Stefanizzi, CEO of Northwell Direct, a Northwell Health company that provides customizable health care solutions to employers in the tri-state area. “Conversa’s COVID-19 HealthCheck is a fast, easy, evidence-based way to clear people for work or put them on a path to care – without compromising privacy or creating bottlenecks.”

How Did the Coronavirus Pandemic Affect Health Care Provided by OBGYNs?

A new KFF survey of obstetrician-gynecologists (OBGYNs) offers insight into how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the provision of sexual and reproductive health care, including the growth of telehealth and the ongoing challenges and limitations of such medical visits. Key findings from the survey, which was conducted from July to September 2020, include: The majorityMore

HHS Taps CVS Health for Pilot to Administer COVID-19 Therapy to Patients At Home & Long-Term Care Facilities

HHS Taps CVS Health for Pilot to Administer COVID-19 Therapy to Patients At Home & Long-Term Care Facilities

What You Should Know:

– Today, CVS Health was selected by HHS, as part of
Operation Warp Speed, to pilot the administration of a limited supply of
bamlanivimab, a monoclonal antibody therapy, with eligible COVID-19 patients
at-risk of severe infection or complications resulting from the virus.

– Under this pilot, Coram, the specialty pharmacy and
infusion care business of CVS Health, will administer the intravenous therapy
in patients’ homes or long-term care facilities to help meet the growing demand
for these new treatments.

– The pilot will be available in Boston, Chicago,
Cleveland, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Tampa, and their surrounding
communities starting Thursday, December 3.


CVS Health was selected today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as part of Operation Warp Speed, to pilot the administration of a limited supply of bamlanivimab, a monoclonal antibody therapy, with eligible COVID-19 patients at risk of severe infection or complications resulting from the virus. The selection underscores the role of CVS Health as a diversified health services company and expands work underway with HHS and Operation Warp Speed as CVS Health also prepares to administer COVID-19 vaccines

COVID-19 Therapy Pilot Details

Under this pilot, Coram, the specialty pharmacy and infusion
care business of CVS Health, will administer the intravenous therapy in
patients’ homes or long-term care facilities to help meet the growing demand
for these new treatments. Coram and its more than 800 certified and highly
trained nurses across the country are a prime example of how CVS Health offers
diversified health services to transform health and meet people where they are
– whether in normal times or during the ongoing pandemic. 

Details of the pilot include:

– Coram will begin administering 1,000 doses of monoclonal
antibody therapies for the treatment of COVID-19.

– The pilot will be available in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland,
Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Tampa, and their surrounding
communities starting Thursday, December 3. Following the pilot, Coram will
scale this solution to additional markets in areas of greatest need.

– To be eligible, and in accordance with the therapy’s
Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), patients must not be hospitalized, be within
10 days of symptom onset, at least 12 years of age or older, weighing at least
40 kilograms (or 88.2 pounds), and at high risk for progressing to severe
disease and/or hospitalization.

– There is no out-of-pocket cost to the patient for this
care.

Why It Matters

As COVID-19 rates surge in many parts of the country, Coram
also has worked to help keep patients out of inpatient and hospital settings
altogether, alleviating pressure on the health care system and preserving
important hospital resources for the most critical patients. Since early
in the pandemic, Coram has partnered with hospitals to safely
transition eligible infusion patients home to help ensure hospital bed capacity
to treat COVID-19 patients. Importantly, today’s announcement also expands the
integral role of CVS Health on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19.
This includes work underway with HHS and Operation Warp Speed to administer
COVID-19 vaccines when available, as well as a national COVID-19 testing
infrastructure, which has enabled the company to perform more than eight
million tests across more than 4,300 retail testing locations and onsite at
workplaces and campuses around the country since the start of the
pandemic. 

“Patients can rest assured they are receiving the best care possible through Coram in the safety and comfort of their own home or long-term care facility, and Coram is poised to continue to meet shifting health care demands as the importance and value of home-based care will undoubtedly outlive the pandemic,” added Prem Shah, Pharm.D., Executive Vice President of CVS Specialty and Product Innovation. “This established and experienced clinical service further demonstrates CVS Health’s unique ability to touch all aspects of a person’s health to make their experience more accessible and affordable.”

Growth in Medicaid MCO Enrollment during the COVID-19 Pandemic

This data note looks at state Medicaid managed care enrollment data through September 2020 to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis on Medicaid enrollment. Data collected for 30 states show Medicaid managed care enrollment increased to 11.3% from March 2020 through September 2020. The rate accelerated from the 4.1% reported for 27 states from March 2020 through May 2020 and reversed trends from March 2019 to March 2020 when aggregate growth declined. These trends mirror national enrollment trends that show enrollment growth has been accelerating post-pandemic.

Your Room is Ready: How to Recapture Health System Revenue by Solving “The Motel Problem”

Your Room is Ready: How to Recapture Health System Revenue by Solving “The Motel Problem”
Rich Miller, Chief Strategy Officer of QGenda

Healthcare leaders attempting to regain some of the revenue lost during the COVID-19 shutdowns now face a formidable challenge. The American Hospital Association estimates that U.S. hospitals and health systems lost $202.6 billion in just the four months from March 1 through June 30—roughly $50.7 billion per month.

Many variables feed into the overall financial impact for individual healthcare organizations, of course—including geographic location, local ordinances, specialty designations, and speed of service resumption. Regardless, every health system has experienced revenue shortfalls caused by disruptions to their service pipeline. The question now is how to generate enough additional revenue to cover some of those losses without incurring additional operating expenses. 

We may be able to take practical inspiration from an unlikely source: the hospitality industry. By solving for something one healthcare organization calls “the motel problem,” health systems can increase workflow efficiency, staff satisfaction, clinic volume, and revenue. 

The Motel Problem

Accurately assigning exam rooms with enough flexibility to accommodate continuously changing provider and patient schedules remains a perennial challenge for health systems. In fact, during a recent Porter Research study of 100 executive leaders, roughly two-thirds indicated their health systems lack visibility into exam room utilization. 

The leaders of one academic medical center’s 65-physician neurology clinic began referring to this capacity challenge as “the motel problem.” How do motels consistently keep their rooms full of paying customers?. In contrast, their own exam rooms often appeared full on the scheduling spreadsheet but actually sat empty. Staff afraid of accidentally double-booking the space would then let those rooms sit idle. 

Despite increasing the administrative time devoted to room management, underutilization in the neurology clinic caused rising patient wait times, lowered physician satisfaction, and decreased revenue. If the Porter Research survey is any indication, this situation is not unique. Approximately 72 percent of the survey’s respondents felt their room utilization rates were significantly subpar. Most said their organizations ran at about 20 points below the 80-89 percent utilization level they deemed optimal.

As the neurology department leadership mused about “the motel problem,” they looked at the similarities between motel and healthcare room management needs. Motels must match each guest to a room with the right accommodations (e.g., two doubles versus one king-sized bed) on the right dates. Health systems must take that same workflow one step further by matching the right patient and the right provider to a properly equipped exam room at the right time. In both cases, empty rooms mean lost revenue. Utilization is key.

Consequently, they came to believe that they needed a system that optimized room capacity with much of the same visibility and flexibility as a hotel or motel reservation system. That would require bringing together data about room availability, room attributes, provider schedules and patient needs—and making the resulting intelligence accessible through real-time displays. 

A meaningful solution

When it comes to capacity management within a health system, the real complexity lies with provider and patient schedules. The physical space is always there; it’s the “people” part of the equation that’s fluid. What happens when Dr. Johnson suddenly falls ill, for example? Or Dr. Smith needs to attend a last-minute meeting? Or when patient Mrs. Brown reschedules her appointment? 

Clinics typically rely on relatively static spreadsheets or siloed software to track room utilization. But these tools aren’t designed to make such real-time adjustments, especially at the enterprise level—which means the exam rooms assigned to an absent Dr. Johnson or Dr. Smith likely remain empty even as patients wait to be seen by other providers. 

On the other hand, an organization’s scheduling system is aware when a provider calls in sick, heads to a meeting, or arrives at the clinic early. With a cloud-based scheduling platform, organizations can achieve near real-time visibility into provider availability across the enterprise. 

Consider, then, what can happen when room management software is layered on top of an enterprise scheduling platform. Providers’ movements are then connected to exam room status. The entire organization gains transparency into how providers’ availability affects room availability. That allows staff to quickly and easily move providers into unused rooms and call patients in for appointments faster. Plus, by “tagging” various room attributes—like whether it’s equipped with oxygen or an ENT chair, for instance—such platforms ensure that the proper clinical accommodations are available when providers and patients need them. 

Bottom-line results

Such real-time visualization of room availability can have a substantial impact on health system revenue. One regional health system, for example, calculated that underutilization in its orthopedic clinic costs at least $2,000 per provider per day in lost revenue. 

Another large health system quantified the effect from a different perspective. It contemplated how maximizing capacity would enable increased patient throughput without investing in additional space or staff. With that in mind, the organization determined that every one percent increase in utilization results in an annual operational savings of $140,000. 

At the neurology clinic, solving “the motel problem” by implementing a solution to standardize capacity generated both revenue growth and increased provider satisfaction. The organization has captured revenue previously missed through underutilization and has recognized that revenue scales directly proportional to volume.

To that end, gaining visibility into capacity has helped the clinic achieve a 7.4 percent increase in patient visits and a 4.7 percent increase in-clinic session volume. As important, providers now trust that the right exam rooms will be ready for them when needed—just like a reservation at a high-end hotel. 


About Rich Miller

Rich Miller is the Chief Strategy Officer of QGenda, a healthcare workforce management provider, enabling organizations to optimize capacity across the enterprise. Leading physician groups, hospitals, academic medical centers, and enterprise health systems use QGenda to optimize their workforce which allows them to provide the best possible patient care.


Hospitals Hit with Low Volumes, High Expenses, Poor Margins as COVID-19 Cases Mount

Hospitals Hit with Low Volumes, High Expenses, Poor Margins as COVID-19 Cases Mount

What You Should Know:

– October was a challenging month for hospitals and
health systems nationwide amid ongoing instability spurred by the COVID-19
pandemic, according to Kaufman Hall’s latest Hospital Flash Report.

– Margins and volumes fell, revenues flattened, and
expenses rose as COVID metrics continued to climb and some states moved to
retighten social distancing guidelines.

– As of Oct. 31, the number of daily U.S. COVID cases
reached a high of more than 90,500 and related hospitalizations surpassed
47,400.


Instability spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic
continued to hit hospitals and health systems nationwide in October. Margins
fell, revenues flattened, and expenses rose as organizations saw an eighth
consecutive month of shrinking volumes, according to the November
issue of Kaufman Hall’s National Hospital Flash Report
.

Rising COVID-19 rates are expected to exacerbate volume
declines as many local and state governments reinstate stricter social
distancing policies, causing many to delay non-urgent procedures and outpatient
care. The result threatens to further destabilize hospitals financially in the
coming months.


Key Findings

– Eight months into the pandemic, the Kaufman Hall median
hospital Operating Margin Index was –1.6% for January through October, not
including federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic
Security Act (CARES Act). With the funding, the median margin was 2.4%
year-to-date.

– Operating Margin fell 69.4% year-to-date (6.0 percentage
points) compared to the same period last year, and 9.2% year-over-year (1.4
percentage points) without CARES Act funding. With the federal aid, Operating
Margin fell 18.7% year-to-date (1.7 percentage points) and 8.5% (1.2 percentage
points) below October 2019 levels.

– Declining volumes and rising expenses contributed to the
month’s low margins. Adjusted Discharges fell 11.2% year-to-date and 9.3%
year-over-year, while Adjusted Patient Days dropped 7.7% year-to-date and 2.9%
year-over-year. Operating Room Minutes fell 11.7% year-to-date and 5.6%
compared to October 2019, as many patients opted to delay non-urgent
procedures.

– Emergency Department (ED) Visits remained the hardest hit,
falling 16% both year-to-date and year-over-year in October, but increased 1.9%
from September. The month-over-month increase was due in part to rising
COVID-19 infections, which also contributed to a 7.6% month-over-month increase
in Discharges, reflecting higher numbers of inpatients.       

– Gross Operating Revenue (not including CARES Act funding)
fell 4.8% from January to October compared to the same period in 2019, but was
flat compared to October 2019. Fewer outpatient visits were a major
contributor, driving Outpatient Revenue down 6.6% year-to-date and 2.6%
year-over-year. Inpatient Revenue declined 2.4% year-to-date but rose 2.6%
year-over-year.

– Expenses rose as hospitals continued to bring back
furloughed workers, and purchased drugs, personal protective equipment, and
other supplies needed to care for COVID-19 patients. Total Expense per Adjusted
Discharge rose 13.5% year-to-date and 12.2% year-over-year in October. Labor
Expense and Non-Labor Expense per Adjusted Discharge rose 15.2% and 13%
year-to-date, respectively. Such increases will put hospitals in a tenuous
situation if volumes continue to decline.

Why It Matters

“The next few months will be a grave period for our country, and for our nation’s hospitals and health systems,” said Jim Blake, a managing director at Kaufman Hall and publisher of the National Hospital Flash Report, which draws on data from more than 900 U.S. hospitals. “If unchecked, the virus is projected to continue its rapid spread through communities as families gather for the holidays, and as colder weather pushes more activities indoors. The potential public health implications and financial impacts for our hospitals could be dire.”

For more information, click here
to download the report.

NLP is Raising the Bar on Accurate Detection of Adverse Drug Events

NLP is Raising the Bar on Accurate Detection of Adverse Drug Events
 David Talby, CTO, John Snow Labs

Each year, Adverse Drug Events (ADE) account for nearly 700,000 emergency department visits and 100,000 hospitalizations in the US alone. Nearly 5 percent of hospitalized patients experience an ADE, making them one of the most common types of inpatient errors. What’s more, many of these instances are hard to discover because they are never reported. In fact, the median under-reporting rate in one meta-analysis of 37 studies was 94 percent. This is especially problematic given the negative consequences, which include significant pain, suffering, and premature death.

While healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies conduct clinical trials to discover adverse reactions before selling their products, they are typically limited in numbers. This makes post-market drug safety monitoring essential to help discover ADE after the drugs are in use in medical settings. Fortunately, the advent of electronic health records (EHR) and natural language processing (NLP) solutions have made it possible to more effectively and accurately detect these prevalent adverse events, decreasing their likelihood and reducing their impact. 

Not only is this important for patient safety, but also from a business standpoint. Pharmaceutical companies are legally required to report adverse events – whether they find out about them from patient phone calls, social media, sales conversations with doctors, reports from hospitals, or any other channel. As you can imagine, this would be a very manual and tedious task without the computing power of NLP – and likely an unintentionally inaccurate one, too. 

The numbers reflect the importance of automated NLP technology, too: the global NLP in healthcare and life sciences market size is forecasted to grow from $1.5 billion in 2020 to $3.7 billion by 2025, more than doubling in the next five years. The adoption of prevalent cloud-based NLP solutions is a major growth factor here. In fact, 77 percent of respondents from a recent NLP survey indicated that they use ​at least one​ of the four major NLP cloud providers, Google is the most used. But, despite their popularity, respondents cited cost and accuracy as key challenges faced when using cloud-based solutions for NLP.

It goes without saying that accuracy is vital when it comes to matters as significant as predicting adverse reactions to medications, and data scientists agree. The same survey found that more than 40 percent of all respondents cited accuracy as the most important criteria they use to evaluate NLP solutions, and a quarter of respondents cited accuracy as the main criteria they used when evaluating NLP cloud services. Accuracy for domain-specific NLP problems (like healthcare) is a challenge for cloud providers, who only provide pre-trained models with limited training and tuning capabilities. This presents some big challenges for users for several reasons. 

Human language very contexts- and domain-specific, making it especially painful when a model is trained for general uses of words but does not understand how to recognize or disambiguate terms-of-art for a specific domain. In this case, speech-to-text services for video transcripts from a DevOps conference might identify the word “doctor” for the name “Docker,” which degrades the accuracy of the technology. Such errors may be acceptable when applying AI to marketing or online gaming, but not for detecting ADEs. 

In contrast, models have to be trained on medical terms and understand grammatical concepts, such as negation and conjunction. Take, for example, a patient saying, “I feel a bit drowsy with some blurred vision, but am having no gastric problems.” To be effective, models have to be able to relate the adverse events to the patient and specific medication that caused the aforementioned symptoms. This can be tricky because as the previous example sentence illustrates, the medication is not mentioned, so the model needs to correctly infer it from the paragraphs around it.

This gets even more complex, given the need for collecting ADE-related terms from various resources that are not composed in a structured manner. This could include a tweet, news story, transcripts or CRM notes of calls between a doctor and a pharmaceutical sales representative, or clinical trial reports. Mining large volumes of data from these sources have the power to expose serious or unknown consequences that can help detect these reactions. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for this, new enhancements in NLP capabilities are helping to improve this significantly. 

Advances in areas such as Named Entity Recognition (NER) and Classification, specifically, are making it easier to achieve more timely and accurate results. ADE NER models enable data scientists to extract ADE and drug entities from a given text, and ADE classifiers are trained to automatically decide if a given sentence is, in fact, a description of an ADE. The combination of NER and classifier and the availability of pre-trained clinical pipeline for ADE tasks in NLP libraries can save users from building such models and pipelines from scratch, and put them into production immediately. 

In some cases, the technology is pre-trained with tuned Clinical BioBERT embeddings, the most effective contextual language model in the clinical domain today. This makes these models more accurate than ever – improving on the latest state-of-the-art research results on standard benchmarks. ADE NER models can be trained on different embeddings, enabling users to customize the system based on the desired tradeoff between available compute power and accuracy. Solutions like this are now available in hundreds of pre-trained pipelines for multiple languages, enabling a global impact.

As we patiently await a vaccine for the deadly Coronavirus, there have been few times in history in which understanding drug reactions are more vital to global health than now. Using NLP to help monitor reactions to drug events is an effective way to identify and act on adverse reactions earlier, save healthcare organizations money, and ultimately make our healthcare system safer for patients and practitioners.


About David Talby

David Talby, Ph.D., MBA, is the CTO of John Snow Labs. He has spent his career making AI, big data, and data science solve real-world problems in healthcare, life science, and related fields. John Snow Labs is an award-winning AI and NLP company, accelerating progress in data science by providing state-of-the-art models, data, and platforms. Founded in 2015, it helps healthcare and life science companies build, deploy, and operate AI products and services.

COVID-19: How Can Payers Prepare for Mandates and Support Pandemic Relief Efforts

Elizabeth Bierbower, Former President of Humana’s Group & Specialty Division

Healthcare can achieve optimum efficiency when patients are at the center of care. When patients have the necessary information to navigate their care journey, they will choose the path to high-quality care at the lowest costs. Cost-sharing and insurance premiums are rising consistently since the last decade for employer plans, which covers nearly half of the country’s population. Plan members are shouldering a part of the healthcare cost burden, so they want to keep it as low as possible. At the same time, they want maximum value for their money with access to quality care.

CMS identified this as an opportunity and issued the Final Interoperability and Patient Access rule. The rule allows patients to access electronic health data through any third-party application of their choice. The rule intends to allow patients to take control of their data and determine who can see which data. It will also make transferring data from provider to provider easier. So that patients can be ensured that their provider is fully aware of their medical history. 

The Challenge of Providing Members Access to Healthcare Data 

The biggest challenge that health plans will face is to extract data from multiple sources in-house, clean and scrub it, and ensure it is in the appropriate format as required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Some health plans have been in business for a really long time. Patient data has been accumulating through these years in legacy systems. Providing access to that data through certified third-party applications will require a lot of effort on the part of health plans. The health plans also have to ensure tight authentication standards so that only the people requested by the members have access to their healthcare data. 

In addition, there are multiple problems associated with provider data. Incorrect data in the provider database costs close to $3 billion annually. CMS has also issued warnings for inaccurate provider directories, high claim-reprocessing volumes, and substantial encounter-data rejection rates. Payers have been addressing the data issues with short term solutions. But now they have to resolve the provider data problems for good and make health data readily available to the members.

The COVID Crisis Upended The Payer Compliance Initiatives

Payers are in solidarity with providers and patients in this time of crisis. While providers work tirelessly to help an increased number of patients access the required care, payers are providing support through fast track reimbursements and reduced utilization management.

 Many health plans are focused on ensuring that their members have access to resources to fight COVID, which is why CMS extended the deadline for the Final Interoperability rule. Utilization patterns are witnessing a significant change. Many members are not receiving scheduled care as some elective surgeries are rescheduled and some provider offices are shut down. There has been a drop in certain kinds of utilization. Conversely, there has been a dramatic surge in telehealth office visits and behavioral health services.

The Road Ahead for Health Plans

Healthcare payers have endured significant claims-based, economic, and operational challenges during the pandemic. While they battle those bottlenecks, they also have to ascertain and prepare for the future and devise ways to ensure that their members have access to quality care.

Health plans will have to try to anticipate what utilization patterns will look like in the future, especially in the next year. Telehealth utilization will not be the same as it was pre-COVID. They will also have to ensure that members have access to care. They will have to reach out to members, especially those who are the most vulnerable. They will have to make sure members are not suffering from social isolation, they are taking their medication and they have access to transportation to get to the doctor.

Provider Alliance for CMS Compliance

CMS is handing over the reins of the care journey to the patients to improve care delivery through the Interoperability rule. Providers will play a key role in enabling access to healthcare data to patients by streamlining data and closing coding gaps. Payers must assist providers with their data needs to ensure compliance with the CMS rules.

As the pandemic ends and CMS comes out with more definitive long term rules and coverages, it is going to be important to ensure that providers are on the same page with payers. Health plans can partner with providers to educate them about the acceptable telehealth codes and what type of services are to be performed using those codes. Providers want to take care of their patients and they want to do it well. They want to leverage technology to ensure patient access to care and ensure their safety, especially for patients who suffer from multiple comorbidities.


About Elizabeth Bierbower

Elizabeth Bierbower is a strategic leader with more than thirty years of executive experience in the health insurance industry. She has experience scaling cost-effective and profitable growth strategies through internal innovation, and a reputation as being one of the industry’s most fiscally responsible and progressive leaders. Bierbower currently serves on the Boards of Iora Health, the American Telemedicine Association, and is on Innovaccer’s Strategic Advisory.

Previously Beth was a member of Humana’s Executive Management Team and held various roles including Segment President, Group and Specialty Benefits, and was an Enterprise Vice President leading Humana’s Product Development and Innovation teams.


Hospital Sustainability Demands that Revenue Integrity Move Front and Center

Hospital Sustainability Demands that Revenue Integrity Move Front and Center
Vasilios Nassiopoulos, VP of Platform Strategy and Innovation, Hayes

Razor-thin operational margins coupled with substantial and ongoing losses related to COVID-19 are culminating in a perfect storm of bottom-line issues for U.S. hospitals and health systems. A study commissioned by the American Hospital Association (AHA) found that the median hospital margin overall was just 3.5% pre-pandemic, and projected margins will stay in the red for at least half of the nation’s hospitals for the remainder of 2020. 

The reality is that an increase in COVID-19 cases will not overcome the pandemic’s devasting financial impact. An internal analysis found that, in the first half of 2020, client organizations documented more than 1.2 million COVID-19 related cases. At least one study suggests that $2,500 will be lost per case–despite a 20% Medicare payment increase. And notably, a positive test result is now required for the increased inpatient payment.

The healthcare industry must face its own “new normal” as the current path is unsustainable, and the future stability of hospitals in communities across the nations is uncertain. If financial leaders do not act now to implement systems and embrace sound revenue integrity practices, they will face unavoidable revenue cycle bottlenecks and limit their ability to capitalize on all appropriate reimbursement opportunities. 

The COVID-19 Effect: A Bird’s Eye View

The financial impact of COVID-19 is far-reaching, impacting multiple angles of operations from supply chain costs to lost billing opportunities and compliance issues. Findings from a Physician’s Foundation report released in August suggest that U.S. healthcare spending dropped by 18% during the first quarter of 2020, the steepest decline since 1959.

Already vulnerable 2020 Q1 budgets were met with substantial losses when elective procedures—a sizeable part of income for most health systems—were halted for more than a month in many cases. Many hospitals continue to lose notable revenue associated with emergency care and ancillary testing as patients choose to avoid public settings amid ongoing public safety efforts. 

Outpatient visits also dropped a whopping 60% in the wake of the pandemic. While a recent Harvard report suggests that numbers are back on track, the reality is that a resurgence of cases could make consumers wary of both doctor visits and elective procedures again.

In addition, the supply chain quickly became a cost risk for health systems by Q2 2020 as the ability to acquire drugs and medical supplies came at a premium. Meeting cost-containment goals flew out the window as did the ability to create value in purchasing power.

Further exacerbating the situation is an expected increase in denials as healthcare organizations navigate a fluid regulatory environment and learn how to interpret new guidance around coding and billing for COVID-19 related care. For example, while telehealth has proved a game-changer for care continuity across the U.S., reimbursement for these visits remains largely untested. History confirms that in times of rapid change, billing errors increase—and so do claims denials.

While there is little that can be done to minimize the impact of revenue losses and supply chain challenges, healthcare organizations can take proactive steps to identify all revenue opportunities and minimize compliance issues that will undoubtedly surface when auditors come knocking to ensure the appropriate use of COVID-19 stimulus dollars. 

Holistically Addressing Revenue

Getting ahead of the current and evolving revenue storm will require healthcare organizations to elevate revenue integrity strategies. Hospitals and health systems should take four steps to get their billing and compliance house in order by addressing:

1. People: Build a cross-functional steering committee that will drive revenue integrity goals through better collaboration between billing and compliance teams.

2. Processes: Strategies that combine the strengths of both retrospective and prospective auditing will identify the root cause of errors and educate stakeholders to ensure clean, timely filed claims from the start. 

3. Metrics: Best practice key performance indexes are available and should be used. Clean claim submission, denial rate, bad debt reduction and days in AR are a few to consider.

4. Technology: The role of emerging technologies that use artificial intelligence cannot be understated. Their ability to speed identification of risks, perform targeted audits, identify and address root causes and most importantly, monitor the impact of process improvements is changing current dynamics. For one large pediatric health system in the Southwest, technology-enabled coding and compliance processes resulted in $230 million in reduced COVID-related denials and a financial impact of $2.3 million. 

Current manual processes used by many healthcare organizations to assess denials and manage revenue cycle will not provide the transparency needed to both get ahead of problems and identify areas for process improvement and corrective action in today’s complex environment. 

About Vasilios Nassiopoulos

Vasilios Nassiopoulosis the Vice President of Platform Strategy and Innovation at Hayes, a healthcare technology provider that partners with the nation’s premier healthcare organizations to improve revenue, mitigate risk and streamline operations to succeed in an evolving healthcare landscape. Vasilios has over 25 years of healthcare experience with extensive knowledge of EHR systems and PMS software from Epic, Cerner, GE Centricity and Meditech. Prior to joining Hayes, Vasilios served Associate Principal at The Chartis Group. 

Dec. 3 Web Briefing: What Happens Once There is a COVID-19 Vaccine? Key Challenges to Vaccinating America

Encouraging reports about several COVID-19 vaccine candidates is raising hopes that there will soon be one or more vaccines proven safe and effective, starting a race to produce, distribute, and administer it to essential workers, people at high risk, and the public, including those who may start out with skepticism about the risks posed byMore

FDA Authorizes First At-Home COVID-19 Test, Results in 30 Mins or Less

FDA Authorizes First At-Home Molecular COVID-19 Test

What You Should Know:

– FDA approves emergency use authorization (EUA) for Lucira
Health’s all-in-one-test kit for COVID-19 self-testing at home.

– The streamlined Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit,
which fits in the palm of a hand, extracts genetic material from the virus and
amplifies it. This process takes up to 30 minutes, but a positive test result
can be generated in as few as 11 minutes.


On late Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the first COVID-19 diagnostic test for self-testing at home and that provides rapid results. The Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit is a molecular (real-time loop-mediated amplification reaction) single-use test that is intended to detect the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19.

Why It Matters

By current national estimates, up to 50 to 100 million COVID-19 tests may need to be conducted each month in the United States, with as many as 900 million totals possible through 2021. If all U.S. airline passengers were also tested, that would require one billion tests annually. Likewise, if the country’s health care workers were tested weekly for a year, that would also require around one billion tests. A variety of tests have been developed to help meet this need, with Lucira being the latest and first to get FDA authorization for prescription self-testing at home molecular diagnostic test.

Authorized for Prescription Use Only

The Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit test has been authorized for home use with self-collected nasal swab samples in individuals age 14 and older who are suspected of COVID-19 by their health care provider. It is also authorized for use in point-of-care (POC) settings (e.g., doctor’s offices, hospitals, urgent care centers, and emergency rooms) for all ages but samples must be collected by a healthcare provider when the test is used at the POC to test individuals younger than 14 years old. The test is currently authorized for prescription use only.

How It Works

The streamlined Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit, which fits in the palm of a hand, extracts genetic material from the virus and amplifies it. This process takes up to 30 minutes, but a positive test result can be generated in as few as 11 minutes. The Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit comes with everything needed to perform a single COVID-19 test. Users open the box containing the test device, sample vial, swab, and simple instructions. Two AA batteries are inserted in the device and the sample vial is placed in the test unit.

Next, the user opens the test swab packet and rotates the swab in each nostril five times. The swab is then stirred in the sample vial and then pressed down in the test unit to start the test. The “ready” light will blink until a “positive” or “negative” green light is illuminated within 30 minutes. For guidance on care and public health reporting, patients will report their test results to the medical office that prescribed the test

Availability

The Lucira ™COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit is expected to be
available to patients served by Sutter Health in Northern California, and
Cleveland Clinic Florida in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, in the near future. By early
spring 2021, it is expected to be available nationally through health care
providers and is expected to cost around $50.

By the second quarter of 2021, Lucira Health plans to amend
its EUA or file a new EUA so people who think they’re infected with COVID-19
can communicate with a medical professional online through a dedicated website
to arrange a prescription and overnight delivery of the test kit, if approved.
Follow-up monitoring will be available for public health reporting so people
can get additional guidance and information if needed.

States Are Getting Ready to Distribute COVID-19 Vaccines. What Do Their Plans Tell Us So Far?

This brief summarizes the information contained in the all available draft COVID-19 vaccination plans submitted by states to the CDC, focusing in particular in critical areas such as identifying critical/priority populations, identifying and recruiting providers to administer vaccines, the completeness of state-level vaccine data collection and reporting systems, and communication plans. States report widely varying levels of progress.

White House Coronavrius Task Force Doubles Down on Rapid Testing Strategy

White House, IBM Partner to Fight COVID-19 Using Supercomputers

What You Should Know:

– White house coronavirus task force doubles down on rapid testing strategy to fight the coronavirus as some states say they don’t have the supplies to comply with the federal government’s advice.

This article was originally published by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative news organization based in Washington, D.C.


The White House coronavirus task force is doubling down on part of its strategy for halting the spread of the virus: widespread use of rapid tests.

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations reached record highs, the task force last week issued advice to a number of governors: Begin using rapid tests on all young people, even those without COVID-19 symptoms, in counties with exploding numbers of cases.

The guidance came as state officials and some scientists express doubt about rapid testing strategies. The rapid tests, known as antigen tests, give results faster but are more likely to return false negatives than lab-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, and the Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved the rapid tests for use in patients who show no symptoms.

But the nation’s testing czar, Adm. Brett Giroir, who also sits on the task force, gave a robust defense of the strategy in emailed responses to questions from the Center for Public Integrity.

“The testing of asymptomatic individuals with rapid antigen tests is vital,” Giroir wrote. “The data are really to a point that those who argue against asymptomatic testing … are more influenced by politics, financial self-interest of their industry, or lack of knowledge, than they are by the evidence of how to support control of the pandemic.”

The task force previously urged states to use the rapid tests to screen certain groups, such as teachers or health-care workers. The federal government is distributing to states 150 million antigen tests made by Abbott Laboratories.

We ask that you credit our newsroom at the top with a line that says, “This article was originally published by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative news organization based in Washington, D.C.” and link to our homepage. Photo rights not included.

In his email Giroir pushed back on comments from another member of the task force, Dr. Scott Atlas, who told The New York Times last month that testing asymptomatic people would amount to “destroying the workforce.” Atlas, a favorite adviser of President Donald Trump, holds views repudiated by many scientists studying the pandemic and has been the source of rifts within the task force.

“No credible public health expert would suggest that it is good practice to allow an infectious person — whether symptomatic or asymptomatic — into the community or workforce,” Giroir wrote. “The best way to keep America working and Americans in school and employed is to control the spread of the virus.”

But it’s not clear that states can keep up with the federal advice to deploy rapid tests more broadly.

Of the 16 states that responded to questions from Public Integrity, 11 said they were using rapid tests to screen special populations, such as nursing-home residents or health-care workers, but only four indicated plans to use them on broader populations. Several said they didn’t have enough tests to screen the general public. 

“We do not have enough supplies to use for general population testing,” said Taylor Gage, spokesman for Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts. “The state is using all the tests — we do not have a reserve or backlog on hand.”

Manpower is another dilemma. Some states don’t have enough school nurses to deploy antigen test screening in schools, let alone the general population, said Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. 

“Nobody’s against that but some of it is just pure logistics. If you want us to do that, where are the tests?” Plescia said. “It’s just there are sort of on-the-ground challenges to rolling some of the stuff out with the speed that the administration would like.”

Another hurdle to testing 18-40-year-olds: the millennials themselves. Young people so far have not responded well to efforts such as contact tracing, said Lori Tremmel Freeman, CEO of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

“Getting them to test frequently, if this is the population we’re targeting, will require more than just putting the tests out there,” she said. “It requires, really, a campaign to change public sentiment around the disease.”Preview mode is not supported for related articles. Please change to Edit mode by clicking the pencil icon in the toolbar above.

That’s something the White House has not done. The president lately has been mostly silent about coronavirus testing, after weeks of falsely blaming high case counts on increased testing. And the task force’s recent endorsements of antigen testing are contained in reports to governors that the White House does not make public.

“We’re hearing some of the right words, the right public health tactics, the right strategies emerging from the White House task force behind the scenes, but we really have to turn that internal to an external, public-facing messaging campaign,” Tremmel Freeman said.  “Nobody really knows what the strategy is or why it’s important.”

In addition to concerns about “how,” some states are hung up on whether they should use rapid tests on asymptomatic people when the FDA has not approved them for that use. 

Several states still have official health guidance that contradicts the White House view of rapid tests — Virginia policy, for example, says PCR testing should be used whenever possible. At least three states have discouraged the antigen tests’ use in nursing homes. The federal government has shipped more than 13 million rapid tests to nursing homes, but a Kaiser Health News investigation found that roughly 38% of the nation’s nursing homes have yet to use them.

“There’s quite a bit of uncertainty and things we’re sorting out that have caused most of us to move forward with some caution,” Plescia said. The health officials in his organization “just have some anxieties around the accuracy of the test.”

But several scientists who spoke to Public Integrity said the administration’s push to test more asymptomatic young people using antigen tests is a good idea.

“We have to do more to break these chains of transmission,” said Gigi Gronvall, an immunologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “You could be saving somebody by testing them and getting them to isolate.”

Some cautioned that jurisdictions who deploy the tests more broadly need to have clear plans to ensure positive people isolate — which may be a challenge for those who need to show up to jobs or risk losing them.

“Advocating for [antigen tests’] use really broadly without a plan for what to do with the results is going to create problems,” said Susan Butler-Wu, an associate professor of clinical pathology at the University of Southern California’s medical school. “You have to have a plan for what to do when it’s positive, and you have to have a lot of education around what to do if it’s negative.”

Giroir said states must figure out how exactly to test wide swaths of their populations, though he said weekly testing at universities has shown the best results. 

“States and counties need to employ strategies specific to their populations including education and resources,” he wrote.


AstraZeneca, CCT Partner to Conduct COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trials in Arizona

AstraZeneca, CCT Partner to Conduct COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trials in Arizona

What You Should Know:

– AstraZeneca and CCT announce a partnership to conduct
COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials in Arizona with 1,500 participants.


CCT Research (CCT), a leader in community-based, embedded clinical research, today announced its partnership with AstraZeneca to advance COVID-19 research. Together with local healthcare providers, CCT will facilitate clinical trials for the AZD1222 COVID-19 VACCINE, an investigational vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19.

CCT is recruiting eligible study participants who
are 18 years of age or older, not pregnant, in good general health, and have
not been previously diagnosed with COVID-19. The study takes place at Bayless Integrated Healthcare’s
downtown Phoenix location at 3620 N 3rd St. in Phoenix.

Eligible
study participants must be 18 years of age or older, not pregnant, in good
general health, and have not been previously diagnosed with COVID-19. Participants are reimbursed for
expenses related to the study. This study compares an investigational vaccine against a placebo to see if the vaccine can prevent COVID-19.

Why
It Matters

“COVID-19 has been and continues to be devastating to our world. Finding a vaccine is one tool that will help us return to our new normal,” said Thomas Fiel, D.O., family practice physician and Arizona principal investigator. “I understand the need for clinical trials, as well as the anxiety they can bring to study participants. By conducting this trial through local medical practices like ours, CCT and AstraZeneca can build on an existing foundation of trust, ultimately improving the patient experience. It is another way that, as a community physician, I can help fight this battle.”

AMA Unveils 2 Vaccine-Specific CPT Codes for Coronavirus Immunizations

AMA Approves 2 New CPT Codes to Support Response to COVID-19

What You Should Know:

– The American Medical Association (AMA) published an
update to the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT®) code set that includes new
vaccine-specific codes to report immunizations for the novel coronavirus
(SARS-CoV-2).

– The new Category I CPT codes and long descriptors for the vaccine products 91300 and 91301 for better tracking, reporting, and analysis that supports data-driven planning and allocation.


The American Medical Association (AMA) today published an update to the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT®) code set that includes new
vaccine-specific codes to
report immunizations for the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).

New Category CPT Codes

The new Category I CPT codes and long descriptors
for the vaccine products are:

91300: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (Coronavirus disease [COVID-19]) vaccine, mRNA-LNP, spike protein, preservative-free, 30 mcg/0.3mL dosage, diluent reconstituted, for intramuscular use

91301: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus
2 (SARS-CoV-2) (Coronavirus disease [COVID-19]) vaccine, mRNA-LNP, spike
protein, preservative free, 100 mcg/0.5mL dosage, for intramuscular use

In accordance with the new vaccine-specific product CPT codes, the CPT Editorial Panel has worked with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to create new vaccine administration codes that are both distinct to each coronavirus vaccine and the specific dose in the required schedule.  This level of specificity is a first for vaccine CPT codes, but offers the ability to track each vaccine dose, even when the vaccine product is not reported (e.g. when the vaccine may be given to the patient for free). These CPT codes report the actual work of administering the vaccine, in addition to all necessary counseling provided to patients or caregivers and updating the electronic record.

Admin CPT Codes & Long Descriptors

For quick reference, the new vaccine administration CPT codes and
long descriptors are:

0001A: Immunization administration by intramuscular injection of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (Coronavirus disease [COVID-19]) vaccine, mRNA-LNP, spike protein, preservative-free, 30 mcg/0.3mL dosage, diluent reconstituted; first dose

0002A: Immunization administration by intramuscular injection of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (Coronavirus disease [COVID-19]) vaccine, mRNA-LNP, spike protein, preservative-free, 30 mcg/0.3mL dosage, diluent reconstituted; second dose

0011A: Immunization administration by intramuscular injection of Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (Coronavirus disease [COVID-19]) vaccine, mRNA-LNP, spike protein, preservative-free, 100 mcg/0.5mL dosage; first dose

0012A: Immunization administration by intramuscular injection of Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (Coronavirus disease [COVID-19]) vaccine, mRNA-LNP, spike protein, preservative-free, 100 mcg/0.5mL dosage; second dose

Availability

All the new vaccine-specific CPT codes published in today’s update will be available for use and effective upon each new coronavirus vaccine receiving Emergency Use Authorization or approval from the Food and Drug Administration. In addition to the long descriptors, short and medium descriptors for the new vaccine-specific CPT codes can be accessed on the AMA website, along with several other recent modifications to the CPT code set that have helped streamline the public health response to the SAR-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 disease.

Mount Sinai Develop Machine Learning Models to Predict Critical Illness and Mortality in COVID-19 Patients

Mount Sinai Develop Machine Learning Models to Predict Critical Illness and Mortality in COVID-19 Patients Mount Sinai to Deploy Lumeris Value-Based Services to Optimize Population Health Outcomes

What You Should Know:

– Mount Sinai researchers have developed machine learning models that predict the
likelihood of critical events and mortality in COVID-19 patients within
clinically relevant time windows.

– The new machine learning models were outlined in a recent study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research—could aid clinical practitioners at Mount Sinai and across the world in the care and management of COVID-19 patients.


Research Protocols

– In the retrospective study using EHRs from more than
4,000 adult patients admitted to five Mount Sinai Health System hospitals from
March to May, researchers and clinicians from the MSCIC analyzed
characteristics of COVID-19
patients, including past medical history, comorbidities, vital signs, and
laboratory test results at admission, to predict critical events such as
intubation and mortality within various clinically relevant time windows that
can forecast short and medium-term risks of patients over the hospitalization.

–  Researchers
used the machine learning models to predict a critical event or mortality at time
windows of 3, 5, 7, and 10 days from admission.

Results/Outcomes

– At the
one-week mark—which performed best overall, correctly flagging the most critical events while returning the fewest false positives—acute
kidney injury, fast breathing, high blood sugar, and elevated lactate
dehydrogenase (LDH) indicating tissue damage or disease were the strongest
drivers in predicting critical illness. Older age, blood level imbalance, and C-reactive protein
levels indicating inflammation, were the strongest drivers in predicting mortality.

“From the initial outburst of COVID-19 in New York City, we saw that COVID-19 presentation and disease course are heterogeneous and we have built machine learning models using patient data to predict outcomes,” said Benjamin Glicksberg, PhD, Assistant Professor of Genetics and Genomic Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, member of the Hasso Plattner Institute for Digital Health at Mount Sinai and Mount Sinai Clinical Intelligence Center (MSCIC), and one of the study’s principal investigators. “Now in the early stages of a second wave, we are much better prepared than before. We are currently assessing how these models can aid clinical practitioners in managing care of their patients in practice.”

KHN and Associated Press Investigation of Inadequate U.S. Public Health Infrastructure During the Pandemic Wins Top Journalism Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has awarded KFF’s Kaiser Health News and The Associated Press one of its top journalism prizes for a joint investigation that revealed the diminished state of the U.S. public health infrastructure in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The AAAS gave the news organizations its GoldMore

Mobile Point-of-Care Ultrasound Is Now A Frontline Warrior in Pandemic

Point-of-Care Ultrasounds is Now a Frontline Warrior in Battling The Pandemic
Diku Mandavia, M.D., SVP, Chief Medical Officer at FUJIFILM Sonosite

Health authorities need to prioritize delivery and the repurposing of mobile point-of-care ultrasound machines which have proven to be reliable, affordable, and effective in saving the lives of coronavirus patients.  


Most Americans are familiar with ultrasound technology from the scans done to check on the status of the fetus during pregnancy.  

But far fewer are aware of how valuable mobile versions of these units have also become in America’s emergency rooms where they almost instantly detect and record everything from internal bleeding, abdominal pain to life-threatening infections. 

In recent days, mobile units have suddenly become a critical global technology for scanning the chests of coronavirus victims to precisely monitor the condition of their lungs.  

We now need to raise the status of these life-saving diagnostic machines, finding and rushing them to the frontlines of hospitals where coronavirus patients are triaged and cared for.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there had been elevated global demand for these mobile – called “point of care” – units that can be brought to the bedside.  Some are small handheld devices that instantly connect to a smartphone.  

International relief organizations and national health authorities have issued urgent calls to manufacturers in the last few days for any surplus or underutilized ultrasound equipment capable of performing lung scans.  They are also seeking point-of-care ultrasound units that are underutilized or are in “retired” inventory at clinics and hospitals around the world, units that can be adapted for use in lung ultrasound (LU) diagnosis.  

Sales and maintenance records from manufacturers may also be used to track down operational LU machines that are already in-country and can be drafted into urgent service during the pandemic.

Because the most desired devices are mobile and move from patient to patient, very strict hygienic procedures must be carefully monitored and managed.  

As with so many technical innovations over the past half-century, taking the technology mobile was originally funded by one of the smallest but most consequential units in our U.S. military arsenal: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).  

DARPA didn’t invent ultrasound, but it did help shrink the technology to mobile size so that frontline military physicians could take the technology closer to the battlefield and save the lives of wounded warriors.  These mobile units, now ubiquitous in ICUs and in emergency rooms around the world, are much cheaper and lower risk than radiography (x-ray) units which are difficult to maneuver to the bedside of the critically ill especially with diseases as transmittable as a coronavirus.  

It turns out that these popular mobile units provide particularly precise views of distressed lungs – important tools to have when doctors need to see the exact progression of the COVID-19 virus in infected patients who are quarantined and unable to be safely moved to a remote radiology suite.  COVID-19 often presents as a respiratory invader that causes acute inflammation in the lungs, primarily as a patchy, interstitial infiltrate – a condition recognized with ultrasound imaging.  

A small but important study was just published in Radiology by the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) on March 13 which comes from other doctors also on the coronavirus frontlines in Italy.  

That report – covering the records of emergency physicians at Ospedale Guglielmo da Saliceto in Piacenza, Italy – claims a “strong correlation” between lung ultrasound and CT findings in patients with COVID-19 pneumonia, leading the investigators to “strongly recommend the use of bedside [ultrasound] for the early diagnosis of COVID-19 patients who present to the emergency department.”

Pneumonia and respiratory failure are a principal cause of death among COVID-19 patients.  What we can assess in a lung ultrasound right now in these patients is the involvement of both lungs with basically patchy findings.  Distinctive to the disease is typically ultrasonographic B lines – wide bands of hyperechoic artifacts that are often compared to the beam of a flashlight being swung back and forth.  

If there is a significant consolidation, diagnostics may also capture imagery of hepatization of the lung.  This information is critical to monitoring, addressing, and curing pneumonia.

For these patients and hospitals in crisis, mobile lung-ultrasound units are also scanning far more patients in a short period of time than more elaborate diagnostic imaging technologies, while delivering an accurate, actionable answer on the presence and degree of infection.  

Lung ultrasound is a critical application of the point-of-care mobile units in the emergency rooms battling COVID-19 around the world, but these patients very sick with COVID-19 may also need venous access under ultrasound guidance to administer fluids and medications.  Or they may be in shock and need a shock assessment, for which point-of-care ultrasound in COVID-19 resuscitation bays and ICUs are also very useful.

The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to get worse in the U.S. before it gets better.  New York, California, and the State of Washington have set up military-style hospitals  – 250-bed infirmaries that will be fully functional hospitals for COVID-19 patients – and will be placing point-of-care ultrasound there and elsewhere where it would be much more difficult to put a CT scanner.

The challenge in meeting that urgent goal is whether we can find and deploy enough functional lung ultrasound devices to COVID-19 responders in the next several weeks to save lives that are already in danger and restore COVID-19 patients alive and well to families desperate for medical rescue.  I believe we can and will.


About Diku Mandavia, M.D.

Diku Mandavia, M.D. is the Senior Vice President, Chief Medical Officer, at FUJIFILM Sonosite Inc., and FUJIFILM Medical Systems U.S.A., Inc.  He completed his residency in emergency medicine at LAC+USC Medical Center in Los Angeles where he still practices part-time. He is a Clinical Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Southern California.


New Brief Examines COVID-19 Risks and Impacts for Health Care Workers by Race and Ethnicity

New coronavirus cases in the United States have hit daily records multiple times in the past week and hospitalizations are rising in several areas of the country. Health care workers face some of the greatest risk of exposure to the coronavirus and a new KFF brief examines the composition of the workforce and how theMore

Cleveland Clinic Develop COVID-19 Risk Prediction Model through Epic MyChart

Cleveland Clinic Develop COVID-19 Risk Prediction Model through Epic MyChart

What You Should Know:

– Cleveland Clinic develops the COVID-19 risk prediction model through Epic MyChart that is now available to health systems around the world.

– Healthcare organizations can present the clinically
validated model to patients in MyChart to assess their risk of having COVID-19.


Cleveland Clinic researchers have developed a COVID-19 risk prediction model that uses information from the patient’s comprehensive health records combined with patient-centered information in Epic’s patient-facing app, MyChart, to show an individual’s likelihood of testing positive for COVID-19. The COVID-19 risk prediction model is now available to health systems around the world through Epic.

 A COVID-19 risk prediction model designed by Cleveland Clinic researchers is
now available to health systems around the world through EpicDeveloped and tested using
clinical data from more than 11,000 Cleveland Clinic patients
, the model
uses information from patients’

COVID-19 Risk Prediction Model Development

Predicting positive COVID-19 tests could help direct limited healthcare resources, encourage those who are likely to have the virus to get tested, and tailor decision-making about care. Cleveland Clinic’s model was developed and validated using retrospective patient data from more than 11k patients tested for COVID-19 at Cleveland Clinic locations in Northeast Ohio and Florida. Data scientists used statistical algorithms to transform data from patients’ electronic medical records into the first-of-its-kind risk-prediction model. All data collected was housed in a secure database.

How It Works

Patients complete a short self-assessment in MyChart,
documenting information like symptoms they are experiencing and potential
exposure to COVID-19. The model uses that information, as well as clinical and
demographic data already in their electronic chart, to calculate their score.
Patients with high risk for having COVID-19 are advised to receive a test, and
their care team members can be automatically notified of a high-risk score.

Other healthcare providers around the country also have
developed risk prediction models, which they can integrate with Epic. For
organizations that want to use an existing model rather than developing their
own, they can quickly turn on the model designed, developed, and tested–and now
being shared–by Cleveland Clinic researchers.

“We have developed the first validated prediction model that can forecast an individual’s risk for testing positive with COVID-19 and then simplified this tool while retaining exceptional accuracy for easy adoption,” said Lara Jehi, M.D., Chief Research Information Officer at Cleveland Clinic. “We are excited to make this tool available to the 250 million patients around the world who have a record in Epic. The ability to accurately predict which patients are likely to test positive will be paramount in effectively managing a patient’s care as well as allocating our resources.”

Analysis of Recent National Trends in Medicaid and CHIP Enrollment

This data note looks at national and state-by-state Medicaid and CHIP preliminary enrollment data through July 2020, as states were still in the early stages of experiencing the health and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. After declines in enrollment from 2017 through 2019, preliminary data show that total enrollment grew to 75.5 million in July, an increase of 4.3 million from actual enrollment February 2020 (6.1%), right before the pandemic and when enrollment began to steadily increase.

How RPA Can Help Get COVID-19 Vaccines to High-Risk Patients First

How RPA Can Help Get COVID-19 Vaccines to High-Risk Patients First
Ram Sathia, VP of Intelligent Automation at PK

While most of the public’s attention is focused on the horse race for an approved COVID-19 vaccine, another major hurdle lies just around the corner: the distribution of hundreds of millions of vaccine doses. In today’s highly complex and disconnected health data landscape, technologies like AI, Machine Learning, and robotic process automation (RPA) will be essential to making sure that the highest-risk patients receive the vaccine first.  


Why identifying at-risk patients is incredibly difficult 

Once a vaccine is approved, it will take months or years to produce and distribute enough doses for the U.S.’ 330 million residents. Hospital systems, primary care physicians (PCPs), and provider networks will inevitably need to prioritize administration to at-risk patients, potentially focusing on those with underlying conditions and comorbidities. That will require an unimaginable amount of work by healthcare employees to identify patient cohorts, understand each patient’s individual priority level, and communicate pre- and post-visit instructions. The volume of coordination required between healthcare systems and the pressing need to get the vaccine to high risks groups makes the situation uniquely different than other nationally distributed vaccinations, like the flu. 

One key challenge is that there’s no existing infrastructure to facilitate this process – all of the data necessary to do so is locked away in disparate information silos. Many states have legacy information systems or rely on fax for information sharing, which will substantially hamper efforts to identify at-risk patients. Consider, in contrast, the data available in the U.S. regarding earthquake risk– you can simply open up a federal geological map and see whether you’re in a seismic hazard zone. All the information is in one place and can be sorted through quickly, but that’s just not the case with our healthcare system due to its fragmentation as well as HIPAA and patient privacy laws. 

There are several multidimensional barriers that make it nearly impossible for healthcare workers employed by providers and state healthcare organizations to compile patient cohorts manually: 

– Providers will need to follow CDC guidelines on prioritization factors, which based on current guidelines for those with increased risk could potentially include specific conditions, ethnicities, age groups, pregnancy, geographies, living situations (such as multigenerational homes), and disabilities. Identifying patients with these factors will require intelligent analysis of patient profiles from existing electronic health record data (EHR) used by a multitude of providers. 

– Some hospital networks use multiple EHR and care management systems that have a limited ability to share and correlate data. These information silos will prevent providers from viewing all information about patient population health data. 

– Data on out-of-network care that could require prioritization, like an emergency room visit, is often locked away in payer data systems and is difficult to access by hospital systems and PCPs. That means payer data systems must be analyzed as well to effectively prioritize patients. 

– All information must be shared and analyzed in accordance with HIPAA laws, and the mountain of scheduling communications and pre- and post-visit guidance shared with patients must also follow federal guidelines.  

– Patients with certain conditions, like heart disease, may need additional procedures or tests (such as a blood pressure reading) before the vaccine can be administered safely. Guidelines for each patient must be identified and clearly communicated to their care team. 

– Providers may not have the capacity to distribute vaccines to all of their priority patients, so providers will need to coordinate care and potentially send patients to third-party sites like Walgreens, Costco, etc.

All of these factors create a situation in which it’s extremely difficult – and time-consuming – for healthcare workers to roll out the vaccine to at-risk patients at scale. If the entire process to analyze, identify, and administer the vaccine takes only two hours per patient in the U.S., that’s 660 million hours of healthcare workers’ time. A combination of analytics, AI, and machine learning could be a solution that’s leveraged by healthcare workers and chief medical officers in identifying the priority of patients supplemented with CDC norms.

How RPA can automate administration to high-risk patients 

Technology is uniquely poised to enable health workers to get vaccines into the hands of those who need them most far faster than would be possible using humans alone. Robotic process automation (RPA) in the form of artificial intelligence-powered digital health workers can substantially reduce the time spent prioritizing and communicating with at-risk patients. These digital health workers can intelligently analyze patient records and send communications 24 hours a day, reducing the time needed per patient from hours to minutes. 

Consider, a hypothetical situation in which the CDC prioritizes certain risk profiles, which would put patients with diabetes among those likely to receive the vaccine first. In this scenario, RPA offers significant benefits in the form of its ability to: 

Analyze EHR and population health data: 

Thousands of intelligent digital health workers could prepare patient data for analysis and then separate patients into different cohorts based on hemoglobin levels. These digital health workers could then intelligently review documents to cross-reference hemoglobin levels with other CDC prioritization factors (like recent emergency room admittance or additional pre-existing or chronic conditions ), COVID-19 testing and antibody tests data to identify those most at risk, then identify a local provider with appointment availability.

Automate patient engagement, communications and scheduling: 

After patients with diabetes are identified and prioritized, communications will be essential to quickly schedule those at most risk and prepare them for their appointments, including making them feel comfortable and informed. For example, digital health workers could communicate with diabetes patients about the protocol they should follow before and after their appointment – should they eat before the visit, what they should expect during their visit, and is it safe for them to return to work after. It’s also highly likely that widespread vaccine administration will require a far greater amount of information than with other health communications, given that one in three Americans say they would be unwilling to be vaccinated if a vaccine were available today. At scale, communications and scheduling will take potentially millions of hours in total, and all of that time takes healthcare employees away from actually providing care. 

While the timeline for approval of a COVID-19 vaccine is unclear, now is the time for hospitals to prepare their technology and operations for the rollout. By adopting RPA, state healthcare organizations and providers can set themselves up for success and ensure that the patients most critically in need of a vaccine receive it first.  


 About Ram Sathia

Ram Sathia is Vice President of Intelligent Automation at PK. Ram has nearly 20 years of experience helping clients condense time-to-market, improve quality, and drive efficiency through transformative RPA, AI, machine learning, DevOps, and automation.

FDA Extends RCA With COTA to Explore COVID’s Effect on Cancer

What You Should Know:

– The FDA just extended its research collaboration
agreement (RCA) with COTA, specifically looking at how COVID-19 is affecting
cancer.

– With this expanded agreement, COTA and the FDA will use real-world data to explore the impact of COVID-19 and the pandemic on cancer treatment, with the opportunity to expand into other oncology questions in the future.


COTA, Inc., a healthcare technology
company that uses real-world data to bring clarity to cancer care, today
announced it has extended its Research Collaboration Agreement (RCA) with the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for an additional three years. This
renewed RCA will expand on the objective to explore the applications of
real-world data in oncology, including the impact of COVID-19 and the
pandemic on cancer treatment. As the project advances, the research will
broaden to study other oncology care delivery questions.

Real-world data can provide critical insights into the
delivery of cancer treatment in the routine practice setting, as well as
potential long-term effects post-COVID-19 recovery. The expanded focus of this
RCA will enable the exploration of important research questions to help support
FDA’s understanding of how the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact patients
with cancer.

Why It Matters

With over 8 million cases of COVID-19 in the United States,
there is a significant need to understand the pandemic’s impact on oncology
care. Additionally, an increasing body
of research
 has shown that oncology patients may be particularly
susceptible to harm during this pandemic – both in contracting the
condition itself
 or experiencing care delays.

Cancer patients are particularly at risk of severe complications with COVID-19, and there is currently no understanding of how this can affect their oncology care or progression. Through real-world data, we can begin to understand if COVID-19 should be considered as comorbidity – particularly around clinical trial criteria.

COVID-19 Underscores Need for Identity Governance Administration

COVID-19 Underscores Need for Identity Governance Administration
Wes Wright, CTO at Imprivata

If you work in healthcare, chances are that the COVID-19 pandemic forced you to quickly scale up or move staff around to manage the onslaught of patients. The demand for clinicians and support staff grew alongside the spread of the virus, making organizations add clinicians or reassign employees with new or modified roles: Ambulatory nurses went down in the Emergency Department or Isolation Ward, revenue cycle folks started doing transport, and so on. In some cases, former staff or retired workers were called back to help with the surge. 

In the midst of these time-compressed changes, organizations remained rightly focused on their number one priority: patient care delivery. In the background, IT professionals were struggling to manage the slew of new digital identities while ensuring fast-access to new applications, workflows, and devices to accommodate remote work. Giving clinicians this access meant having to quickly provision and deprovision access during the staff ramp-up. Inevitably, access became a problem – whether to the systems or applications needed to do their jobs. In worst-case scenarios, organizations had to balance security and compliance with the delivery of healthcare services to patients. Security protocols were also compromised – a trade-off that should never have to happen. 


Pandemic Spotlights Needs for IGA
In response to the identity management challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare IT  organizations that had and Identity Governance Administration (IGA) systems came to the rescue.  Those that didn’t, well….. IGA systems provide a fast, reliable way to manage digital identities through provisioning, governance, risk and compliance, and de-provisioning for healthcare workers who need access to workstations and applications. This is even more so the case in a crisis environment. A recent study conducted by Forrester Consulting found that an automated system helps organizations manage, streamline, and secure transactions across hypercomplex ecosystems of healthcare users, locations, devices, and locations. What’s more, according to Forrester, automation also saves time and money and results in a higher quality patient experience. 

Fact is, even in the normal times, healthcare organizations rarely excel at tracking personnel moves, especially the adds and changes due to the time and system constraints often involved. That leads to what I call a “stacked shares” situation. These typically involve a person with decades of experience in your organization who has worked in multiple administrative or clinical areas within the organization and has access to about 80 percent of your network shares because she/he was never deprovisioned from ANY shares. In these instances, the network shares just kept getting “stacked,” one on top of the other. That’s probably exactly what happens during the COVID-19 pandemic as people move around to adapt to the ongoing crisis.

Another unexpected challenge created by the pandemic relates to furloughs. What is your healthcare organization doing with them? Are you disabling and then re-enabling accounts? Re-provisioning when/if they come back? What if they’ve come back but in a new role? Again, the “stacked shares” situation arises. You will likely regret it if your organization doesn’t have an automated IGA system to help you keep track of these movements through an integrated GRC system.


Moving to a Remote Workforce
COVID-19 forced many healthcare organizations to rapidly accommodate a remote workforce. Only a few departments worked remotely before the pandemic, so routers, network, architecting, and bandwidth all had to be upgraded. Most health systems also required additional licensing to successfully ramp up services. Above all, the priority was to prevent any serious disruptions for clinicians. 

Here again, health systems faced the challenge of balancing usability with security concerns. Tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams proved useful, but they created additional risks including diminished safety of our healthcare workers, cybersecurity intrusions, and hacks – like theft of PHI, ransomware, and more. IT staff had to ensure the security of both the devices and the platforms being used, which is also easily managed by solid IGA systems. 

In these cases, IGA systems analyze login data in real-time via Login Activity reports. They weave digital identity and access management, single-sign-on capabilities, and governance into workflows to strengthen security without compromising care delivery. This includes remote identity proofing to enable electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS), as well as ensure compliance with DEA regulations while avoiding in-person interactions. 

We will no doubt be living in a world of both in-person and remote healthcare for some time given the COVID-19 crisis. One lesson we already learned from the big experiment we just completed is that healthcare organizations benefit from having an IGA system in place to help balance their healthcare delivery, efficiency, and safety, as well as security and compliance. Implementing an IGA strategy no doubt makes it easy for clinicians to securely and seamlessly transition between workstations and applications and have their identity follow them.


About Wes Wright

Wes Wright is the Chief Technology Officer at Imprivata and has more than 20 years of experience with healthcare providers, IT leadership, and security. Prior to joining Imprivata, Wes was the CTO at Sutter Health, where he was responsible for technical services strategies and operational activities for the 26-hospital system. Wes has been the CIO at Seattle Children’s Hospital and has served as the Chief of Staff for a three-star general in the US Air Force.


Wide Variations in Flu Vaccination Rates Across States Highlight Challenges as State and Local Authorities Plan to Distribute a COVID-19 Vaccine

When a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, all or most people living in the country will need to get vaccinated in order to maximize its benefits and provide adequate immunity nationwide. That could present a daunting challenge for state and local health officials, as a new KFF analysis shows vaccination rates for the annual flu vaccineMore

Mammoth Lands 2 Major Partnerships to Use CRISPR to Solve COVID19 Testing Shortage, At Scale

Mammoth Lands 2 Partnerships to Use CRISPR to Solve COVID19 Testing Shortage

What You Should Know:

– Mammoth Biosciences signs agreements
with MilliporeSigma and Hamilton company targeting commercialization of high-throughput
CRISPR-based SARS CoV-2 Test.

– These partnerships will help Mammoth bring a turnkey CRISPR-based sample-to-answer solution for commercial laboratories to enable a multi-fold increase in a testing capacity.


Mammoth
Biosciences
, Inc., announced that it has signed agreements with
MilliporeSigma and Hamilton Company targeting commercialization of a
high-throughput CRISPR-based SARS CoV-2 test. The test leverages Mammoth’s DETECTR BOOST™ platform and
will provide a sample-to-answer turnkey solution for commercial laboratories to
enable a multi-fold increase in testing capacity. 

As laboratories nationwide face limited capacity and testing supply shortages amid the pandemic, Mammoth Biosciences is poised to help reduce the backlog by working with leading manufacturing and automation vendors for its CRISPR-based SARS-CoV-2 molecular assay. The high-throughput systems will be compatible with both nasal swab and saliva samples and are targeting 1500 tests per 8-hour shift with minimal user interaction. Mammoth Biosciences plans to submit the assay for FDA Emergency Use Authorization later this year.

“In order to begin reopening more aspects of society, we’ll need a robust testing infrastructure that can rapidly scale up capacity as needed,” said Trevor Martin, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of Mammoth Biosciences. “By combining CRISPR-based diagnostics with the proven manufacturing and product leadership of MilliporeSigma and Hamilton Company, we’re confident this solution will be a game-changer for labs.” 

Mammoth’s DETECTR BOOST™ SARS-CoV-2 assay reagent kits,
which will be contract manufactured by MilliporeSigma, rival PCR in sensitivity
while being less prone to supply chain risk. The testing system will also
leverage standard, automated liquid handling equipment such as those from
Hamilton Company to enable rapid processing of patient samples. By implementing
this unique offering, CLIA laboratories will be able to significantly improve
their capacity to regularly test communities and businesses in need. 

“This collaboration will allow us to help Mammoth with the development and production of their new SARS-CoV-2 test, which, once approved by the FDA, will increase testing capacity here in the U.S. at the scale needed to combat this pandemic,” said Jean-Charles Wirth, head of Applied Solutions at MilliporeSigma. “MilliporeSigma is helping to advance the future of testing at scale. This is an important step in detecting Covid-19 quickly.”

COVID-19 Hastens America’s Reckoning with Rural Healthcare

COVID-19 Hastens America’s Reckoning with Rural Healthcare
Source: Christian Heitz from Pexels

So long as we could say, “Healthcare is a business,” we could continue to avoid the moral and ethical choices from which such statements shield us.

But then COVID-19 came into the picture and the bottom dropped out of healthcare as a business. Hospitals and health systems are hemorrhaging money; the American Hospital Association estimates total losses will exceed $300 billion by the end of the year.

“The growing number of cases is threatening the very survival of hospitals just when the country needs them most,” writes Bloomberg News. “Hundreds were already in shaky circumstances before the virus remade the world, and the impact of caring for COVID-19 patients has put hundreds more in jeopardy.”

Nowhere are these dire illustrations of American healthcare during COVID more impactful than in the country’s rural areas, most of which struggled mightily even before there was a pandemic. Predominantly white small towns and unincorporated areas are where so-called diseases of despair—alcoholism, drug addiction, suicide—are at their worst. To say the closing of a hospital in these areas adds insult to injury dramatically undersells the devastation.

Since 2005, more than 170 rural hospitals have closed in America; 18 of those shut down in 2019 alone and 14 closed by mid-August of this year. When a rural hospital closes, it doesn’t just make lifesaving care more difficult to get, but it certainly does that. According to a University of Washington study, rural hospital closures drive up mortality rates in the surrounding community by about 6 percent. Comparable urban closures have no discernable impact on mortality.

Immediate access to the care a full-service hospital with specialists provides may have made the difference for Robert Finley. A resident of Fort Scott, Kansas, which lost Mercy Hospital in February 2019, Finley fell and hit his head shoveling snow and then went to sleep with what turned out to be a brain hemorrhage. During a week in the hospital, he never regained consciousness.

“When this kind of trauma happens, time matters,” explains Sarah Jane Tribble on Kaiser Health News’s Where It Hurts podcast. “It takes time for the medevac operator to find a pilot to come for Robert. The pilot then has to get there. Once he’s arrived, he still has to transport Robert to Kansas City.”

Hospital closures also blow a sizeable hole in the surrounding community. These facilities are often one of the largest employers. The hospital itself and employees—well-paid physicians among them—are a crucial part of the tax base. Satellite facilities like clinics and dialysis centers, not to mention other local businesses with which the hospital contracted, often disappear shortly after the hospital shuts down.

The challenges a hospital closure creates are often placed before people who can least afford yet another obstacle.

“By one estimate, socioeconomic factors account for 47 percent of health outcomes,” write George Holmes and Sharita Thomas in the AMA Journal of Ethics. “Poverty and inadequate transportation are two important social factors that make rural residents particularly vulnerable to a hospital closure. Rural residents experience higher rates of poverty than do urban residents and can live in communities of ‘persistent poverty,’ where the poverty rate is at least 20 percent over approximately 30 years.”

Holmes and Thomas, acknowledging that healthcare is a business, suggest that the ethical approach to closing a hospital is to engage the community as a partner throughout the process. Will emergency services still be provided after the hospital is gone? Can transportation challenges be mitigated? What will the closure do to the job base?

These and many other questions are valid. With COVID-19, however, there emerges another question that was less frequently discussed pre-pandemic: To what extent is a hospital a public good more than it is a business?

“Coronavirus is definitely a reminder that health care is, in fact, a public good,” says Dan Mendelson, founder of healthcare advisory consultancy Avalere Health. “We all have a vested interest in making sure that everybody around us is seeking appropriate medical care at the right time.”

That public good, Mendelson explains further, is not limited to the current COVID-19-fueled scenario. When people don’t have insurance or access to care, they tend to wait until their health gets much worse before seeking treatment, which guarantees either very expensive treatment or mortality. Regular exams enable early treatment, which gives clinicians the opportunity to manage illness more efficiently, effectively, and affordably.

Still, nothing illustrates the idea of healthcare as a public good quite so elegantly as a pandemic. And while many people initially thought COVID-19 would mercifully avoid adding to the struggles of rural Americans, it’s become clear that the virus does not discriminate based on geography.

The current scenario in rural America hastens the country’s reckoning with a fractured healthcare system that leaves too many sick or bankrupt or both. This day was always coming, after all.

What’s necessary to ensure the availability of care in America’s rural areas is the resolve to ensure it exists. Calling it a public good may help sell it, but ultimately what it’s called matters less than that it’s there. In many ways, the fate of rural hospitals is a test of America’s commitment to rural life as more than an exercise in economic viability. Certainly, the food produced in rural areas is a public good we’re willing to subsidize. Is not healthcare also?

The good news is that many of the ideas bandied about as solutions for the broader healthcare crisis will lift up both urban and rural hospitals and providers.

As former National Coordinator for HIT David Blumenthal and others write in a recent New England Journal of Medicine article, capitation is one payment approach that may help chronically underfunded facilities improve financial viability.

Beyond creative payment schemes, resolve manifests as public policy.

“If reduced prepayments nevertheless threaten the availability of critical services, additional public policies may be necessary to subsidize providers whose losses might jeopardize the health of communities,” Blumenthal, et al, write.

If what matters in economics is the numbers, what will ultimately matter in moving away from a predominantly economic approach to healthcare is also the numbers, but in terms of casualties. The economic approach couldn’t keep tens of thousands from dying of COVID-19 in hospital-rich urban areas, so it’s a bad argument for letting the rural poor expire because the local hospital can’t break even.


Irv Lichtenwald is president and CEO of  Medsphere Systems Corporation, the solution provider for the CareVue electronic health record.

CVS Health Adds 1,000 COVID-19 Rapid-Result Testing at Retail Pharmacy Locations

CVS Health Adds 1,000 COVID-19 Rapid-Result Testing at Retail Pharmacy Locations

What You Should Know:

– CVS Health announced plans to expand COVID-19 testing
services by offering rapid-result testing at select CVS Pharmacy locations and
through the company’s return to work COVID-19 testing solution, Return Ready.

– Rapid-result tests can help to slow the spread of the virus, especially when combined with other preventive measures including social distancing and “mask-wearing” because it provides patients with the opportunity for a quick diagnosis, appropriate treatment, and care which can help minimize community spread.


As part of CVS Health’s
ongoing effort to increase access to COVID-19 testing
and help slow the spread of the virus, the company today announced plans to
expand COVID-19 testing services currently offered at select CVS Pharmacy
locations to include rapid-result testing at nearly 1,000 sites by the end of
the year.

Rapid-result COVID-19 diagnostic tests are available at no cost to patients who meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria. In addition, rapid-result tests may also be available as a testing option for eligible employees or students affiliated with an organization that has adopted CVS Health’s Return Ready™ return-to-work COVID-19 testing solution.

“Access to rapid-result tests enables us to help minimize community spread of COVID-19 by being able to more quickly identify active COVID-19 infection,” said David Fairchild, MD, Chief Medical Officer, MinuteClinic. “In addition, we can test and treat symptomatic patients who test negative for COVID-19 for seasonal illnesses such as flu or strep and provide appropriate treatment and care.”

How It Works

Patients must register in advance at
CVS.com
to schedule an appointment. Testing is also available for patients
ages 12 to 17; a parent or legal guardian must complete the online registration
and must accompany minors ages 15 and younger for testing.

When arriving for testing, patients are asked to follow
signage or the instructions of the staff onsite. Procedures vary by location
and patients may be directed to stay in their vehicle and proceed to a
designated testing structure located in the parking lot or, in very limited
locations, to enter a CVS store through a doorway specifically allocated for
this purpose.

Patients will be provided with a test kit, given
instructions, and a CVS Health team member will observe the self-swab process.
Patients will be directed to wait outside the store in their vehicle for
results. The process, from the collection of the swab to the delivery of the
results, will generally take approximately 30 minutes.

Patients who access rapid-result testing and receive a
negative COVID-19 result will have the opportunity to schedule an appointment
at the on-site MinuteClinic for further assessment and to determine if a rapid-result
test for flu and strep would be appropriate. The MinuteClinic provider will
then be able to provide counsel on a treatment plan and prescribe medications
if clinically appropriate.


Availability

Nearly 100 of the planned rapid-result test sites will be
operational at select CVS Pharmacy locations in 22 states as of this
week. States include Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia,
Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota,
Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode
Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. Patients seeking a COVID-19 test
at CVS Pharmacy can find a complete list of locations and options
offered here.


The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Taken a Higher Toll on Nursing Homes with Relatively High Shares of Black or Hispanic Residents

Nursing homes with a relatively high share of Black or Hispanic residents are more likely to have had a resident die of COVID-19 than homes with lower shares of such residents, finds a new KFF analysis. Nationwide, 63 percent of nursing homes with a relatively high share of Black residents reported one or more COVID-19More

Racial and Ethnic Disparities in COVID-19 Cases and Deaths in Nursing Homes

This data note presents national data that shows that nursing homes with a high share of Black or Hispanic residents were more likely to have at least one coronavirus case, at least one COVID-19 death, and (among facilities with cases) more severe case outbreaks than facilities with a low share of Black or Hispanic residents. This piece also includes state-level data from 21 states where a sufficient sample of facilities with a high share of Black or Hispanic residents was available.

WHO, Wikipedia Expands Public Access to Trusted Info About COVID-19

WHO, Wikipedia Expands Public Access to Trusted Info About COVID-19

What You Should Know:

– The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Wikimedia
Foundation forms collaboration to expand public access to reliable, trusted information
about COVID-19.

– The collaboration is part of a shared commitment from
both organizations to ensure everyone has access to critical public health
information surrounding the global coronavirus pandemic.


The World Health Organization
(WHO)
and the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that administers
Wikipedia, announced today a collaboration to expand the public’s access to the
latest and most reliable information about COVID-19. The
collaboration will make trusted, public health information available
under the
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike
 license at a time when
countries face continuing resurgences of COVID-19 and
social stability increasingly depends on the public’s shared understanding of
the facts. 

Through the collaboration, people everywhere will be able to
access and share WHO infographics, videos, and other public health assets
on Wikimedia
Commons
, a digital library of free images and other multimedia. With
these new freely-licensed resources, Wikipedia’s more than 250,000 volunteer
editors can also build on and expand the site’s COVID-19 coverage,
which currently offers more than 5,200 coronavirus-related articles in 175
languages. This WHO content will also be translated across national and
regional languages through Wikipedia’s vast network of global volunteers.


Why It Matters

By making verified information about the pandemic available
to more people on one of the world’s most-visited knowledge resources, the
organizations aim to help curb this infodemic and ensure everyone can access
critical public health information.

“Access to information is essential to healthy communities and should be treated as such,” said Katherine Maher, CEO at the Wikimedia Foundation. “This becomes even more clear in times of global health crises when information can have life-changing consequences. All institutions, from governments to international health agencies, scientific bodies to Wikipedia, must do our part to ensure everyone has equitable and trusted access to knowledge about public health, regardless of where you live or the language you speak.”


Rural Hospital Execs Can Beat COVID-19 By Shifting From Reactive to Proactive Care

The COVID-19 virus is ravaging the planet at a scale not seen since the infamous Spanish Flu of the early 1900s, inflicting immense devastation as the U.S. loses more than 200,000 lives and counting. According to CDC statistics, 94% of patient mortalities associated with COVID-19 were simultaneously suffering from preexisting conditions, leaving a mere 6% of victims with COVID-19 as their sole cause of death. However, while immediate prospects for a mass vaccine might not be until 2021, there is some hope among rural hospital health information technology consultants where the pandemic has hit the hardest. 

The fact that four in ten U.S. adults have two or more chronic conditions indicates that our most vulnerable members of the population are also the ones at the greatest risk of succumbing to the pandemic. From consultants laboring alongside healthcare administrators and providers, all must pay close attention to patients harboring 1 of 13 chronic conditions believed to play major roles in COVID-19 mortality, particularly chronic kidney disease, hypertension, diabetes, and COPD.

Vulnerable rural populations must be supervised due to their unique challenges. The CDC indicates 80% of older adults in remote regions have at least one chronic disease with 77% having at least two chronic diseases, significantly increasing COVID-19 mortality rates compared to their urban counterparts.

Health behaviors also play a role in rural patients who have decreased access to healthy food and physical activity while simultaneously suffering high incidences of smoking. These lifestyle choices compound with one another, leading to increased obesity, hypertension, and many other chronic illnesses. Overall, rural patients that fall ill to COVID-19 are more likely to suffer worsened prognosis compared to urban hubs, a problem only bolstered by their inability to properly access healthcare. 

Virus Helping Push New Technologies

COVID-19 has shown the cracks in the U.S. healthcare technology system that must be addressed for the future. As the pandemic unfolds, it’s worth noting that not all lasting effects will be negative. Just as the adoption of the Affordable Care Act a decade ago spurred healthcare organizations to digitize their records, the COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating overdue technological shifts crucial to providing better care.

Perhaps the most prominent change has been the widespread adoption of telehealth services and technologies that connect patients with both urgent and preventive care without their having to leave home. Perhaps the most prominent change has been the widespread adoption of telehealth services and technologies that use video to connect patients with both urgent and preventive care without their having to leave home.

Even if COVID-19 were to fade away on its own, the next pandemic may not. Furthermore, seasonal influenza serves as a reminder that healthcare is not a skirmish, but a prolonged war against disease. Rather than doom future generations to suffer the same plight our generation has with the pandemic, now is the time to develop innovative IT strategies that focus on protecting our most vulnerable citizens by leveraging existing healthcare initiatives to focus on proactive responses instead of reactive responses.

On the Right Road

While some of the most vulnerable people are the elderly, rural residents, and the poor, the good news for them is that CMS has long advocated the use of preventive care initiatives such as Chronic Care Management (CCM) and Remote Physiologic Monitoring (RPM) to track these geriatric patients. To encourage innovation in this sector, CMS preventive care initiatives provide generous financial incentives to healthcare providers willing to shift from conventional reactive care strategies to a more proactive approach focused on prevention and protection. This should attract rural hospital CEOs who have been struggling even more than usual because of the virus.

These factors led to the creation of numerous patient CCM programs, allowing healthcare executives and providers to remotely track the health status of geriatric patients suffering from numerous chronic conditions. The tracking is at a rate and scope unseen previously through the use of electronic media. Interestingly enough, the patients already being monitored by CCM programs overlap heavily with populations susceptible to COVID-19. To adapt existing infrastructure for the COVID-19 pandemic is a relatively simple task for hospital CIOs. 

As noted earlier, one growing CCM program that could be retrofitted to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic are the use of telehealth services in rural locations. Prior to the pandemic, telehealth services were one of the many strategies advocated by the CDC to address the overtaxed healthcare systems found in rural locations. 

Better Access, Funding and User Experience for Telehealth

Today, telehealth is about creating digital touchpoints when no other contact is possible or safe. It offers the potential to expand care to people in remote areas who might have limited or nonexistent access, and it could let other health workers handle patient screening and post-care follow-up when a local facility is overwhelmed. As a study published last year in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine affirms, virtual care can cut the cost of healthcare delivery and relieve strain on busy clinicians.

Telehealth has also gotten a boost from the $2 trillion CARES Act stimulus fund, which provides $130 billion to healthcare organizations fighting the pandemic. The effort also makes it easier for providers to bill for remote services.

The reason for the CDC and hospital administrators’ interest in telehealth was that telehealth meetings could outright remove the need for patients to travel and allow healthcare providers to monitor patients at a fraction of the time. By simply coupling existing telehealth services with CMS preventive care initiatives focused on COVID-19, rural healthcare providers could detect early warning signs of COVID-19. 

Integration Key to Preemptive Detection

This integration at a faster and far greater scale could mean much greater preemptive virus detection through routine telehealth meetings. The effect of telehealth would be twofold on hospitals serving rural and urban health communities. It could slow the spread of COVID-19 to a crawl due to decreased patient travel and improved patient prognosis through early and intensive treatment for vulnerable populations with two or more chronic health conditions.

This integrated combination would shift standard reactive care to patient infections to a new monitoring methodology that proactively seeks out infected patients and rapidly administers treatment to those most at risk of mortality. This new combination of preventive care and telehealth services would not only improve patient and community health but would relieve the financial burden incurred from the pandemic due to the existing CMS initiatives subsidizing such undertakings.

In conclusion, preventative care targeting patients with pre-conditions in rural locations are severely lacking in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. By leveraging CMS preventive care initiatives along with telehealth services, healthcare providers can achieve the following core objectives.

First, there are financial incentives with preventive care services that will relieve the burden on healthcare systems. Second, COVID-19 vulnerable populations will receive the attention and focus from healthcare providers that they deserve to slow the spread through the use of early detection systems and alerts to their primary health provider. Third, by combining with telehealth service, healthcare providers can efficiently and effectively reach out to rural populations that were once inaccessible to standard healthcare practices.

Analysis: COVID-19 Ranks as a Top 3 Leading Cause of Death in the U.S., Higher than in Almost All Other Peer Countries

A new KFF analysis examines leading causes of death and mortality rates in the United States and comparable countries. The U.S. has a higher COVID-19 mortality rate than many of its peer countries, with COVID-19 ranking as the nation’s third-leading cause of death in 2020, behind only heart disease and cancer. Among similarly large andMore

The Pandemic’s Effect on the Widening Gap in Mortality Rate between the U.S. and Peer Countries

A new KFF brief looks at where COVID-19 falls as a leading cause of death in the U.S. compared to similarly large and wealthy countries. The analysis finds that COVID-19 mortality rates are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., a ranking shared by only one peer country, Belgium. In several other peerMore

Health Policy Resources for Covering the 2020 Elections

As the 2020 Election Day approaches, many candidates continue to focus on health care issues, including on the public health and economic response to COVID-19, the future of the Affordable Care Act, health care costs and abortion. To help reporters understand and cover these issues, KFF offers independent, non-partisan policy analysis, polling and other research andMore

Impact of COVID-19: 2020 State of Healthcare Performance Improvement Report

Impact of COVID-19: 2020 State of Healthcare Performance Improvement Report

What You Should Know:

– Nearly three-quarters of hospital leaders are either
moderately (52%) or extremely (22%) concerned about the financial viability of
their organizations without an effective treatment or vaccine for COVID-19,
according to a new report from Kaufman Hall entitled, “2020 State of Healthcare
Performance Improvement Report: The Impact of COVID-19”

– One-third of respondents saw operating margin declines
in excess of 100% in the second quarter of 2020 compared with the same period
of 2019.

– This year’s report findings were based on 64 responses
to a survey that Kaufman Hall fielded in August 2020.


Nearly three-quarters
of hospital leaders are either moderately (52%) or extremely (22%) concerned
about the financial viability of their organizations without an effective
treatment or vaccine for COVID-19, according to a new report from Kaufman Hall. One-third of respondents
(33%) saw operating margin declines in excess of 100% in the second quarter of
2020 compared with the same period of 2019.

2020 State of Healthcare Performance Improvement Report: The
Impact of COVID-19
” is Kaufman Hall’s fourth annual survey of hospitals
and health systems on their performance improvement and cost transformation
efforts.

“The challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have
affected nearly every aspect of hospital financial and clinical
operations,” said Lance Robinson, managing director, Kaufman Hall. “Organizations have
responded to the challenge by adjusting their operations and strengthening
important community relationships.”

Key findings from this
year’s report include the following:

Financial viabilityApproximately three fourths of survey respondents are either extremely (22%) or moderately (52%) concerned about the financial viability of their organization in the absence of an effective vaccine or treatment.

Operating margins. One-third of our respondents saw year-over-year operating margin declines in excess of 100% from Q2 2019 to Q2 2020.

Volumes. Volumes in most service areas are recovering slowly. In only one area—oncology—have a majority of our respondents seen volumes return to more than 90% of pre-pandemic levels.

Expenses. A majority of survey respondents have seen their greatest percentage expense increase in the costs of supplying personal protective equipment. Nursing staff labor is in second place, cited by 34% of respondents as their most significant area of expense increase.

Healthcare workforce. Three-fourths of survey respondents have increased monitoring and resources to address staff burnout and mental health concerns.

Telehealth. More than half of our respondents have seen the number of telehealth visits at their organization increase by more than 100% since the pandemic began. Payment disparities between telehealth and in-person visits are seen as the greatest obstacle to more widespread adoption of telehealth.

Competition. Approximately one-third of survey respondents believe the pandemic has affected competitive dynamics in their market by making consumers more likely to seek care at retail-based clinics.

To download a copy of the report, click on the download
now button below

2021 Premium Changes on ACA Exchanges and the Impact of COVID-19 on Rates

A look at preliminary marketplace rate filings reveals many premium changes for 2021 are moderate thus far, with increases or decreases of a few percentage points. However, most insurers have not yet incorporated the rate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in their rate changes for 2021, so many of these proposed rates are likely to change.

Consumers Cite Trump as Leading Driver of COVID-19 Vaccine Skepticism

Consumers Cite President Trump as Key Driver of Skepticism of COVID-19 Vaccine

What You Should Know:

– 65% of patients say they will wait to receive the
forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine even if it becomes available before the end,
according to a new Medisafe survey.

– Consumers cited greater trust in Dr. Anthony Fauci and established protocols as a leading factor in determining whether to take the vaccine, and listed President Trump as the leading detractor in driving COVID-19 vaccine skepticism and hesitancy in its effectiveness.


Real-world results show users prefer to wait on COVID-19 vaccine dose, refer to a physician for guidance on timing, according to a new survey from Medisafe, a digital therapeutics platform that supports users with advanced medication management. The survey reveals sixty-five percent of patients say they will wait to receive the forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine even if it becomes available before the end of 2020. The majority of survey participants cited uncertainty in its overall effectiveness and potential side-effects from the vaccine as top reasons for the delay.


Report Background

The survey, conducted from Sept. 27 – Oct. 2, 2020, included more than 16,000 U.S. patients who use Medisafe’s digital therapeutics platform to regularly manage their medication therapy. This new survey is the latest in a series of reports conducted by Medisafe on users’ viewpoints and insights in adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, measuring elements such as changes in medication habits, virtual doctor visits, increased use of digital health tools, and trust in pharmaceutical companies. The company is a leading digital therapeutic platform with more than seven million users who utilize the system to help manage their medication therapy, stay engaged on their medication therapy, and engage with other users to create a virtual support system in living healthier lives while managing acute and chronic conditions.


COVID-19 Vaccine & Patients

Sixty percent of respondents say they don’t expect a COVID-19 vaccine to be available before the end of 2020. While 21% said they would receive the vaccine as soon as it becomes available, 11% of respondents said they would never take the vaccine. Forty-nine percent believe the COVID-19 vaccine is being rushed to market, side-stepping normal regulations and testing, creating additional concern and hesitancy to become vaccinated. Many respondents also cited confusion over the handling of the pandemic in the U.S. as a primary reason to resist taking the vaccine.


Political Uncertainty Drives Mistrust of COVID-19 Vaccine

In open-ended responses, users cited greater trust in Dr. Anthony Fauci and established protocols as a leading factor in determining whether to take the vaccine and listed President Trump as the leading detractor in driving skepticism and hesitancy in its effectiveness. Survey participants prefer to obtain recommendations from their own physicians to determine if the vaccine is suitable for them and their families, and when it’s appropriate to take the vaccine.

“Despite the apolitical nature of the survey, the open-ended responses and results clearly show that users feel many issues surrounding the vaccine have been politicized, created additional challenges in driving utilization of the vaccine once it becomes available,” said Medisafe Chief Marketing Officer Jennifer Butler.  “This survey provides greater visibility into users’ concerns with taking the vaccine and its potential interaction with chronic conditions and medication therapy, creating opportunities to build awareness and support throughout their journey. Medisafe aims to help manufacturers in creating personalized guidance in formats that are beneficial and accessible to patients, whenever any new challenges arise.”


Imprivata Launches Touchless Palm Vein Scanner to Address Patient Safety Concerns from COVID-19

Imprivata Launches Touchless Palm Vein Scanner to Address Patient Safety Concerns from COVID-19

What You Should Know:

– Imprivata launches a new palm vein scanner solution: Imprivata PatientSecure to power touchless biometric patient identification for healthcare.

– The next generation palm scanner, developed in
collaboration with Keyo, will help healthcare organizations solve the challenge
of patient ID amidst the COVID-19 pandemic by eliminating the need to touch any
surfaces. (It’s also a core component of the Imprivata digital identity
framework for healthcare, which provides a unified, security strategy for
managing identities across devices and locations.)


Imprivata, the digital identity company for healthcare, has unveiled its next-generation touchless biometric patient identification solution, delivered through a combination of a next-generation palm scanner with an antimicrobial copper coating, sensor, and software. The touchless solution is the result of a collaboration between Imprivata and Keyo, whose joint expertise in biometric identification, rapid innovation, and user-centric design produced this latest advancement in digital identity management for patients. The solution enables healthcare organizations to ensure clinicians have access to patients’ correct medical records while giving patients confidence in the safety of their medical care and the security of their medical information.

PatientSecure Palm Vein Scanner for Touchless Biometric
Patient identification

Imprivata PatientSecure helps solve the challenges
of patient identity for the nation’s largest and most complex healthcare
organizations by combining the best of modern patient matching technologies –
namely biometric and referential matching – to securely and accurately match
patients to their medical records using a process of in-person identity
proofing, advanced record resolution, and authentication. Imprivata PatientSecure
is a core component of the Imprivata digital
identity framework for healthcare
, a unified, security- and efficiency-focused strategy for managing
identities across the complex healthcare ecosystem. 

Why Palm Vein Biometrics?

Palm vein biometrics are less intrusive than other biometric
technologies and among the most accurate. With touchless authentication,
patient risk of infection is also reduced. Palm vein scanning can be used in
any workflow but is the only biometric that can be used for non-responsive
patient identification. The solution can also be taken mobile on WOWs and
tablets for bedside registration and other points of care. 

In addition to being touchless, the scanner features an
antimicrobial copper coating, which kills 99.9% of bacteria*. So, aside from
routine hygiene practices, such as hand washing and disinfecting, copper adds
another layer of hygiene to surfaces by continuously killing harmful bacteria
and microbes. In addition, the scanners are easy to clean, fast, and intuitive
to use.

Why It Matters

With the outbreak of COVID-19, both patients and provider organizations experienced heightened awareness and concern about the risk of transmission from frequently touched surfaces. Working together, Imprivata and Keyo addressed this challenge head-on, to bring the next generation of advanced biometric identity technology to healthcare institutions. By elevating Imprivata PatientSecure to a touchless solution, Imprivata ensures positive patient identification while limiting risks of transmission.       

– With its touchless patient identification solution, Imprivata PatientSecure helps healthcare organizations achieve the following goals:

– Improve patient safety and reduce medical errors;

– Enhance patient experience and streamline workflows with touchless authentication;

– Protect against fraud and eliminate duplicate and overlaid medical records; and 

– Reduce medical claim denials and improve financial outcomes.

“Patients are expecting a safe and streamlined experience as they return to physical locations for medical care amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Sean Kelly, Chief Medical Officer at Imprivata. “We’re pleased to help our customers meet those expectations with the touchless biometric identification, improved patient matching, and workflow optimization offered with the latest version of Imprivata PatientSecure.”

Analysis of Recent National Trends in Medicaid and CHIP Enrollment

This data note looks at national and state-by-state Medicaid and CHIP preliminary enrollment data through June 2020, as states were still in the early stages of experiencing the health and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. After declines in enrollment from 2017 through 2019, preliminary data show that total enrollment grew to 74.6 million in June, an increase of 3.4 million from actual enrollment February 2020 (4.8%), right before the pandemic and when enrollment began to steadily increase.

GYANT Develops First-to-Market COVID-19 Vaccine Care Navigation Tool

GYANT Develops First-to-Market COVID-19 Vaccine Care Navigation Tool

What You Should Know:

– AI-driven virtual care company, GYANT, has announced its first-to-market COVID-19 vaccine care navigation tool to help health systems anticipate novel patient needs.

– GYANT Vaccine deploys as a white-labeled virtual
assistant on provider websites, mobile apps, and patient portals, managing the
patient journey from initial inquiry to post-visit follow up.


GYANT, the AI-powered
virtual assistant company, today announced its first-to-market vaccine care
navigation tool, GYANT Vaccine,
anticipating impending health system strain following emergency use
authorization of a COVID-19
vaccine. The solution offers support for each step of the patient journey, from
initial inquiry to post-vaccination follow-up.

GYANT Vaccine builds on the company’s successful COVID-19
SERA technology, which rapidly helped 25 payer and health system customers and
half a million patients screen and triage symptoms to access testing and care.
With the addition of Vaccine, GYANT’s AI-powered virtual assistant platform now
even more effectively connects the dots across patients’ digital journeys with
the existing Front Door (care navigation and triage), Engage (patient outreach)
and Clipboard (automated chart population) modules.


Is Your Health System Prepared for the Vaccine?

GYANT Develops First-to-Market COVID-19 Vaccine Care Navigation Tool

Anticipating the tsunami of inbound patient inquiries,
overwhelmed call centers, appointment scheduling demands, and eligibility
screening requests as the vaccine becomes available, GYANT Vaccine will
virtually guide patients through the entire pre- and post-vaccination process

GYANT Vaccine deploys as a white-labeled virtual assistant
on provider websites, mobile apps, and patient portals, managing the patient
journey from initial inquiry to post-visit follow up. GYANT Vaccine is
available 24/7, to relieve the burden of administrative staff, simplify the
research and appointment scheduling for consumers, and keep patients safe.

By empowering patients to learn about processes and options,
screen and assess prioritization, book appointments, and stay in touch with
their providers to schedule additional doses and monitor for side effects,
GYANT Vaccine adapts to each provider’s changing requirements over the course
of the vaccine roll-out.

“Navigating the deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine will be the single biggest challenge healthcare systems face in 2021,” said Stefan Behrens, co-founder and chief executive officer, GYANT. “With our help, customers are poised to effectively anticipate and manage the vaccine’s deployment whenever it is approved, and play a role in controlled widespread adoption as we seek to overcome this crisis.”

Availability

GYANT Vaccine has already generated overwhelming interest in
the market with five health systems signed on to deploy the tool following
emergency use authorization of a vaccine.

Were We Mentally Ready for COVID-19? Why It’s Time to Take Behavioral Health Seriously

Were We Mentally Ready for COVID-19? Why It’s Time to Take Behavioral Health Seriously
Dr. Jacob Lazarovic M.D., IMCS Group

As you read this, over 200,000 American deaths have been attributed to the virus. The influx of cases continues, while state and local economies are experiencing hardship, children are shuttered in their homes learning remotely, grown children are moving back home and the “new normal” disrupts nearly all of life’s plans. 

Yet, these issues don’t reveal all the traumas that Americans are experiencing 10 months into the pandemic. The pandemic’s impact continues to be swift and brutal, showing little sign of slowing down. Loneliness and isolation are gripping many American adults, as the nation settles in for a long fall/winter.

Growing evidence supports the notion that this virus is spread through aerosols, that is, person-to-person transmission by means of inhalation of infectious particles. With the onset of colder weather and the approaching holiday season, conditions are rife for spreading the virus. Flu season is imminent and COVID-19 cases are increasing.

While the safest choice is to isolate until the widespread availability of a vaccine arrives (within the next 6-12 months), this is an unwelcome option for some already suffering from “pandemic fatigue” and not really an option at all for others (like those who work outside the home).

Either way, America’s mental health is at risk. According to the CDC, reports of mental health conditions (anxiety, trauma, substance abuse, suicide) have considerably increased during the pandemic with more than 40% of American adults reporting mental health struggles. Frontline healthcare workers are particularly affected, and over 71% have experienced psychiatric symptoms, including depression, anxiety, insomnia, and distress. Even run-of-the-mill loneliness and isolation contribute to substance misuse and disorders, which, by the way, contribute to an increased risk for COVID-19.


Key Ways Mental Health Providers Can Help  

Because mental health threats are now part and parcel of living amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to routinely gauge the health of those close to you, (and this is paramount for those recovering from COVID-19, frontline workers, and first responders.) Consider consulting a mental health provider if you notice any of these characteristics in yourself or someone you know:

– Displaying frequent, uncharacteristic anger, anxiety, irritation; 

– Withdrawing from friends and family;

– Ignoring personal hygiene;

– Engaging in high-risk activities, such as heavy drinking, illicit drug use, or self-destructive behavior;

– Exhibiting feelings of overwhelming sadness, hopelessness, grief, or worthlessness 

Nearly every American is impacted mentally, financially, and emotionally by the pandemic, and even the fortunate few who aren’t already personally affected are feeling the stress of an uncertain future. Mental health providers aim to improve coping skills, relationships, and self-care regimens to reduce anxiety, depression, or other mental illness. From generalized anxiety to neuropsychology related to recovery from COVID-19, behavioral health specialists are equipped to help in a myriad of ways such as these: 

1. Building resilience by introducing coping and stress tolerance activities, such as mindfulness and meditation, or a simple shift in perspective 

2. Shoring up social connections and relationships to serve as a layer of protection and diffusion from life stress

3. Ensuring self-care activities, such as adequate sleep, diet, exercise, and more to sustain mood and self-esteem

4. Delivering grief and loss counseling for those who have suffered acute human losses during the crisis

5. Counseling for substance abuse and addiction

6. Initiating a short intervention using cognitive behavioral therapy techniques

Those with pre-existing mental health issues, including depression, PTSD, social anxiety, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety and major depression, may benefit from an increased intensity in treatment, by frequency or duration.

For survivors of COVID-19 who have had significant cardiac and respiratory complications including prolonged periods of dyspnea (shortness of breath), hypoxemia (decreased blood oxygen levels), and hypoxia (decreased oxygenation of organs), neurocognitive screening and ongoing monitoring of mental status will be helpful.


Advances in Telemedicine 

Recent advances in computer-administered neurocognitive testing have allowed

clinicians to administer psychological and neurocognitive assessment instruments by telemedicine, and there are now many more neurocognitive assessment batteries available to aid in the detection and quantification of neuropsychological functional deficits.

Historically, psychologists, psychiatrists, and L.C.S.W.s have not done virtual sessions with patients, but COVID is changing that, and increasingly insurers are receptive to this practice. The technology, capability, and compliance aspects of virtual appointments were available prior to 2020, but COVID has brought “distance meeting” into the American vernacular. Medical doctors now treat patients via telehealth in numerous instances, and mental health patients can be treated using similar meeting applications.

Telebehavioral health could not be more timely. In the fight against isolation, virtual technology allows human beings to check on one another and meaningfully connect, at the same time allowing people seeking mental health services to receive treatment safely without risking infection from a devastating disease.  

Even as the pandemic presents a common threat like none other we have faced in recent years, it also offers us the opportunity to reach out and check on one another. Everyone is affected in some way by COVID-19, be it the disease itself or simply disruption to our routines and mass anxiety. It’s definitely time to take mental health seriously. Our technology ensures that we do not have to be alone in isolation, and relief may be just a call away. Through mutual understanding and effort, we can focus on the unifying experience of overcoming this crisis.


About Dr. Lazarovic

Dr. Lazarovic, M.D., F.A.A.F.P., has nearly 40 years of medical administration/managed care experience, including 18 years as Chief Medical Officer at Broadspire/CRAWFORD, a global third-party administrator of workers’ compensation, disability, auto and medical product liability claims. Experienced in clinical guidelines, medical cost control and strategic planning, Dr. Lazarovic has conducted and published original research and analytics and presented at multiple industry conferences. Dr. Lazarovic is currently the CMO responsible for the development of advanced, evidence-based clinical applications at MyAbilities Technologies, a medical software and services company in the workers’ compensation and disability sector.  


Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payments for COVID-19 Revenue Loss: More Time to Repay

This brief provides an overview and status update of the Medicare accelerated and advance payment program, which provided $100 billion in loans to Medicare providers in the spring of 2020 to compensate for revenue shortfalls due to the coronavirus pandemic. The brief describes who got the funds, and how these loans are distinct from other funds that providers received, which do not have to be repaid.

Average Family Premiums Rose 4% to $21,342 in 2020, Benchmark KFF Employer Health Benefit Survey Finds

San Francisco – Annual family premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose 4% to average $21,342 this year, according to the 2020 benchmark KFF Employer Health Benefits Survey. On average, workers this year are contributing $5,588 toward the cost of family coverage, with employers paying the rest. The survey was conducted from January to July asMore

Health Care and the 2020 Presidential Election

This side-by-side comparison examines President Trump’s record and former Vice President Biden’s positions across a wide range of key health issues, including the response to the pandemic, the Affordable Care Act marketplace, Medicaid, Medicare, drug prices, reproductive health, mental health and opioids, immigration and health coverage, and health care costs.

Getting Beyond the Telehealth ‘Stop-Gap’ Mentality

Getting Beyond the Telehealth's ‘Stop-Gap’ Mentality
Roland Therriault, President, InSync Healthcare Solutions

Since COVID-19 emerged as a major health threat, virtual care has taken off. As many as 46% of patients reported in late April that they had used telehealth to replace a canceled healthcare visit in 2020, while 48% of physicians said they had started using telehealth to treat patients.  

While a shift in care models was necessary to address business continuity amid the pandemic, these trends also represent positive movements as a growing body of evidence supports the real-life benefits of telehealth. Remote models of care are connected to safe and effective consultations across many use cases, low exposure to viruses, and much-needed access to care.  

Yet the fact that physician adoption isn’t higher suggests two things:

1) Physicians may be taking a ‘wait and see’ approach in the hopes that patients will want to return to in-person care as economies reopen; or

2) Some physicians haven’t yet figured out their long-term telehealth strategy. In truth, many providers are treating telehealth as a “stop-gap” — or temporary — solution until life returns to normal.

But given the increasingly positive data around telehealth as a safe alternative to in-person care, as well as its track record in successfully treating patients, it’s time for providers to reframe their thinking. In the future, practices will need a healthcare strategy that balances virtual with in-person care.

Rethinking Telehealth 

As recently as ten years ago, telehealth reimbursement was largely limited to patients in rural areas, as payers didn’t yet see the value of compensating doctors for virtual encounters. 

Today, most payers and providers recognize the value of telehealth on some level amid rising demand for services and severe professional shortages. In particular, remote care models have proven their worth during the pandemic as an effective means of preventing the spread of disease. Greater acceptance of telehealth is further demonstrated by the recent decision to relax HIPAA requirements by HHS’ Office of Civil Rights (OCR), allowing more providers and patients to virtually connect through FaceTime, Zoom, or other two-way communications systems during the current pandemic. 

This is an important first step, although many providers remain resistant to change for a variety of valid reasons. Some of these include discomfort with remote care models, reimbursement concerns, and the cost of deploying telehealth. 

Performing medicine in a way that doesn’t align with one’s training feels unnatural, and some providers have said that virtual encounters feel less personal. The fact is that most clinicians weren’t trained to diagnose patients remotely or engage over a screen and are simply hesitant to embrace this approach to care.

Also, providers may have trepidation about not getting paid. While CMS and private payers have expanded coverage, multiple healthcare providers have reported that bills are being delayed or only partially paid by health plans. 

With limited insight into the potential return on that investment, concerns over the cost of implementing telehealth are also reasonable. A physician who is consulting with patients remotely through FaceTime, for example, might wonder if the investment in a more secure, robust telehealth platform will make sense in 12 months, should a COVID-19 vaccine materialize. 

Yet by not adopting a more permanent telehealth solution, providers may be hurting themselves down the road. Patients increasingly believe virtual care is highly effective, and some even prefer it. According to a SYKES consumer survey administered in March, 60% of 1,441 respondents said the COVID pandemic has increased their willingness to try telehealth.  

Also, while HHS has relaxed HIPAA enforcement at the moment, there’s no indication this will continue. Healthcare organizations will need to ensure that the platform or program they’re using is designed to keep protected health information (PHI) safe.  

Investing in the Future

Given the upward trajectory of telehealth, it benefits providers to thoughtfully invest in the right strategies and solutions now to extract the greatest value and return on investment down the road. Here are four steps to take, when shifting to a long-term telehealth strategy:  

– Identify needs. Many primary-care practices may have seen a bump in interest in telehealth due to COVID-19, while specialty practices may see increases stay steady, even when fears of the coronavirus fade. When planning long-term, put patient needs first: In what ways can telehealth improve care delivery, going forward? Look at data, such as virtual-visit utilization patterns, to see where there are opportunities to grow telemedicine (e.g., expanding chronic care management) based on needs.

– Consider workflows. The ideal telehealth program doesn’t interrupt clinical workflows – it enhances them. If you’re using a ‘stop-gap’ video conferencing solution to provide telemedicine, is it easy to integrate practice notes with your EHR? Or, do you have to take extra steps to document patient encounters for clinical and billing departments? 

Seek supportive partners. You can use any number of technology platforms to conduct telemedicine encounters, but not all platforms are created equal. When looking at implementing a telehealth platform, consider not only ease of use, and interoperability, but also what a particular vendor is offering: How well the telehealth platform in question can accommodate the needs of a particular specialty? What are existing clients are saying about things like training, vendor support, and the patient experience?

– Proactively engage. Your patients have most likely heard of telehealth, but they may not realize that telehealth is multifaceted and can be used to diagnose conditions such as skin disorders or allergies and can be just as effective as in-person visits. Educating patients about telehealth’s benefits, and making it easy for them to try telehealth, is essential to success.  

Expanding telehealth’s role in the medical practice benefits everyone, from physicians to patients to payers. Moving past the “stop-gap” mentality now will reap greater benefits in the future, regardless of whether we’re in the midst of a pandemic, or simply trying to provide excellent care on a day-to-day basis.


About Roland Therriault

Roland Therriault
is the President and Executive Vice President of Sales at InSync Healthcare Solutions, a provider
of integrated EHR and practice management software, revenue cycle management
services and medical transcription to thousands of healthcare professionals
throughout the United States. Roland Therriault manages all operations of the
company, driving its go-to-market strategy and overseeing all sales activities.
His experience in healthcare and technology includes more than 20 years of
direct and channel sales, strategic planning and business development. Prior to
joining InSync, Roland served as Vice President of Sales for MD On-Line, a
provider of acute and ambulatory clinical and practice management solutions.


NVIDIA Develops AI Model to Accurately Predict Oxygen Needs for COVID-19 Patients

NVIDIA Develops AI Model to Accurately Predict Oxygen Needs for COVID-19 Patients

What You Should Know:

– NVIDIA and Massachusetts General Brigham Hospital
researchers develop an AI model that determines whether a person showing up in
the emergency room with COVID-19 symptoms will need supplemental oxygen hours
or even days after an initial exam.

– The ultimate goal of this model is to predict the
likelihood that a person showing up in the emergency room will need
supplemental oxygen, which can aid physicians in determining the appropriate
level of care for patients, including ICU placement.


Researchers at NVIDIA
and Massachusetts General Brigham
Hospital
have developed an artificial
intelligence (AI)
model that determines whether a person showing up in the
emergency room with COVID-19
symptoms will need supplemental oxygen hours or even days after an initial
exam.

The original AI model, named CORISK, was developed by scientist Dr. Quanzheng Li at Mass General Brigham. It combines medical imaging and health records to help clinicians more effectively manage hospitalizations at a time when many countries may start seeing the second wave of COVID-19 patients.

EXAM (EMR CXR AI Model) & Results

To develop an AI model that doctors trust and that
generalizes to as many hospitals as possible, NVIDIA and Mass General Brigham
embarked on an initiative called EXAM (EMR CXR AI Model) the largest,
most diverse federated
learning
 initiative with 20 hospitals from around the world.

In just two weeks, the global collaboration achieved a model
with .94 area under the curve (with an AUC goal of 1.0), resulting in excellent
prediction for the level of oxygen required by incoming patients. The federated
learning model will be released as part of NVIDIA
Clara on NGC
 in the coming weeks.

Leveraging NVIDIA’s Clara Federated Learning Framework

Using NVIDIA Clara
Federated Learning Framework
, researchers at individual hospitals were able
to use a chest X-ray, patient vitals and lab values to train a local model and
share only a subset of model weights back with the global model in a
privacy-preserving technique called federated learning.

The ultimate goal of this model is to predict the likelihood
that a person showing up in the emergency room will need supplemental oxygen,
which can aid physicians in determining the appropriate level of care for
patients, including ICU placement.

Dr. Ittai Dayan, who leads the development and deployment of AI at Mass General Brigham, co-led the EXAM initiative with NVIDIA and facilitated the use of CORISK as the starting point for the federated learning training. The improvements were achieved by training the model on distributed data from a multinational, diverse dataset of patients across North and South America, Canada, Europe, and Asia.

Participating Hospitals in EXAM Initiative

In addition to Mass Gen Brigham and its affiliated
hospitals, other participants included: Children’s National Hospital in Washington,
D.C.; NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre; The Self-Defense Forces
Central Hospital in Tokyo; National Taiwan University MeDA Lab and MAHC and
Taiwan National Health Insurance Administration; Kyungpook National
University Hospital in South Korea; Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn
University in Thailand; Diagnosticos da America SA in Brazil; University of
California, San Francisco; VA San Diego; University of Toronto; National
Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland; University of Wisconsin-Madison
School of Medicine and Public Health; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in
New York; and Mount Sinai Health System in New York.

Each of these hospitals used NVIDIA Clara to
train its local models and participate in EXAM. Rather than needing to pool
patient chest X-rays and other confidential information into a single location,
each institution uses a secure, in-house server for its data. A separate
server, hosted on AWS, holds the global deep neural network, and each
participating hospital gets a copy of the model to train on its own dataset.

NVIDIA Announces Partnership with GSK’s AI-Powered Lab
for Discovery of Medicines and Vaccines

In addition, the new AI model, NVIDIA today announced a
partnership with global healthcare company GSK and its AI group, which is
applying computation to the drug and vaccine discovery process. GSK has
recently established a new London-based AI hub, one of the first of its kind,
which will leverage GSK’s significant genetic and genomic data to improve the
process of designing and developing transformational medicines and vaccines.

Located in London’s rapidly growing Knowledge Quarter, GSK’s hub will utilize biomedical data, AI methods, and advanced computing platforms to unlock genetic and clinical data with increased precision and scale. The GSK AI hub, once fully operational, will be home to its U.K.-based AI team, including GSK AI Fellows, a new professional training program, and now scientists from NVIDIA.


NVIDIA Building UK’s Most Powerful Supercomputer,
Dedicated to AI Research in Healthcare

NVIDIA Building UK’s Most Powerful Supercomputer, Dedicated to AI Research in Healthcare

NVIDIA today announced that it is building the United
Kingdom’s most powerful supercomputer, which it will make available to U.K.
healthcare researchers using AI to solve pressing medical challenges, including
those presented by COVID-19.

Expected to come online by year end, the “Cambridge-1”
supercomputer will be an NVIDIA DGX SuperPOD™ system capable of delivering more
than 400 petaflops of AI performance and 8 petaflops of Linpack performance,
which would rank it No. 29 on the latest TOP500 list of the world’s most powerful
supercomputers. It will also rank among the world’s top 3 most energy-efficient
supercomputers on the current Green500 list.

Accounting for the Social Determinants of Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Accounting for the Social Determinants of Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Andy Aroditis, CEO, NextGate

The COVID-19 pandemic is not just a medical crisis.  Since the highly contagious disease hit American shores in early 2020, the virus has dramatically changed all sectors of society, negatively impacting everything from food supply chains and sporting events to the nation’s mental and behavioral health.

For some people, work-from-home plans and limited access to entertainment are manageable obstacles.  For others, the shuttered schools, lost wages, and social isolation spell disaster – especially for individuals already living with socioeconomic challenges.

The social determinants of health have always been important for understanding why some populations are more susceptible to increased rates of chronic conditions, reduced healthcare access, and shorter lifespans.  COVID-19 is throwing the issue into high relief.

Now more than ever, healthcare providers need to gain full visibility into their populations and the non-clinical challenges they face in order to help individuals maintain their health and keep their communities as safe as possible during the ongoing pandemic.

Exploring correlations between socioeconomic circumstances and COVID-19 vulnerability

Clinicians and researchers have worked quickly to identify patterns in the spread of COVID-19.  Early results have emphasized the danger posed by advanced age and preexisting chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. 

Further, data from the Johns Hopkins University and American Community Survey indicates that the infection rate in predominantly black counties is three times higher than in mostly white counties. The death rate is six-fold higher.

Data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) confirms the trend: black Medicare beneficiaries are hospitalized at a rate of 465 per 100,000 compared to just 123 per 100,000 white beneficiaries. Hispanic Medicare beneficiaries had 258 hospitalizations per 100,000, more than double the white population’s hospitalization rate.

Researchers suggest that the social determinants of health may be largely responsible for these disconnects in infection and mortality rates.  Racial, ethnic, and economic factors are strongly correlated with increased health concerns, including longstanding disparities in access to care, higher rates of underlying chronic conditions, and differences in health literacy and patient education.

Leveraging data-driven tools to identify vulnerable patients

Healthcare providers will need to take a proactive role in identifying which of their patients may be at enhanced risk of contracting the virus and experiencing worse outcomes from the disease.  

They will also need to ensure that person gets adequate treatment and participate in contact tracing efforts after a positive test.  Lastly, providers will have to ensure their public health reporting data is accurate to inform local and regional efforts to contain the disease.

The process begins by developing confidence in the identity of each individual under the provider’s care.  Healthcare organizations often struggle with unifying multiple electronic health record (EHR) systems and other health IT infrastructure, resulting in medical records that are incomplete, inaccurately duplicated, or incorrectly merged.

Access to current and complete medical histories is key for highlighting at-risk patients.  An enterprise master patient index (EMPI) can provide the underlying technical foundation for initiating this type of population health management.  

EMPIs help organizations create and manage reliable unique patient identifiers to ensure that records are always associated with the correct individual as they move throughout the healthcare system.

When paired with claims data feeds, health information exchange (HIE) results, and interoperability connections with other healthcare partners, EMPIs can bring a patient’s complete healthcare status into focus.

This approach ensures that providers stay informed about past and present clinical issues and service utilization rates.  It can also support a deeper dive into the social determinants of health.

Combining EHR data with standardized data about socioeconomic needs can help providers develop more comprehensive and detailed portraits about their patients’ holistic health status.  

By including this information in EHRs and population health management tools, providers can develop condition-specific registries to guide outreach activities.  Providers can deploy improved care management strategies, close gaps in care, and connect individuals with the resources they need to stay healthy.

Healthcare organizations can acquire socio-economic data about their communities in a variety of ways, including integrating public data sources into their population health management tools and collecting individualized data using standardized questionnaires.

Once providers start to understand their patients’ non-clinical challenges, including the ability to avoid situations that may expose them to COVID-19, they can begin to prioritize patients for outreach and develop personalized care plans.

Conducting effective outreach and interventions for high-needs patients

COVID-19 has taken a staggering economic toll on many families, including those who may have been financially secure before the pandemic.  Routine healthcare, prescription medications, and even some urgent healthcare needs are often the first to fall by the wayside when finances get tight. 

Healthcare providers have gotten creative about staying connected to patients through telehealth, drive-in consults, and other contactless strategies.  But they must also ensure that their vulnerable patients are aware of these options – and that they are taking advantage of them.

Contacting a large number of patients can be challenging since phone numbers, emails, and home addresses change frequently and are prone to data entry errors during intake. Organizations with EMPIs can leverage their tools to ensure contact information is up to date, accurate, and associated with the correct individual.

Care managers should prioritize outreach to patients with complex medical histories and known clinical risks for vulnerability to COVID-19.  These conversations are a prime opportunity to collect social determinants of health information or refresh existing data profiles.

Looking to the future of healthcare in a COVID-19 world

Combining technology-driven strategies with targeted outreach will be essential for healthcare organizations aiming to provide holistic support for their populations during – and after – the COVID-19 pandemic.

By developing certainty about patient identities and synthesizing that information with data about the social determinants of health, providers can efficiently and effectively connect with their patients to offer much-needed resources.

Taking a proactive approach to addressing the social determinants of health during the outbreak will help providers maintain relationships with high-needs patients while building new connections with those facing unanticipated challenges.

With a combination of population health management strategies and innovative technology tools, healthcare providers and public health officials can begin to view the social determinants of health as a fundamental component of the fight against COVID-19


Andy Aroditis, is CEO of NextGate, the global leader in healthcare enterprise identification.

NIH Taps PhysIQ to Develop AI-Based COVID-19 Digital Biomarker

NIH Taps PhysIQ to Develop AI-Based COVID-19 Digital Biomarker

What You Should Know:

– physIQ has been selected by the National Institute of Health (NIH) to develop an innovative AI-based COVID-19 digital biomarker solution to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

– Early detection of COVID-19 decompensation in patients
is complicated by infrequent and non-specific clinical data. The first-in-kind
tool will collect and analyzes continuous physiologic data could provide early
clinical indicators of COVID-19 decompensation.

The National Cancer
Institute (NCI)
and the National
Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)
of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have
awarded physIQ a contract to develop an
AI-based COVID-19 Decompensation Index (CDI) Digital Biomarker to address the
rapid decline of high-risk COVID-19 patients.

Why It Matters

Today, high-risk COVID-19
patients and their providers are finding out too late that in the disease
continuum they are getting sicker and need urgent care. The new early warning
system under development could allow providers to intervene sooner when a
COVID-19 patient is clinically surveilled from home and begins to worsen.
Rather than relying on point measurements, such as temperature and SpO2, that
are known to be lagging or insensitive indicators of COVID-19 decompensation,
continuous multi-parameter vital signs will be used to establish a targeted
biomarker for COVID-19.

Despite the technological advances and attention paid to COVID-19, the healthcare community is still monitoring patient vitals the very same way as we did in the 1800s,” said Steven Steinhubl MD, Director of Digital Medicine at Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) and a physIQ advisor. “With the advances in digital technology, AI and wearable biosensors, we can deliver personalized medicine remotely giving caregivers new tools to proactively address this pandemic. For that reason alone, this decision by the NIH has the potential to have a monumental impact on our healthcare system and how we manage COVID-19 patients.”

COVID-19 Decompensation Index (CDI) Digital Biomarker Development

PhysIQ will develop and validate a CDI algorithm that builds off existing wearable biosensor-derived analytics generated by physIQ’s pinpointIQTM end-to-end cloud platform for continuous monitoring of physiology. The data will be gathered through a clinical study of COVID-19 positive patients in collaboration with the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System (UI Health) and build upon work already in-place for monitoring COVID-19 patients convalescing at home.

In the development phase of this project, physIQ and its clinical partner will monitor participants who are confirmed COVID-19 positive, whether recovering at home or following discharge from the hospital. During the validation phase, physIQ will evaluate lead time to event statistics, decompensation severity assessments, and the ability for CDI to predict decompensation severity.

“The application of the CDI may provide a universal indicator of decompensation,” said Karen Larimer PhD, ACNP-BC, study PI and physIQ’s Director of Clinical Development. “Application of this technology could detect COVID-19 decompensation and prevent hospitalization or morbidity events in both scenarios.”

The study is designed to capture data from a large, diverse
population to investigate CDI performance differences among subgroups based on
sex/gender and racial/ethnic characteristics. This project will not only enable
the development and validation of the CDI, it will also collect rich clinical
data correlative with outcomes and symptomology related to COVID-19 infection.

This index will build on physIQ’s prior FDA-cleared, AI-based multivariate change index (MCI) that has amassed more than 1.5 million hours of physiologic data, supporting the development of this targeted digital biomarker for COVID-19. This will enable new research and further insight into using digital health to advance the public health response.

4 Areas Driving AI Adoption in Hospital Operations and Patient Safety

4 Reasons Why Now Is the Time for Hospitals to Embrace AI
Renee Yao, Global Healthcare AI Startups Lead at NVIDIA

COVID-19 has put a tremendous burden on hospitals, and the clinicians, nurses, and medical staff who make them run. 

Many hospitals have suffered financially as they did not anticipate the severity of the disease. The extended duration of patient stays in ICUs, the need for more isolated rooms and beds, and the need for better supplies to reduce infections have all added costs. Some hospitals did not have adequate staff to check-in patients, take their temperature, monitor them regularly, or quickly recruit nurses and doctors to help.

AI can greatly improve hospital efficiency, improve patient satisfaction, and help keep costs from ballooning. Autonomous robots can help with surgeries and deliver items to patient’s rooms. Smart video sensors can determine if patients are wearing masks or monitor their temperature. Conversational tools can help to directly input patient information right into medical records or help to explain surgical procedures or side effects.

Here are four key areas where artificial intelligence (AI) is getting traction in hospital operations and enhancing patient safety:

1- Patient Screening

We’ve become familiar with devices in and around our homes that use AI for image and speech recognition, such as speakers that listen to our commands to play our favorite songs. This same technology can be used in hospitals to screen patients, monitor them, help them understand procedures, and help them get supplies.

Screening is an important step in identifying patients who may need medical care or isolation to stop the spread of COVID-19. Temporal thermometers are widely used to measure temperatures via the temporal artery in the forehead, but medical staff has to screen patients one by one. 

Temperature screening applications powered by AI can automate and dramatically speed up this process, scanning over 100 patients a minute. These systems free up staff, who can perform other functions, and then notify them of patients who have a fever, so they can be isolated. Patients without a fever can check-in for their appointments instead of waiting in line to be scanned. 

AI systems can also perform other screening functions, such as helping monitor if patients are wearing masks and keeping six feet apart. They can even check staff to ensure they are wearing proper safety equipment before interacting with patients.  

2. Virtual Nurse Assistant 

Hospitals are dynamic environments. Patients have questions that can crop up or evolve as circumstances change. Staff have many patients and tasks to attend to and regularly change shifts. 

Sensor fusion technology combines video and voice data to allow nurses to monitor patients remotely. AI can automatically observe a patient’s behavior, determining whether they are at risk of a fall or are in distress. Conversational AI, such as automatic speech recognition, text-to-speech, and natural language processing, can help understand what patients need, answer their questions, and then take appropriate action, whether it’s replying with an answer or alerting staff.

Furthermore, the information recorded from patients in conversational AI tools can be directly inputted into patients’ medical records, reducing the documentation burden for nurses and medical staff.

3. Surgery Optimization 

Surgery can be risky and less invasive procedures are optimal for patients to speed up recovery, reduce blood loss, and reduce pain. AI can help surgeons monitor blood flow, anatomy, and physiology in real-time. 

Connected sensors can help optimize the operating room. Everything from patient flow, time, instrument use, and staffing can be captured. Using machine learning algorithms and real-time data, AI can reduce hospital costs and allow clinicians to focus on safe patient throughput.

But it’s not just the overall operations. AI will allow surgeons to better prepare for upcoming procedures with access to simulations beforehand. They will also be able to augment procedures as they happen, incorporating AI models in real-time, allowing them to identify missing or unexpected steps.

Contactless control will allow surgeons to utilize gestures and voice commands to easily access relevant patient information like medical images, before making a critical next move. AI can also be of assistance following procedures. It can, for example, automatically document key information like equipment and supplies used, as well as staff times. 

4. Telehealth

During COVID-19, telehealth has helped patients access their clinicians when they cannot physically go to the office. Patients’ adoption of telehealth has soared, from 11% usage in 2019 in the US to 46% usage in 2020. Clinicians have rapidly scaled offerings and are seeing 50 to 175 times the number of patients via telehealth than they did before. Pre-COVID-19, the total annual revenue of US telehealth was an estimated $3 billion, with the largest vendors focused on the “virtual urgent care” segment. With the acceleration of consumer and provider adoption of telehealth, up to $250 billion of current US healthcare spend could potentially be virtualized.

Examples of the role of AI in the delivery of health care remotely include the use of tele-assessment, telediagnosis, tele-interactions, and telemonitoring.

AI-enabled self-triage tools allow patients to go through diagnostic assessments and receive real-time care recommendations. This allows less sick patients to avoid crowded hospitals. After the virtual visit, AI can improve documentation and reimbursement processes.

Rapidly developing real-time secure and scalable AI intelligence is fundamental to transforming our hospitals so that they are safe, more efficient, and meet the needs of patients and medical staff. 


About Renee Yao

Renee Yao leads global healthcare AI startups at NVIDIA, managing 1000+ healthcare startups in digital health, medical instrument, medical imaging, genomics, and drug discovery segments. Most Recently, she is responsible for Clara Guardian, a smart hospital ecosystem of AI solutions for hospital public safety and patient monitoring.


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KPMG Launches COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Donor Matching Solution

KPMG Launches New COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Donor Matching Solution

What You Should Know:

– KPMG offers its data & analytics capabilities to
address emerging challenges tied to matching recovered patients with those in
clinical trials to receive convalescent plasma.

– KPMG’s capabilities can make the plasma donation process easier
and more efficient by automating the complex tasks and logistics associated
with the data collection, qualification and matching process by performing
statistical analytics, and using artificial intelligence (AI), virtualized
data, and blockchain to trace the plasma from donor to clinical trial
patient.  


Recognizing the need for technologies to help advance the
response and recovery to the COVID-19
pandemic, KPMG LLP has built the technology
architecture for a solution that can match patients in clinical trials for
convalescent plasma therapy to recovered patients willing to donate their
antibodies.

Simplifying The Plasma Donation Process

Data & analytics can simplify the process of matching
patients who have recovered with patients that are undergoing clinical trials.
According to media
reports
, the FDA paused the use of
convalescent plasma therapy for emergency cases, citing inconclusive data.
federal
registry for clinical trials
 lists
54 U.S. studies of convalescent plasma therapy for treating COVID-19, with a
majority of them still recruiting patients. 

KPMG’s capabilities can make the plasma donation process easier
and more efficient by automating the complex tasks and logistics associated
with the data collection, qualification and matching process by performing
statistical analytics, and using artificial intelligence (AI), virtualized
data, and blockchain to trace the plasma from donor to clinical trial
patient.  KPMG’s framework is designed to integrate third-party data
from blood banks, hospitals, and diagnostic labs and work with data backbones
and existing technology applications that are already in place, such as IT
infrastructure owned by governments and hospitals.

The technology can also be deployed for contact tracing or
monitoring vaccine use to help policy makers with population health and social
distancing decisions. KPMG introduced this technology as part of its
recently announced “Restarting America” initiative
to help organizations safely reopen workplaces.

“This solution is designed to help ease the burden on plasma donors, accelerate the COVID-19 plasma donation process and provide better visibility to health authorities, while helping facilitate the study of convalescent plasma,” said Bharat Rao, PhD, principal and leader of Data and Analytics for healthcare & life sciences at KPMG. “With the use of a mobile app, the data is better organized in a secure format, and reduces the duplication of requests and administrative overhead among healthcare organizations.”

Castor Raises $12M to Advance COVID-19 Research Through Clinical Trial and Data Automation

Castor Raises $12M to Advance COVID-19 Research Through Clinical Trial and Data Automation

What You Should Know:

– Castor raises $12M in Series A funding to further their
support for COVID-19 research through clinical trial and data automation.

– With 4,000 live studies and 2,000,000 enrolled patients
across 90 countries, Castor will use the funding to further invest in enabling
patient-centric, data-powered clinical trials.


Castor, a Hoboken,
New Jersey startup using automation and data reuse to simplify the entire
clinical trial process, announced $12M in Series A funding led by Two Sigma
Ventures with participation from Hambrecht Ducera Growth Ventures and existing
investor INKEF Capital. Castor will use this new funding to further strengthen
its support for patient-centric, remote trials and to enable customers to
maximize value from existing and newly generated data throughout the clinical
trial process.

Based in the United States and The Netherlands, Castor is an international health-tech company founded by CEO Derk Arts, MD, PhD. Their cloud-based clinical data platform simplifies the clinical trial process, from recruitment to analysis, for researchers worldwide. Castor’s leading cloud-based clinical data platform is used by 50,000 researchers globally to run remote clinical trials and capture data from patients, physicians, EHR systems, and wearables. The platform transforms this data into a machine-readable format that facilitates the use of AI and makes large scale sharing and reuse of clinical trial data possible for the first time.

Powering COVID-19 Clinical Research Across The Globe

The company is at the forefront of fighting COVID-19 – the
first to make its platform freely available for non-profit COVID-19 vaccine
research. Over 200 COVID-19 projects across 33 countries are currently running
on the platform, including the World Health Organization’s global Solidarity Trial. To date, Castor is powering 4,000+
studies with 2M+ patients across 90 countries and counts 192 medical device,
biotech, and pharmaceutical companies and contract research organizations
(CROs) as customers.

“There are three key challenges that need to be addressed in the clinical trial space: making research more patient-centric, maximizing the impact of data on human lives, and better addressing the needs of underserved communities,” said Derk Arts, MD, PhD, CEO & Founder of Castor. “With this new investment, we will be able to make significant progress in all three areas by continuing to deliver user-friendly, accessible technology that can support remote trials, while ensuring machine-readable output that allows for trial automation and data reuse. In the next 18 months we intend to support our customers with patient recruitment and synthetic control arms, through better use of their data. We are excited to partner with Two Sigma Ventures, who bring extensive experience in leveraging the power of data and AI to disrupt incumbent industries.”

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To Combat COVID-19, Philips Launches Rapid Equipment Deployment Kits

To Combat COVID-19, Philips Launches Rapid Equipment Deployment Kits

What You Should Know:

– Philips today announced the launch of its Rapid
Equipment Deployment Kits, which provide doctors with critical care patient
monitoring solutions they can quickly implement in the ICU. The Rapid Equipment
Deployment Kits use advanced patient monitoring technology to enable care teams
to swiftly scale up critical care capabilities within just a few hours, and
help hospitals meet on-demand access during these pressing times of COVID-19.

– Arriving at hospitals fully configured and
ready-to-deploy, the kits are pre-built and pre-packed into sturdy cases and
can be transferred from hospital to hospital as needed. After a crisis/surge
has passed, the kits are disinfected and stored to have available in
preparation for future emergencies.


Royal Philips, today introduced its Rapid Equipment Deployment Kit for ICU ramp-ups, allowing doctors, nurses, technicians, and hospital staff to quickly support critical care patient monitoring capabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Currently successfully in use in the first health systems across the US, the Rapid Equipment Deployment Kit combines Philips advanced patient monitoring technology with predictive patient-centric algorithms enabling care teams to quickly scale up critical care patient monitoring capabilities within a few hours.  As health systems in the U.S. continue to experience surges in critical care and emergency care demand related to the COVID-19 crisis, the kit provides hospitals a way to quickly and easily expand their critical care capacity.

The Rapid Equipment Deployment Initiative for COVID-19
Response

To Combat COVID-19, Philips Launches Rapid Equipment Deployment Kits

The Philips Rapid Equipment Deployment Kit is a fully configured and ready-to-deploy ICU patient monitoring solution, which includes 20 ICU monitors, 20 measurement servers and one central management monitoring station. The kits are pre-built, pre-configured and pre-packed into sturdy cases that can elevate a hospital’s general care area to a critical care level in a matter of hours. Kits are complete with step-by-step instructions allowing the pre-configured system to be deployed by hospital staff, with remote technical and clinical support from Philips. Kits can be transferred from hospital to hospital as needed. Once a crisis/surge passes, the kits are disinfected, packed up and stored to have available in preparation for future emergencies.

 Why It Matters

“The current health crisis has demonstrated a clear need for
us to deliver innovative solutions to our customers that provide a complete
critical care monitoring solution with all of the equipment they require on
demand. This eliminates the need to source and configure individual pieces of
high-demand equipment during a crisis,” said Peter Ziese, General Manager of
Monitoring Analytics at Philips.  “To help ensure economical and more
efficient use of hospital resources, the Rapid Equipment Deployment Kits
provide the speed, flexibility and ease of implementation for advanced critical
care patient monitoring that many of our customers must have during this most
pressing time.”

In June, Philips announced it had received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA for Philips’
IntelliVue Patient Monitors MX750/MX850
 and its IntelliVue Active
Displays AD75/AD85, for use in the US during the COVID-19 health emergency.
These patient monitoring solutions support infection-control protocols and
remotely provide critical patient information when caring for hospitalized
COVID-19 patients. The MX750 and MX850 monitors are the latest additions
to Philips’ portfolio of integrated patient monitoring solutions to help
support improved clinical and operational workflows. Updated features, include
enhancements to monitor and assess clinical and network device performance, and
additional functionalities to strengthen cybersecurity.