Editor’s Note: The following article is part of an ongoing series offering our strategic advice and expertise on what hospitals, healthcare workers, providers, and caregivers should do immediately in response to the rapidly evolving novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. What follows are strategies and tactics that we hope will help hospitals and health systems prepare for and contend with the coronavirus pandemic.
C-suite executives and boards are searching for tactics that will best serve their communities and caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The most important member of the care team at this time is arguably the engaged patient, someone who must remain activated along every step of the journey. The greater industry focus must be first on identifying and engaging those populations most at-risk of getting COVID-19. Then, it must be on how your technology can help patients monitor their symptoms and understand their care options and resources.
Here are some thoughts and observed best practices systems should deploy now:
1. Hot-Spotting: Identity Known High-Risk or At-Risk Patients
Unlike prior pandemics, this time around, we really do have better tools. And tools that offer mostly ubiquitous access to health information via electronic health records, the internet of things, wearables, and smartphones. It’s critical providers leverage clinical information systems to identify, stratify, and then engage as many of their at-risk patients as possible. This should include patients dealing with things like heart disease, diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other respiratory factors. This list should be actively managed – until further notice.
"Public health, payers, and providers must lock arms against COVID-19, and work quickly toward information sharing, delivering consistent messaging, and sharing real-time solutions.”
2. SWAT Care Managers: Deploy Care Management Resources
Centralized resources – ideally Registered Nurse (RN) care managers – are needed to focus on those highly at-risk individuals. As resources allow, providers should call, email, and text these members to provide them (and, ideally, their caregivers, too) with resources they can use as this pandemic continues.
3. Virtual Support: Deploy Patient Tools and Services
As for patient resources, providers must connect all patients to tools and services that will help them better navigate the next few weeks and months. These include:
- Care manager and/or nursing hotlines and texting functions that can answer patients’ questions and convey them with necessary information in light of new developments. (What if I don’t feel well? Who should I call? When should I go in to see a doctor?)
- App-enabled technology that can be leveraged within your existing organizational operations to communicate and update patients in live-time. (Do I have coronavirus? Where is the nearest testing center? Is my area still low-risk?)
- Support resources and online pathways for ongoing care, including visit scheduling, testing, and pharmacy refills. (How do I refill my prescriptions? I have a visit scheduled for two weeks from now – is it still ok to go?)
- Telehealth and remote monitoring tools that care teams and family members can use as they become available, as appropriate. (How can I see my doctor from my house? If I don’t see my doctor, can I maybe see the RN or someone else instead?)
4. Coordination: Provider/Payer Partnerships
As appropriate, coordinate with these patients’ payers to ensure access to needed prescriptions, available nurse hotlines, and telehealth solutions. Many payers have already put in place complementary programs and outreach.
Provider and payer programs must mesh tightly in service to both the patients they serve and the broader community where these patients live and work. Duplication in a time of scarcity must be avoided.
5. Community Response
Safety is not a competitive issue. Now more than ever, public health, payers, and providers must lock arms against COVID-19, and work quickly toward information sharing, delivering consistent messaging, and sharing real-time solutions. The stakes are too high to get in our own way.