Tag: Telehealth during COVID-19

Digital Tools Enable Care Delivery During COVID-19 Disruption

By Matt Henry, senior manager consultant, Denver, Point B; Talia Avci, managing consultant, Chicago, Point B; and Ashley Fagerlie, managing consultant, Phoenix, Point B.

As the COVID-19 crisis disrupts traditional care delivery, digital tools such as telehealth are making it possible to deliver care outside your facility’s walls. Here’s how to prepare your organization both now and in the future.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare has literally left the building. With millions of Americans under orders to stay home, in-person care delivery and elective procedures have been effectively shut down, elevating the need for alternative care delivery options.

Health systems are in a crisis, balancing heroic action to ramp up and support their communities through the COVID pandemic with existential threats to established service line revenue and cost structures.  The importance of using technology to extend reach and effectiveness of your mission has never been greater.

While other industries have spent years disrupting traditional operating models to deliver online engagement to meet customer needs, healthcare has lagged due to many practical, economic, regulatory, cultural and quality of care reasons.

As health systems prepared for a surge in infectious patients, many have leveraged their digital front door as a way to deliver credible information, guide care, and deliver safe and effective services to patients.

Taking lessons learned, the time is now to plan for your post-COVID plans and how your digital front door can extend your mission as you intentionally re-open your care facilities.

Re-imagine access: As you build your strategy, consider how new front door solutions are being offered by non-traditional ‘providers’, like Anthem, Walgreens and CVS/Aetna, to address gaps in the primary care landscape.

These gaps include inaccurate online health information, lack of access to personal health information, long wait times for appointments, lack of price transparency and other issues that impact patients along their care journey.

Barriers can be addressed by tools that assist in triaging, medication adherence, capacity management as well as two-way patient communication via websites, patient portals and apps.

Anthem has partnered with a digital health start-up, K Health, to offer symptom triaging to their 40 million members to provide care guidance and access.  Members provide their symptoms to an AI-enabled algorithm and can text directly with providers for advice.  Walgreens, with locations that are accessible by 78% of the U.S. population, has launched Find Care, which offers everything from lab tests to virtual consults.

CVS/Aetna has spent nearly 10 years building out digital health tools, focusing on medication adherence, with the power to leverage data as a pharmacy, payer and retail clinic to connect with their patients.  Other organizations are launching chat bots for assessments and triage or more deeply leveraging remote patient monitoring for care.  Each of these digital front door tools is changing how patients access care.

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AHIMA Recommendations During COVID-19

AHIMA-logo - The Olinger GroupBy Julie Pursley Dooling, MSHI, RHIA, CHDA, FAHIMA, director of HIM practice excellence; AHIMA.

Release of patient information during COVID-19

What insiders have long known has become clear during the COVID-19 pandemic: health data is a vital element of health care, including efforts to curb the pandemic. Of course, that data is important to patients, providers, and healthcare staff. And even during COVID-19, if a patient wants to access their data, release of information services (ROI) teams must comply with a strict set of processes set forth by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH). These regulations ensure that patients retain safe and secure control of their personal health information and record requests are timely, accurate, and complete.

So, what should providers and patients expect during this time? For years, patients have been able to walk into a provider’s office or a health records office and request a copy of their records. During a stay at home order, however, that’s not such a good idea.

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) recommends that organizations temporarily suspend walk-in access for medical records inquiries during COVID-19. Organizations should work closely with their ROI vendor (if they have one) to ensure continuity, while also displaying signage on doors and windows to redirect patients and families to alternative resources. In addition, it would be prudent to post process changes to the organization’s website and through automated messaging systems, while alerting the patient access staff.

It’s important for organizations to provide patients and their families with alternate record request options during COVID-19. All requests via phone should be authorized by health information staff who witness and document it in the patient’s record. And voicemails should be directed to a patient portal so they can be returned.

And just how can a health professional be assured they’re talking to a patient or one of their relatives? They should ask the caller to verify their patient demographic data such as a date of birth, home address or the last four digits of a social security number (if applicable). Other examples of data may include cell phone numbers, nicknames or another reliable data source that is consistently collected.

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