Following a year marked by one challenging headline after another in 2020, news in the fight against COVID-19 will likely turn better in 2021 thanks to improved treatments and the arrival of effective vaccines. From a Health IT standpoint, however, both the good news and the bad are together fueling a steady growth in data volumes and complexity that will require new levels of IT coordination and data management.
The reason for this is that medical professionals now have a year’s worth of health metrics on the spread of COVID-19 and reams of structured, unstructured, and behavioral data on treatment regimens and patient outcomes. At the same time, a similar avalanche of data is growing around the administration and efficacy of newly-approved vaccines. Taken together, these factors present challenges of both complexity and scale.
Let’s take a look at three resulting trends we’ll likely see in 2021 as data-driven professionals seek to address these challenges through better ways to leverage information for insight and action against the global pandemic.
Trend 1: Enhanced adoption of common health IT data standards – Whether it’s through the ANSI-accredited Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) schema or similar frameworks, we’ll see a push to standardize health-related data across mobile phone apps, cloud communications, EHR-based data sharing, server communication in large institutional healthcare providers, and more. The goal is to break down silos between these disparate data sources and platforms. And there’s a cultural component to the silo-busting as well, in that common standards and definitions for data can also help technologists and business users collaborate more efficiently. That can be a challenge in any domain area; but in the case of COVID-19, success around seamless, secure, and proactive analysis of data can literally save lives.
The Strategic Health Information Collaborative (SHIEC) Annual Conference took place again, this time as a five-week virtual event from August 17 to September 15.
Having come to grips with my lost opportunity to socialize with several hundred of my closest friends and colleagues, the fact that this year’s SHIEC sessions were spaced out over such a long stretch of time provided an interesting opportunity to reflect on the state of affairs in health information exchange (HIE).
In one sense, the 2020 conference resembled previous years – a gathering of largely the same group of industry representatives who eat, sleep and breathe HIE and reinforce among ourselves what we already know to be true.
We already know that our healthcare system will improve only as health information exchange improves. We already know we will never have a truly efficient and effective healthcare system until:
we are able to acquire, validate, and normalize health records from all points of care
we are able to curate and present records in a meaningful way at the point of care
we establish workable standards for interoperability between systems and networks
we remove the barriers to sharing healthcare information
we provide public health services with comprehensive, high quality health data in a timely manner
These are inarguable truths, yet many of us are frustrated with the painstakingly slow progress we seem to make year-upon-year.
Finding new revenue opportunities and avoiding claims denials has taken on greater urgency as hospitals and other healthcare organizations face growing reimbursement shortfalls in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is why Hayes, makers of the industry’s leading integrated compliance and revenue integrity platform for the nation’s premier healthcare organizations, has launched Revenue Optimizer to equip healthcare organizations with actionable insights that help eliminate barriers to revenue integrity and manage overall financial performance.
A study commissioned by the American Hospital Association (AHA) found that many U.S. hospitals were struggling with ongoing operational losses well before COVID-19, and the median hospital margin overall was a razor-thin 3.5%.
Even with government support from the CARES Act, these margins were projected to drop to -7% in the second half of 2020 without further federal intervention. The study also concluded that, post-pandemic, at least half of the nation’s hospitals would continue operating with margins in the red without any additional support.
“Adding to existing bottom-line struggles, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services identified $29 billion in improper payments in 2019—a trend that will continue as regulatory scrutiny turns to COVID-19 incentive payments.
Further, the addition of nearly 750 new CPT and ICD-10 codes—on top of COVID-19 changes—has created a compliance nightmare that will only exacerbate a devastating financial impact if healthcare organizations can’t stop the hemorrhaging,” said Hayes CTO Ritesh Ramesh, noting that Hayes identified a 20% increase in denials totaling $2.5 billion related to COVID-19 coding and reimbursement challenges alone in the first half of 2020 among MDaudit Enterprise cohorts.
The use of Telehealth services has seen remarkable growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent research found that 67% of Americans have used telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is up from 46% prior to COVID-19. One might wonder if this growth is temporary or poised for more long-term growth post-pandemic.
To learn more about the growing trend of telehealth use, my agency worked with a data management firm to survey the American public about their experiences using telehealth during COVID-19 and whether or not they plan to continue to use these virtual medical services in the future.
Telehealth and Covid-19
One immediate observation that we learned as a result of this analysis is that 71% of Americans are currently fearful to visit their doctor’s office due to COVID-19. Because of these fears, many people have shifted towards using telehealth services during the pandemic. While 63% of respondents were originally apprehensive about their first telehealth visit, 72% reported enjoying their first telehealth experience.
What patients like most about telehealth
Why do patients prefer seeing a doctor virtually as opposed to in-person? Convivence safety and flexibility with appointments were the top responses. Many patients are shifting to telehealth as a means to avoid potential virus exposure.
Shorter wait-times are also driving people to telehealth appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients reported spending less time both between scheduling the appointment and the visit as well as time spent waiting in a virtual waiting room to be seen.
Access to care is another positive trend from increased telehealth use during COVID-19. Eighty percent (80%) of surveyed respondents believe telehealth has improved their ability to receive access to care during the pandemic. Seventy percent (70%) feel that telehealth provides adequate care and 65% believe telehealth provides accurate diagnosis to symptoms.
Telehealth visits also have the potential to replace some medical visits depending on the severity of the ailment. Sixty-six percent of our surveyed respondents feel telehealth will ultimately end up replacing in-person doctor visits that don’t require hands-on exams; 69% said they are less likely to use an ER or urgent care for non-life-threatening visits in the future if telehealth becomes more available.
Life as we know has it changed in many different ways, and one of the biggest factors is how we go about our daily lives and how we may operate businesses in the future. The threat of COVID-19 has not gone away, and there are things that we need to start thinking about now that lockdown is easing and restrictions are being lifted. However, what can you do to better conform to the changes and this transition period we are in?
The truth is, technology can help. As this has a lot to do with health and wellbeing, for you personally and also the customers that you may have, is there anyway that technology is helping to make this easier? The answer is yes.
From applications that you can use, to help handheld technology that makes life easier, we wanted to highlight some of the ways technology will help businesses to thrive during this pandemic and for the future as we face this new normal.
Technology enhancements to help within business
There are a lot of things that you might need to think about when it comes to your business aspects and embracing new applications and technology enhancements will help you to succeed in your business and move forward. Applications for tracking and tracing. Apps for collecting customer data and also thinking about making things contactless.
This might be contactless technology for payment or logistics with delivery methods. There is a lot to think about when it comes to your business and technology can help you sail through this strange period. This is when you may need to think about seeking advice from experts in technology business consulting could be a great move as your business needs to navigate contactless sales and also manage customers in a different way. This will only help you to understand the levels of technology that could be implicated within your business to help it thrive now.
Keeping customer details up to date
It is now more important than ever to have the right data of customers stored and to keep these things secure. Which is why software that can help with customer relationship management could be a big plus point for your business now.
Not only is it good for business to have something like a CRM system in place, but with there being more focus on understanding and analyzing where people go for the safety of communities, having this information can be really helpful in the future.
A CRM system is also a useful tool to have the details of your customers to help with marketing. Now more than ever you need to encourage customers to deal with your business and to also help them understand how they can purchase from you and move forward.
Track and trace apps to understand the spread
The government is wanting to try and understand the spread of the virus in the very best way that they can, and this might mean that they need to look at tracking and tracing people’s whereabouts. For example, if your business had 10 people turn up in a day, then a few days later one of those people tested positive for covid-19, then they would need to inform other people in the vicinity that may have been in close contact with that person, including yourself. Track and trace help to manage the spread, and using applications for your business to collate and collect the data is important to help your business to continue to work effectively.
Delivery apps for contactless delivery methods
Another thing that you may need to do is to consider using delivery applications. If your business provides products that can be delivered, then it may be a good idea to focus on tactless delivery methods. This is when using delivery app services and courtiers who have come up with solutions to combat this would be a great help.
It enables the customer to track their parcel, allows them to do things such as provide a safe place or drop off location, and then avoids them having to get in close proximity with them. It might be a small change for you as a business to implement this sort of technology and process, but it could mean a great deal to your customer to feel extra protected when dealing with you as a business.
Understanding ecommerce and making more of it
Another thing that you might need to think about now as a business is the ecommerce and digital side of things. Perhaps during lockdown you reverted to an online system so that you could continue to maintain orders, but a shop is likely not going to be the first choice for people moving forward. Understanding the ecommerce side of things is important to help your business to thrive.
Diversifying the way you have done business during lockdown may have opened your eyes to the possibilities and also expanding your customer reach. A great tip would be to spend some time enhancing the digital aspect of your business. Such as a new website. You could also use this opportunity to link it to social media platforms and work on a strategy to keep them updated. After all, so many are seeking information in the online world that you need your business to adapt, and quick.
Finally, if you do have a business location that is opening up then you may want to invest in a digital and contactless thermometer. These are handheld devices where if you wave it in front of the year do for someone it will tell you their temperature.
As a high temperature is a huge factor in the symptoms of covid-19 this could be an essential to help you keep you and everyone in your business safe. Before people enter the business, customers and staff, they could use this handheld device to ensure that their temperature is where it needs to be.
Let’s hope these suggestions help you when it comes to technology in your business.
By Luke Wilson, vice president of intelligence, 4iQ.
In the wake of COVID-19, my firm, 4iQ, observed an increase in a host of cyber-attacks. This uptick did not come as a surprise, given cybercriminals typically exploit uncertain situations, but it was a wake-up call for organizations that were in the midst of transitioning to full-time remote work.
As the country begins to reopen, we cannot let our guards down – from preventing the spread of this pandemic, or from persistent cybercriminals.
Phishing campaigns were well-documented over these past few months. Scammers spoofed credible institutions, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to lure victims into downloading malware or to capture personal or financial information.
These incidents were so widespread that government agencies, including the CDC, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published resources on these COVID-19-related scams to alert the public and offer tips on how to spot suspicious activity. Individuals were also at risk of having their identities spoofed, not just organizations.
Cybercriminals leveraged the accounts of executives with public-facing email accounts, usually via keyloggers or phishing attacks, to conduct fraudulent wire transfer payments.
As COVID-19 continued to spread, so did the number of registered suspicious coronavirus-themed domains. We analyzed over 2,400 domain names with COVID-19 themes and found that the most common terms were “virus,” “coronavirus,” and “corona.”
We also saw particular interest in protection gear, test kits, vaccines, and domains that tracked reported coronavirus cases as well as the status of the infected and cured. While some of these sites might have been legitimate, many were scams to distribute malware, inflict financial fraud, or trick victims into purchasing fraudulent COVID-19-related products, such as “vaccines,” which haven’t been evaluated by regulators for safety and effectiveness.
By William Flood, MD, MS, chief medical officer/Eviti, NantHealth.
The COVID-19 crisis has created a perfect storm of challenges for payers as they adapt to a new normal that continues to evolve. It’s also opened up a host of opportunities for creating positive change that will enable providers and payers to run smarter businesses and provide more quality care for patients.
During a recent webinar, healthcare payers participated in interactive polling and unanimously agreed that COVID-19 has significantly changed the healthcare landscape, altering the routine day-to-day management of care and the operations that happen around it, including medical plans.
Here are some of the key aspects payers are tackling as they move forward:
Shifts in Plan Membership
The economic downturn caused by the pandemic has led to significant increases in unemployment, As healthcare coverage is frequently tied to employment, this leads to significant increase in the number of uninsured. According to a May 2020 Kaiser Family Foundation study, 45 million Americas were unemployed at that time, and it’s estimated that about 27 million are uninsured because of that loss.
While we won’t have exact numbers on how much membership has changed until open enrollment periods begin, likely in January 2021, we do know that this increase in unemployment has driven a shift from private to public plans.
It escalates the steady decline in private plans that we’ve seen for the past thirty years, putting increased pressure on government-sponsored plans like Medicare and Medicaid and providing opportunity for insurers who have not already done so to enter these markets. During a time of economic challenge, this requires reevaluation of current processes to construct more valuable and affordable approaches for stakeholders: payers, patients, and providers.
By Mike Sutten, chief technology officer, and Dr. David Nace, chief medical officer, Innovaccer.
Burdensome documentation and gaps in care have been long-standing challenges in the healthcare industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified those challenges on a global level, creating a situation in which people have been hesitant to seek care for other medical concerns. As such, healthcare providers are losing revenue, employees are losing their jobs, and those remaining in the workforce are subject to burnout.
In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many healthcare providers proactively reduced or stopped in-person visits for non-COVID-19 medical needs, ranging from the routine care of a sore throat to treatment of chronic conditions, cancer, and even mental health services.
Additionally, nearly one-third of American adults reported delaying or avoiding medical visits over concerns for possible exposure to the virus, according to an American College of Emergency Physicians and Morning Consult poll. More than half reported worrying about access to their primary care physician or being turned away from the hospital.
As a result, healthcare spending decreased by 18% in the first quarter of 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Surprisingly, some 1.4 million healthcare workers lost their jobs in April, a sharp increase from the 42,000 reported in March, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The global pandemic amplifies the day-to-day challenges of identifying gaps in care, the increased documentation required to track them, and the difficulties associated with determining their effects and responding with appropriate interventions.
The impact of this virus looms over the backdrop of a healthcare environment in which the American Hospital Association (AHA) makes the point is rapidly evolving from a fee-for-service system into a value-based delivery system. As healthcare providers and payers transition to collaborative digital care delivery models, this movement highlights the greater need for a data infrastructure that supports value-based care with sharper and more transparent insights into population health.
Ever since the SARS-CoV-2 virus—better known as COVID-19 or the novel coronavirus—appeared on the world stage in December 2019, the scientific community has been searching for a way to fight it. With the onset of the pandemic, the world engaged in social distancing, followed stay-at-home orders, wore personal protective equipment, and reacquainted themselves with proper handwashing techniques—effectively dampening the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
However, May 2020 saw the death toll quickly approaching 400,000, and it became clear that efforts to find a way to prevent and treat the virus were more critical than ever. SARS-CoV-2 and Viral Therapies SARS-CoV-2 is a coronavirus (the source of the common name used in the media). Coronaviruses typically affect the upper and lower respiratory tracts, making it difficult to breathe. These viruses range from mild, as is the case with several of the seven currently recognized types, to severe: Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), SARS, and COVID-19 are examples of severe forms of coronavirus that can cause respiratory failure, shock, and death. Since SARS-CoV-2 is a virus, it isn’t susceptible to the antibiotics used to treat bacterial respiratory infections. For viruses, researchers have discovered therapeutics that utilize antibodies to attack the proteins on a virus’s surface. These monoclonal antibodies specifically target vulnerable proteins and are used in several therapeutic pharmaceuticals that have shown promise in treating and preventing different viruses.
A major subject of concern amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic spread and related financial crisis is- could this situation be the trigger for a new era of technology and emergence of widespread acclamation of digital health platforms and applications?
The massive outbreak of dreaded coronavirus has brought about a radical change in what is usually perceived as “normal.” With over more than million cases worldwide, COVID-19 has sent a wave of fear across the masses, causing an upheaval not only in their lives but also across various economies and businesses, given the stringent lockdown policies.
Major industry verticals have been touted to be severely affected by the pandemic explosion. However, one of the industries that has been successful in keeping its business alive amid the ongoing financial crisis is the digital health market. The corona pandemic has demonstrated the pivotal role of digital health in the medical fraternity. Although digital health was already on the rise before the humongous pandemic spread, in the wake of the virus, it will become an integral part of the routine medical treatment in the years ahead.
At this time, digital health stands as an ideal solution for both the healthcare professionals and patients as it completely reduces the risk of infection spread while offering complete and accurate healthcare expertise. While the global scientific community is racing towards development of effective vaccines or therapeutics, digital health remains the most essential defense.
The proliferation of artificial intelligence, cutting-edge technologies, and big-data have been majorly responsible for advancing digital health and are expected to drive the demand for the same over the next few years. COVID-19 undeniably, is anticipated to stay for a longer period of time due to delay in proper treatment methods and vaccines.
In this scenario, numerous tech firms are trying to get involved in digital health while undertaking various distinctive measures. For instance, IBM, a tech giant, in March, announced the launch of coronavirus map and application for keeping a track of COVID-19 infections.
According to official sources, the company’s The Weather Channel has introduced new tools for tracking coronavirus infection. The app would showcase estimated COVID-19 cases on the map that would further help individuals and business establishments to keep a track on the spread of virus around them. Above that, the free tools are likely to run on the IBM public cloud and implement IBM Watson with an intent of scrutinizing data from the WHO in tandem with state and national government bodies.
Even before the outbreak, digital technology was at peak in China and was extensively used to accelerate, optimize, and complement health care services, which enabled the region to make use of these in difficult times like the ongoing health crisis.