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How to Practice High-Quality Telemedicine in the Era of COVID-19

By ANISH MEHTA, MD

My practice received its first question about coronavirus from a patient on January 28, 2020. Though there were over 200 deaths reported in China by that time, no one could have imagined how drastically this would come to disrupt our lives at home.

Thankfully, I had a head start.

As a doctor at an integrated telemedicine and primary care practice in New York City, nearly two out of every three of my medical encounters that month was already virtual.

I spent much of January caring for patients who had contracted seasonal viruses, like influenza or norovirus (i.e. the stomach flu). My patients reached out nearly every day with bouts of fevers, fatigue, diarrhea, and vomiting. Our team did all we could to encourage each of these patients to stay home and avoid spreading their highly contagious virus throughout the community (sound familiar?).

We are now guiding our patients through the COVID-19 outbreak using the same tools we use to guide them through any healthcare need – real-time monitoring, proactive outreach, and team-based care.

After our first COVID-19 question, our team started compiling information about every patient who reached out with symptoms that even slightly resembled COVID-19. This soon turned into a comprehensive patient registry containing the epidemiologic risk factors, clinical risk factors, symptoms, and a follow-up plan for each patient. Based on their total risk level, we follow up with these patients every 24 to 120 hours.

Every day, one provider on the team texts or schedules a video visit with each follow-up patient, reassesses their symptoms, and re-stratifies their risk. Most patients respond with a text message letting us know that their symptoms are the same or slowly improving. But for patients at higher risk, we want more information. We help these patients acquire a thermometer or pulse oximeter to follow up on their respiratory vitals. With this data, our team can provide patients and their families with thresholds on when to seek out a higher level of care.

Our job for these patients is clear: provide treatment at home and only recommend the hospital if there is no other option. By centralizing data and establishing clear triggers for a new plan of care, a single provider can follow up with over 30 COVID-19 patients in a single day.

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Patients proving the life-saving value of data

SPONSORED POST

By RIEN WERTHEIM

FHIR DevDays, run by Rien Wertheim’s company Firely in conjuncion with HL7, is the premier FHIR event in the world, with editions in the US and Europe. The three pillars for DevDays are Learn, Code and Share. The event runs from 15 to 18 June, 1 to 5 PM EST. This year’s edition will be 100% virtual. Tracks include the ONC and CMS Final Rules and COVID-19 on FHIR. I will be opening and moderating that last track–Matthew Holt.

The Patient Innovator Competition at DevDays US 2020

Have you ever wondered what would happen if patients had access to their data from hospitals, labs and other sources? Some still doubt the value of data at the fingertips of patients. So, we went the extra mile to see how this would look in practice and the results were impressive.

To give some context, every year we run DevDays, which is a semi-annual conference for health data programmers working with FHIR. FHIR is the open and standardized API for healthcare. What APIs have done for other industries, FHIR is doing for healthcare. That is, enabling an app economy: apps for doctors, researchers, payers, even apps for the government and, above all, apps for patients.

A lot of these of these apps are built by EMR vendors, even more by startups, and some by patients. Last year we launched the Patient Innovator Track at DevDays to give patients a voice. The track gives the stage to tech-savvy patients who are taking control of their health using data about their disease and treatment. The track wants to prove a point: access to health data can improve our lives. It also shows the unimagined things people can do with data when their health is at stake.

Four finalists pitched for the Patient Innovator Award. In the end it was John Keyes that blew everyone away. John is a blood disease patient who created a simple app to track his blood count and ongoing test results. The app is called BloodNumbers and it consolidates test data from multiple health care providers, making it easy to view and share results if you want to.

Source: BloodNumbers.com

We are looking for more tech-savvy patients, developers and IT experts like John, to apply for this year’s Patient Innovator Track. All you need to do is pitch an app, device or other technology that allows you to use your own health data to improve your wellbeing. The finalists get a free ticket to DevDays US 2020 Virtual Edition where they can  learn all about FHIR and connect with the community. The winner gets to walk away with $2,500. On the jury we have Dave deBronkart (“ePatient Dave”) and Grahame Grieve, the founder of FHIR. Check out what Dave wrote about the Patient Innovator Track here.

You can register and find more details here.

Rien Wertheim is CEO of Firely and the host of FHIR DevDays

How to Manage Patients in Quarantine, Smartly

By MATTHEW HOLT

Smart Quarantine as the next step to combat COVID-19

As the nation and the world grapple with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is growing consensus among experts that we need a sustainable system of specific lockdowns, social distancing, and extreme resource provision in terms of labor, ventilators and PPE to arm hospitals and health providers as they deal with the onslaught of patients. Even while some American states start to slowly open up, we need a system that can manage COVID-19 over the coming months and years–especially if this Fall brings a second wave.

Writing in the NY Times on April 7, Harvey Fineberg and colleagues summarized an as yet overlooked issue. There are many patients who may or do have COVID-19, but are not sick enough to need hospital care, or who have been discharged from hospitals. We need to keep these patients away from hospitals but if they shelter in place in their household there is a high risk they will infect their families or housemates. This likelihood is even higher if they are homeless,  incarcerated, or living in other group arrangements.

Instead of sheltering in place at home Fineberg and colleagues suggest those patients enter “smart quarantine” in temporary isolated accommodation, such as hotels or college dormitories, where they can be looked after by medical teams and tested semi-regularly. But whether they are at home or in temporary accommodation, leaving those patients with minimal support to be tested at the end of 14 days is not enough. A significant proportion of them will develop COVID-19 and some of those are going to be admitted to hospital. In addition several patients have been discharged from hospital, but still need to be monitored. We are going to need to be able to closely monitor a significant number of people even while the majority of them will need relatively limited amounts of care.

The good news is that we have had a couple of decades of development of the technologies and services required to both care for and monitor these patients, while keeping the main resources such as ventilators for those in hospitals. Pulling together available technologies and services, we will be able to quickly and accurately manage these patients, ensure their best outcomes, and spare scarce hospital resources. There are seven main components of this process, which I am calling “smart care in quarantine.”

The Process

Upon either a positive test for COVID-19 or a suspicion of those symptoms awaiting testing, patients can be admitted to isolation at home or in, say, empty hotels. 

1. Monitoring equipment. Patients can be given FDA regulated monitoring devices which will work using bluetooth and WiFi (or 4G cellular). The main monitoring tools required are:

  • Pulse Oximeters
  • Thermometers
  • Stethoscopes (with acoustic recording)
  • Weight Scales
  • Video & audio via iPad, phone or computer
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We Need to Fix COVID-Damaged Care Sites and Give the Country Better Care and Universal Coverage in the Process

By GEORGE HALVORSON

The COVID crisis has shown us clearly that major portions of the American care system are extremely dysfunctional and some are now badly broken. We need to put in place a cash flow for American health care that can help our care sites survive and ultimately thrive, and we need to put that approach to save the sites in place now because a vast majority of hospitals and medical practices are badly damaged and some are financially crippled and even destroyed by their response to the crisis.

We have learned a lot in the COVID crisis that we need to use now in building our next steps and our collective response to the crisis.

The COVID crisis has shown us all that our care sites do not have good patient data, do not have good patient linkages, usually do not have team care of any kind in place, and most are so dependent on current piecework fee volumes from patients that they quickly collapse financially when that volume is interrupted.

We should be on the cusp of a golden age of care delivery that uses all of the best patient support tools to deliver continuously improved care — and we now know that the piecework way we buy almost all of our care today will keep that golden age from happening for the vast majority of American patients for the foreseeable future until we change the way we buy care.

We need to buy care in a way that both requires the use of those tools and rewards caregivers and care teams when they use them.

We need a dependable cash flow for care to anchor that process.

We are unlike most of the rest of the industrialized world in not having a dependable cash flow now to buy care. We rely on a hodgepodge and mishmash of unlinked, unaligned and uncoordinated payment sources now and that lack of coordination in payment creates a vast and damaging lack of coordination in the delivery of care.

We can make a huge improvement in that entire process and we can give our health care system a stable and functionally useful future cash flow by becoming a much more highly skilled purchaser of coverage and care. We need a flow of money to make that happen.

We actually can create that flow relatively quickly and fairly easily by imposing a payroll tax on every employee that exactly copies the approach we use now for our Social Security payroll tax process and then using that money in a health care purchasing pool to buy health coverage for every person who is not on Medicaid.

The numbers work.

Continue reading…

Beware the COVID-tech Cowboys

By HUGH HARVEY, MBBS

Health tech has suddenly found its new focus in coronavirus – but are we at risk of doing more harm than good by rushing to use unproven solutions? To avoid chaos in the aftermath, we should focus on tried-and tested tech, and only use novel solutions where need is deemed greater than the acceptable risk.

The COVID pandemic is categorically not a black swan event.

Black swans are by definition unknowable and unpredictable. In contrast, a global viral pandemic was predicted by scientists decades before, from the potential impact, right down to the source of the virus. In fact, only last year The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in partnership with the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted Event 201 (video below), a high-level pandemic exercise on October 18, 2019, in New York, NY to simulate and plan for this exact scenario involving a life-threatening respiratory agent. They accurately predicted the exponential spread of disease, the sudden economic crash, and the desolation it would impose on healthcare systems. Indeed, Bill Gates himself is on record in 2015 predicting at a TED event that it would be ‘microbes, not missiles’ that would would be the next existential threat to humanity.

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The THCB Gang Episode 4

Episode 4 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed Thursday April 9. You can see it below and it’s also preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels. Every Thursday at 1pm PT-4pm ET, 4-6 semi-regular guests drawn from THCB authors and other assorted old friends of mine will shoot the shit about health care business, politics, practice, and tech. It tries to be fun but serious and informative!

This week, joining me were Jane Sarasohn Kahn (@healthythinker), Anish Koka (@anish_koka), Saurabh Jha (@roguerad), Elizabeth Clayborne (@DrElizPC), and Ian Morrison (@seccurve). A fun and very informative discussion about where the COVID-19 crisis is right now and what it’s going to mean both now and in the near future — Matthew Holt

Glen Tullman, Livongo, Live with Jess & Matthew

Fresh off of a press junket that included talking to Jim Cramer on CNBC & hanging with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business News, Livongo Health’s Glen Tullman stopped by THCB to talk about the impact of #covid19 (& more) on health tech. Jessica DaMassa and Matthew Holt tag-team interviewed him on Weds 8th April. (Full transcript is below the video)

Here is the transcript:

Matthew:

Hi, this is Matthew Holt from The Health Care Blog.

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The THCB Gang Episode 3, (LIVE Today at 1PM PT/4PM ET)

Each week an episode of “The THCB Gang” (this was Episode 3) is streamed live here (below) and is also preserved as a weekly podcast and available on our Itunes & Spotify channels a day or so later. Each week 4-6 semi-regular guests drawn from THCB authors and other assorted old friends of mine will shoot the shit about health care business, politics, practice, and tech. It tries to be fun but serious and informative!

This week, joining me were Deven McGraw (@healthprivacy), Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard), Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis), Michael Millenson (@MLMillenson), Brian Klepper (@bklepper1), Grace Cordovano (@gracecordovano) & Daniel O’Neill (@dp_oneill). It was an argumentative discussion about the developments around COVID19 and what we should pay attention to next week — Matthew Holt

The THCB Gang Episode 2, (Thursdays at 1pm PT/4 ET)

This episode of “The THCB Gang” is up here as a video (you could also see it live at 1PT/4ET every Thursday) and it’s also preserved as a weekly podcast and available on our Itunes & Spotify channels a day or so later. Each week 4-6 semi-regular guests drawn from THCB authors and other assorted old friends of mine will shoot the shit about health care business, politics, practice, and tech. It should be fun but serious and informative!

This week, joining me was Michael Millenson (@MLMillenson), Grace Cordovano (@GraceCordovano), Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis), Brian Klepper (@bklepper1) Ian Morrison (@seccurve) & Anish Koka (@anish_koka). A fun and argumentative discussion about where the COVID-19 crisis is right now and what it’s going to mean both now and in the near future — Matthew Holt

The THCB Gang, Today at 1pm PT/4pm ET

Starting today we are going to create a new live show on THCB that will be preserved as a weekly podcast. I’m calling it The THCB Gang. Each week 4-6 semi regular guests drawn from THCB authors and other assorted old friends of mine will shoot the shit about health care business, politics and tech. It should be fun but serious and informative!

To kick off this week, joining me I’ll have Saurabh Jha (@roguerad), Jane Sarasohn Kahn (@healthythinker), Deven McGraw (@healthprivacy) & Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard). Join us at 1pm PT and 4pm ET right here! Hopefully if I don’t screw up too badly we will repeat this every week at the same time with a variety of guests! — Matthew Holt

Update, just added Ian Morrison (@seccurve) to the gang!

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