Archives June 16, 2020

Final Two Phases on the Road to Recovery

by Barry P Chaiken, MD

In my first two articles on our road to recovery, I covered the first two phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. In them I shared my thoughts on how provider organizations could restart their service lines and expand their operations.

Phase 3 of the pandemic is defined as the time when businesses are expanding their offerings, the incidence of COVID-19 infection is decreasing, and we have some treatments but no vaccine. Although there is some degree of herd immunity created by recovered COVID-19 patients, it is not at a level that significantly impacts disease spread.

It is unknown how long phase 3 will last, but it is the period organizations should use to build upon the activities started in phases 1 and 2

Real Estate – Steps need to be taken to reimagine the use of real estate, linking those strategies to expanding market share through any acquisition of hospitals, clinics, and physician practices. Collection of patient location data is critical to this planning. Combining existing patient data with that from any acquisitions can build a map of the best locations to open new clinics.

Patient marketing efforts can be created and evaluated using dashboards that include both clinical and non-clinical patient data. This same data can be used to track financial results for each newly opened facility.

Population Health – Severely disrupted during the first waves of the pandemic, population health requires a redesign to satisfy the new reality of care delivery. For example, telemedicine will become a major care delivery mechanism for population health. Outreach and interventions will be less expensive and easier to complete.

Customer relationship management (CRM) tools need to be embedded within electronic medical records (EMR) so that outreach, scheduling, and telemedicine encounters are functional within a single EMR platform and workflow. This redesign will require new metrics to manage patients and track effectiveness of interventions.

Service Line Expansion – Expansion of patient services demands a continuing evaluation and rework of how assets are utilized. This include facilities, staff, and high capital cost equipment. Operating theaters need to be available for elective procedures on evenings and weekends. In addition, routine imaging with supporting radiologists and technicians must be accessible on days and at times previously reserved for only emergency cases. Expanding access offers patients new options to obtain care that are less disruptive to their families and work schedules.

Overall, the focus must be on optimizing capacity management to serve as many patients as possible with existing investments. Assessing and monitoring dashboards offer the analytics to understand the impact of changes made and identification of opportunities for improvement.

The increased focus on the use of analytics throughout provider organizations, creates an opportunity to embed clinical analytics in EMRs to inform clinicians at the point of care. This includes physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and therapists, who learned through their use of COVID-19 tracking dashboards, how important point of care data was in informing their patient care decisions.

Phase 4 – The last phase of the pandemic, the one we all hope will arrive soon, is Phase 4.

This is the period when healthcare delivery processes can be redesigned. Robust analytics is embedded in both clinical and administrative workflow such that all decision making is informed by self-service dashboards. These new analytic workflows enhance outcomes, patient experiences, and staff productivity.

While the pandemic has strained our healthcare system almost to the breaking point, it has created numerous opportunities for us to improve. I believe analytics and decision informing dashboards will play a key role in allowing us to take advantage of those opportunities.

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