The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of adopting healthcare emergency preparedness and response plans that are flexible and scalable. During a recent HLTH webinar entitled “In Case of Emergency: Next-Generation Preparedness & Response,” health IT leaders reflected on how technology can help care providers meet the need for solutions that support business continuity during future potential public health emergencies.
Moderator Tye Cook, Head of Strategy and Innovation at Tegria, posed questions to guest experts to uncover lessons learned over the past year and a half. The panel featured the following thought leaders in healthcare IT:
Click here or below to access the on-demand webinar recording.
Below is a summary of the key healthcare emergency preparedness takeaways that the panelists discussed, which will be important to consider as health systems and health agencies prepare for future health crises.
1. Healthcare is not always provided under perfect conditions. Although there may be changes to where patients receive care during a crisis, patients can still receive informed, high-quality care.
Chris Brandt described how, during the pandemic, many patients struggled to get admitted to hospitals due to overwhelming volume surges and as a result, pop-up care facilities were supporting overflow. In times when natural disasters strike, such as during a hurricane or wildfire, facilities can also get damaged, leading to a need for patients to seek care from disaster relief centers. Even when healthcare settings are in a state of flux, it is possible for alternative care facilities to still have access to patients’ medication and clinical histories through health IT. By providing better information flow during a patient’s care journey, health systems improve care quality and reap financial gains.
The best time to prepare for a crisis is BEFORE it strikes! As we are approaching #PreparednessMonth, we are thinking about the opportunities to improve healthcare during a crisis, and today we had a great #HLTHGoLive discussion on this topic.👏🏾 #healthIT pic.twitter.com/x8WgjUX9kS
— Audacious Inquiry (@A_INQ) August 19, 2021
2. Bad processes are the enemy of automation. Healthcare needs to first and foremost apply standards like HL7 to make the flow of data more efficient.
Oftentimes during public health emergencies, resources for hospital staff and patients are limited or unavailable, yet time is of the essence to provide critical resources for quality care delivery. During the pandemic, Audacious Inquiry experienced more demand for reporting and data sharing with health departments and federal agencies. Better resource allocation during a state of emergency is possible through efforts that leverage data standards like the Situational Awareness for Novel Epidemic Response (SANER) Project, where Audacious Inquiry is helping to facilitate the acceleration of modern interoperability standards. Through SANER, which leverages HL7, data is enabling public health leaders to understand which hospitals and healthcare facilities have or need more staffing, beds, or ventilators, or other critical resources during a disaster or an emergency.
Rhonda Wallen of Caresyntax commented: “We need to have systems and structures in place that allow healthcare providers to more rapidly respond.” Caresyntax is automating the collection of surgical data from disparate sources to analyze how to deliver the most efficient care with the best outcomes. Rhonda expressed optimism about the future of healthcare as it relates to interoperability and connectivity. She’s seen the modernization and digitization of healthcare unfold throughout the pandemic, and how data is being used to inform surgical procedures.
3. The pandemic has redefined what it means to care for a patient. Value-based care providers hold the keys to chronic care management.
One point that Lumedic’s Jim St. Clair made was how new technology beyond telehealth became commonplace during the pandemic to support continuous care. Through wearables and mobile apps that allow patients to manage their own data and provide enhanced diagnostics and information, providers can get a better picture of how to support whole-person care.
Another consideration Jim brought up was how to provide better chronic care management through social determinants of health (SDoH) data. As healthcare leaders think about how to adequately prepare for the next public health emergency, they will need to be sensitive to socioeconomic differences that exist between rural and urban communities. He referenced how Geisinger Health System was supporting their Type 2 diabetes patients through their Fresh Food Farmacy. This groundbreaking initiative is one of many examples demonstrating how basic amenities, the environment, education, and income can influence health equity in positive and negative ways.
It’s about time #SDoH is becoming a part of our everyday conversations. Bringing together participants that otherwise wouldn’t be talking to each other to address healthcare delivery challenges can play a huge role in improving frontline care, says @jstclair1. #HLTHGoLIVE
— Audacious Inquiry (@A_INQ) August 19, 2021
While each health IT guest had their own unique perspectives, they all agreed that the industry is seeing a shift in how to approach healthcare emergency preparedness and response.
By thinking ahead about potential implications and the resources needed to support scalable solutions, patients can receive better care during their healthcare journeys, no matter the circumstances.
Audacious Inquiry recently published an eBook on “How to Improve Care Coordination During Disasters.” The eBook addresses how emergency response organizations can leverage care coordination tools for disaster preparedness. Download the resource here or below.
About the Author
Michelle McCoy is a creative communicator that has worked with technical B2B companies for over a decade. She supports Marketing, PR, and Design for Audacious Inquiry, a national industry-shaping health IT company. Michelle previously worked in Global Creative Services for the specialty chemical and material manufacturing company, W.R. Grace & Co. You can connect with her @NxtLvlBranding on twitter.