The COVID-19 public health emergency officially ends on Thursday, May 11, and with it comes a series of policy and procedure changes across the country. How should health IT leaders think about the end of PHE? After more than three years, what changes will this new era bring to hospitals and healthcare systems? Could new platforms and strategies be needed? Are health system operations overdue for an overhaul?
To answer these questions, Health informatics news met with Christopher Johnson, president and co-CEO of TeleTracking, who worked with the US Department of Health and Human Services during the pandemic on key COVID-19 projects.
TeleTracking is a healthcare operations platform designed to expand care capacity by combining comprehensive technologies with clinical expertise to optimize access to care, streamline care delivery and connect care transitions. It aims to provide interoperability between acute, non-acute, affiliated and non-affiliated facilities.
Q. How should health IT leaders in healthcare provider organizations approach the May 11 end of the COVID-19 public health emergency?
A. The end of the PHE represents an important psychological turning point between simply keeping our heads above water and being able to focus on the future. I believe that health systems have an opportunity to take advantage of the great talent available in the technology space to become innovators, not just consumers of technology.
Health systems have long stifled innovations not directly related to the EHR, and as a result have inadvertently built a closed ecosystem that limits their ability to expand beyond their own facilities.
As healthcare delivery becomes increasingly fractured, the focus now is on developing true operational interoperability that allows for extended visibility, in real time, not just across the enterprise, but across the market.
Q. What changes will the end of the public health emergency bring to US hospitals and health systems?
A. COVID-19 and the resulting PHE have done more to transform healthcare than any event or initiative in our lifetime. I sincerely believe that the efforts made under this emergency declaration demonstrated the power of the public and private sectors coming together in times of crisis to develop the “vision” of what had been a “blind” system of disconnected facilities and suppliers.
Health systems need to reflect on the progress made in creating national visibility into hospital capacity and preparedness, something previously unthinkable before the pandemic, and ensure that the winding down of PHE does not mean they lose the progress that has been made .
Now is the time to reimagine healthcare to create true interoperable visibility of operations within and beyond the four walls of the healthcare system. With a relatively small investment, I believe that we as an industry can capture the wasted energy from the system and redistribute it to benefit not only hospitals, but also caregivers and, most importantly, patients.
It was and remains my view that the original scope of the PHE, specific to COVID-19, was too narrow and should in fact be expanded beyond the current pandemic. Limiting the collection of data and information about this pandemic is not what we need as a nation.
Q. In partnership with HHS, your company worked with federal, state and local governments and hospitals across the country to collect patient data, playing an important role in the nation’s response to the pandemic. You learned from this experience that, in your opinion, the nation needs an “All Hazards” platform. Please elaborate.
A. TeleTracking’s partnership with the US Department of Health and Human Services demonstrated the value of centralizing important capacity metrics across the US’s more than 6,000 hospitals, 3,000 therapeutic sites, as well as state and local agencies. The work done during COVID-19 highlighted the need to expand beyond the last pandemic to create a sustainable “All Hazards” platform.
The data collected as a result of these efforts, including more than one million different data points, played a critical role in allocating funding, equipment, vaccines, therapeutics and personnel in response to the pandemic.
However, limiting this data to the pandemic is short-sighted. On the one hand, I think that, unfortunately, we will see the next pandemic not in 100 years, but in 10 years, and going back now will be seen, in history, as a missed opportunity to continue building on progress achieved.
The concept of an “All Hazards” platform takes what we’ve learned about the value of national data preparedness and applies it to local, state, and federal agencies to ensure we as a nation are ready in time of natural disasters, health emergencies. , terrorism or other widespread events.
Q. You say that the health system’s operations are overdue for an overhaul and that organizations need to embrace the idea of ”Boundaryless Healthcare.” Please describe what you mean.
A. It’s no secret that health systems face historic staff shortages, challenges to manage growing capacity, and unsustainable financial pressures that are forcing them to find new ways to improve operational management through communication, automation, and data to start connecting your disconnected healthcare environments.
With the shift from individual and independent hospitals to health systems came the need for system-wide visibility into capacity, centralized placement capabilities, and the ability to visualize demand across the enterprise. Now, as they move beyond the health system into true market networks, the need for that visibility and data to scale across disparate health information systems, especially EHRs, has only increased.
Having operational interoperability between proprietary, affiliated and non-affiliated care entities (including acute, ambulatory, post-acute, home health and more) fosters expanded partnerships and opportunities for relational growth, creating a true healthcare ecosystem.
This means thinking not only about patients’ acute care stay and the bed they occupy, but how they interact with the system throughout their care journey. By creating shared visibility of capacity, health systems can maintain and increase market share and “flatten the continuum of care,” a practice that creates seamless transitions between stages of care.
To achieve this, they go beyond traditional bed management and adopt “Boundaryless Healthcare”, an operating model that allows them to look beyond the four walls of their healthcare system by creating a shared situational awareness of capacity, patterns referral and patient demand.
Boundaryless Healthcare plays a key role in improving visibility between facilities and care environments by helping each location understand where patients come from and where they are going, improving operations, workflow and the communication
This reimagining of healthcare operations, with true data interoperability, means providers are able to expand care capacity by optimizing access to care, streamlining care delivery, and connecting transitions of attention
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Healthcare IT News is a publication of HIMSS Media.
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