COVID Causing Dangerously Long ER Waiting Times

Emergency Signage

U.S. hospitals are struggling to see patients in a timely manner amidst hours-long backlogs. 

The rise in Omicron variant cases has left many US hospitals unable to cope with the number of patients being admitted, with ERs bearing the brunt.

The backlog is not only causing problems for COVID-19 patients but also for people suffering from various other ailments wh are unable to get seen as soon as s they should be. Many urgent procedures have also been paused as medics desperately try to clear the backlog.

Long waits

California man, May Gleason, took his father Eugene, 92, to a local emergency room a week ago as he required a blood transfusion to treat his blood disorder The procedure, which should have taken a maximum of 10 hours, turned into a 48-hour ordeal, as medics struggled to attend to his, or the many other patients who were sat right beside him’s needs.

Om average, over 144,000 people were admitted to US hospitals with COVID as of January 24th. This was the highest number of recorded COVID patients since the pandemic started, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Why Patient Experience Is Key To Post-COVID Growth

By Jean-Pierre Stephan, managing director, Accenture Health.

 Jean-Pierre Stephan

COVID-19 has disrupted industries, and nowhere is it more apparent than in healthcare. Given the urgency of addressing the pandemic – from ensuring new protocols are in place amidst the pandemic, prioritizing capacity and delivering healthcare services in new manners – the concept of the “patient experience” may have been put on the backburner for many in the industry. That is a mistake.

Now, moreso than ever, is the time to put the patient experience front and center. People are re-evaluating how they consume healthcare: asking themselves – is this the safest way for me to handle my medical care? Is it the best way?  Can we leverage more virtual and digital solutions for care?

Indeed, a new report found those health systems that evolve to meet patient needs, amidst the pandemic, are best poised to not only retain their current patient base but also increase it. Healthcare providers could potentially increase their revenues by 5% to 10% of their pre-COVID levels within 12 months. For a $5 billion health system, this equals between $250 million and $500 million in additional annual revenues. Think about it – people have put off many non-urgent medical issues that they will eventually need to address. But it doesn’t mean that they will naturally return to their previous healthcare provider.

According to this report, two out of three patients are likely to switch to a new provider if their expectations for how the healthcare provider manages COVID-19 are not met. To avoid losses and position for growth, providers should take the following approach to improve patient experience.

  1. Embrace change

Providers should listen to a patient’s unique concerns to better understand their communities. This allows real-time response to fears and confusion or reinforcement of actionable information. For example, if there is a need for additional counsel—such as symptoms of COVID-19 compared to symptoms of other illnesses—listening will present an opportunity to quickly provide necessary information. Alternatively, if something is not going as planned, community feedback gives healthcare providers an advantage to get ahead of potential problems (and their solutions). Leveraging digital tools to stay connected will not only help healthcare providers during this pandemic crisis, but could be used in a post-COVID world as a way to stay connected.

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COVID-19 Is Driving Automation Breakthroughs In Laboratories Everywhere

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For years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, laboratories all around the world had been dealing with severe staffing shortages and major budgetary constraints. Those factors combined to push many facilities to the brink of closure and kept the rest from operating at full capacity for long stretches of time. Then, when the pandemic struck, those issues exploded into a full-blown crisis.

But it wasn’t all bad news. That’s because the sudden flood of work coupled with the need to reduce person-to-person transmission of the virus has prompted many facilities to speed up their plans to adopt additional automation solutions into their workflows. And it’s also giving researchers a reason to push the boundaries of current laboratory automation technologies to see what’s possible.

Here’s an overview of the forces behind automation’s growth in laboratories, as well as how the available technology is coming together to create the laboratory facilities of the future.

Automation Adoption Rising

Even as the pandemic continues to rage, there’s growing evidence that automation is going to emerge as the cornerstone of the post-COVID-19 laboratory. Already, industry analysts are beginning to include the pandemic’s effects on the market. One such analysis predicts that the pandemic is behind an accelerating growth rate expected to top a 6% CAGR between now and 2024. That outlook points to a huge uptick in both interest and investment in automation technologies, at a pace that far outstrips pre-pandemic levels.

Outside Investment Increasing, Boosting Upgrades

It’s also important to note that the surge in interest (and need) for laboratory automation isn’t happening in a vacuum. It’s happening at a time when laboratories are receiving a burst of both public and private funding streams intended to help them scale up to meet current and future challenges. In the US, the Department of Health and Human Services recently announced over $6.4 million of additional funding going to two major US labs to help them purchase new equipment to increase their capacity in the near term.

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Post-COVID, Empathy Will Be a Game Changer In Healthcare Innovation

By Dr. Deborah Vinton, medical director, emergency department, UVA Health and Inlightened Expert. 

Dr. Deborah Vinton

The way we talk, think about, plan, and innovate for healthcare delivery has fundamentally changed as a result of COVID-19. For those of us in healthcare, top priorities today are different than they were just a few months ago. Like in so many areas of life, coronavirus is rewriting the status quo.

As a physician on the frontlines, it has become painfully apparent that, as an industry, we have failed to design and develop tools and systems – for us – with us in mind. When it comes to innovating for those delivering the care, empathy is often times out of the process. From PPE (personal protective equipment) to telemedicine and everything in between, the lack of input and understanding may be furthering burnout, negatively impacting patient care, and fueling inefficiencies.

Empathy in innovation: We’ve made progress for patients   

In healthcare, we’ve done a better (although not remotely perfect) job of integrating empathy into the design and innovation process for the patient to optimize patient experience. From lobbies to hospital rooms, we’ve seen patient-centric design aimed at delivering more comfortable, less stressful, and seamless experiences.

Patients today enter buildings that are light and airy, no longer have the traditional “sterile” feeling, boast extensive entertainment options, and prioritize patient needs, like access to Wi-Fi and charging stations. Protocols are designed by considering various risks, and prioritizing policies and workflows that will most positively impact the patient. All of these efforts demonstrate a much-needed understanding of – and commitment to – the patient and their experience.

Physicians are left behind and burned out 

Like other industries, the evolution of healthcare has been aided by fast-paced innovation and technology. While conversations pre-COVID might have been around electronic health records (EHRs), real-time communication tools, and even innovating the scrubs we wear, COVID-19 has shed light on new priorities and the dramatic gaps that exist in the process for designing provider-centric tools.

According to McKinsey: From 2014 to 2018, there have been more than 580 healthcare technology deals in the United States, each more than $10 million, for a total of more than $83 billion in value. They have been disproportionately focused on three main categories: patient engagement, data and analytics, and new care models.

Consider the quick adoption of telehealth. While the ability to deliver care virtually to the patient was – and still is – unquestionably critical as the country sheltered in place, it has led to a lot of frustration and overwhelm for physicians who are trained to deliver patient care in-person. In medical school, we learn how to read what’s behind the presentation of symptoms and how to ask questions and listen to what’s behind the answer.

But we haven’t yet integrated into the curriculum how to implement technology to feel consistent with the way we’ve been trained to deliver care. We are being asked to understand – and flawlessly use – solutions that can be glitchy, disjointed, and impersonal, while simultaneously delivering care to patients that might be nervous, frustrated, ill, scared, or all of the above.

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