How Health Systems Use Technology in New Ways to Adapt to COVID-19
By Terry Zysk
Terry Zysk is CEO of LiveProcess of Chelmsford, MA.
Saving the lives of patients and protecting care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented healthcare management challenge. Unlike a hurricane that passes in a few days, COVID-19 could be with us for quite a long time.
Some of the innovative US hospitals I work with are solving pandemic-related problems by repurposing already deployed or quick-to-deploy technology. Creativity is allowing these health systems to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis.
According to McKinsey & Company, as major events occur, responsive healthcare organizations focus on five areas to ensure access to care delivery: workforce protection, supply chain and resource stabilization, customer and staff engagement, stress testing, and nerve center integration.
Similarly, health systems on the front lines of COVID-19 are using technology with roots in hospital emergency management to dynamically rebalance business operations, share information, and collaborate in virtual command centers.
A public health emergency response creates large-scale logistical issues. Hospitals are changing protocols, rethinking workflows, repurposing clinical areas and redistributing staff to adapt to a shift in demand.
All of these changes require intense coordination and collaboration.
To replace rumors and stress with accurate and timely information, health systems are pushing information out to engage healthcare workforces. They are reaching employees at all facilities at once while also developing proficiency in minimizing alert fatigue throughout a long-duration event.
As more masks and gowns are needed to protect the healthcare workforce, hospitals and healthcare coalitions are using emergency management technology to share guidance on the use of PPE, request PPE from community partners, and coordinate and track regional inventory.
CDC requirements for monitoring employee health involve daily communication with healthcare providers. One health system is performing virtual health checks by reaching out to hundreds of affected personnel with survey technology, and then displaying the results on a quickly developed business intelligence dashboard.
At another hospital, human resources specialists used event sidebar communications in emergency management technology to collaborate in a virtual command center and optimize the redistribution of staff.
When converting hospital rooms or even entire floors into other types – such as negative pressure and isolation rooms and reconfiguring spaces create more ICU beds — a healthcare coalition electronically surveys its 18 facilities on their room and bed inventory. With automatic roll ups, leadership teams are producing up-to-date daily reports with minimal labor and a short turnaround time.
Staffing coordinators are using trackable one-to-many notifications with multiple choice response options to fill high-demand roles quickly and efficiently, leveraging tools typically used for mobilization and coordination in natural disasters.
In these many ways, health systems and coalitions are adapting to the current situation with new processes and proficiencies by using existing technology in new ways. Their experiences may spur ideas that help your own health system improvise and adapt to COVID-19 and other disruptive situations.