The Impact of COVID-19 on Healthcare

Author Archives: Lorana Price

About Lorana Price

Lorana Price is a Marketing Executive at Patagonia Health. Her background includes work with regulated document management software, home healthcare software and global medical device commercialization. She applies her skills at Patagonia Health by developing content related to important Public and Behavioral Health news and updates.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Healthcare

COVID-19 on Healthcare

Throughout many economic downturns it has commonly been stated that healthcare is “safe.” The logic behind this was people always get sick or hurt and need medical care. COVID-19 has turned that theory upside down. As the threat of coronavirus ramped up, hospitals, health systems and private practices heavily reduced non-emergency services to prepare for COVID patients. This reduction in services has dramatically impacted how these organizations function.

Americans Delaying Medical Care

Not only has the reduction in services hurt healthcare providers, but many patients are delaying medical care because of the pandemic, as well. In a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 48% of Americans said they or a family member delayed care, and 11% of them said the condition worsened as a result of the delay.(1) Additionally, visits to emergency departments dropped by 38% in March and April.(4)

Both Chicago and New York reported a 30% drop in 911 calls. This is the lowest call volume they’ve had in years. The dramatic reduction in 911 calls signals people’s willingness to go without care for potentially life-threatening situations. Postponing healthcare will quite possibly lead to a surge in hospitalizations for chronic conditions, which will strain an already stressed health system.(4)

What this Means for Healthcare

In California, thousands of medical professionals have been laid off, furloughed or taken pay cuts since March of this year.(2) According to federal labor statistics, healthcare job losses have been second only to those in the restaurant industry.(3) Since February, employment in healthcare is down by 797,000.(3) 

The economics behind this state of affairs are simple: fewer patients and procedures means less money. According to a survey conducted by the California Medical Association, revenue at private practices has dropped by an average of 64% since March 1. Half of the practices have furloughed or laid off staff, 65% have reduced their hours, a third have instituted pay cuts and 11% have closed temporarily.(2)

Healthcare Changes we can Expect

At Patagonia Health, we firmly believe telehealth is here to stay. Especially with relaxed regulations and the ability to collect payments for virtual visits. Beyond telehealth, we might also see healthcare changes, such as:

  • Screening for infection symptoms prior to appointments
  • Barriers between patients and providers or staff
  • Social distancing and restricted visitation
  • Longer appointment times and fewer appointments
  • More electronic forms and paperwork
  • Waiting in cars, rather than waiting rooms(5) 

Public Health Workers, We’re Here for You.

We know county local health department staff are on the frontlines of finding answers about COVID-19. As an Electronic Health Record provider focused on public health, we understand the importance of your work. Thank you, healthcare heroes! If there is any way that we can be a resource to you during this time, please reach out to us today.







Patagonia Health Develops Integrated Telehealth Solution

In response to customer needs and the increasing use of telehealth due to COVID-19, Patagonia Health, a provider of Electronic Health Record (EHR) software designed for Public and Behavioral Health, launched a fully-integrated telehealth solution. The secure, HIPAA-compliant solution allows users to easily schedule, conduct and document virtual visits directly within the EHR. 

“Many of our customers were challenged with how to provide adequate care during COVID-19 while maintaining a safe physical distance and not exposing their clients to an office environment. Our team saw the immediate need for a telehealth solution to support our customers and our community,” says Ashok Mathur, Co-Founder and CEO, Patagonia Health, “The app’s development was centered on being easy to use and seamlessly integrated into the existing Patagonia Health EHR workflow.”

Within 12 weeks, Patagonia Health’s Telehealth App went from idea to deployment. Beginning in mid-March, discussions began around the idea of developing an embedded telehealth solution. After surveying customers to understand their specific needs, Patagonia Health’s development team launched a pilot site for internal training and testing on May 18th. On June 25th, the telehealth solution was launched to all customers for use.

The Telehealth App quickly received positive feedback from customers. Discussing one of her first Patagonia Health telehealth visits, Jennifer Halter, LSW-C at Wicomico County Health Department in Maryland, raved “[My client] commented that it was easier to hear and see me than when we used Google Meet. I found it easier to see her, as well. Overall, it was a great experience!” 

Benefits of the Integrated Telehealth App Include:

  • Support to maintain or increase revenue
  • Convenient for patients by removing travel for appointments
  • Easy access to healthcare with face-to-face video and audio engagement
  • Improve clinical efficiency during difficult times and beyond

Patagonia Health launched the app understanding telehealth is more than a trend related to the pandemic. With the telehealth solution, users conduct virtual patient visits, document clinical assessments in the patient record and file telehealth claims directly through the Electronic Health Record without changing their current process or workflow. For more information about Patagonia Health’s Telehealth App, visit

About Patagonia Health, Inc.

Patagonia Health, Inc. is a healthcare software supplier with a cloud and apps-based software solution that is designed specifically for Public and Behavioral Health agencies. The solution includes an integrated, federally-certified, Electronic Health Record (EHR), Practice Management (PM) and Billing software. The company’s mission is to solve two major barriers to EHR adoption − usability and cost − and address customers’ number one problem: billing. Patagonia Health’s highly-intelligent solution is easy to use and provides timely data for organizations to improve workflow and streamline operations.

See the press release here:

Eligibility Requirements for CARES Act Stimulus Funding

CARES Act Stimulus Funding Eligibility

By now you’ve likely heard about the Federal coronavirus stimulus package to help businesses manage during the COVID-19 outbreak. Many behavioral health agencies are wondering if they are eligible for funding. 

CARES Act Stimulus Funding Eligibility

You are eligible if you are:

  • A small business with fewer than 500 employees
  • A 501(c)(3) with fewer than 500 employees
  • A Tribal business concern that meets the SBA size standard

REMEMBER: The 500-employee threshold includes all employees: full-time, part-time and any other status.

What Lenders Look For

Lenders will ask for a good faith certification that:

  • The current economic uncertainty makes the loan necessary to support your agency’s operations
  • You will use the loan to retain employees, maintain payroll or make mortgage, lease and utility payments
  • You haven’t received a loan from Feb 15 – Dec 31, 2020 that duplicates the purpose and amounts applied for 

Loans can be up to 2.5 times your average monthly payroll costs (not to exceed $10 million). Additionally, borrowers are eligible for loan forgiveness equal to the amount spent on payroll, mortgage interest, rent and utility payments.

Click here for the US Chamber of Commerce Small Business Guide and Checklist.

CARES Act Resources

The Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security (CARES) Act

The CARES Act Section by Section Summary

Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance

Corona Virus Emergency Loans Small Business Guide and Checklist

Get the Facts on Stimulus Funding for your Agency

COVID-19 Federal Stimulus Funding

In this unprecedented time, many behavioral health agencies are concerned about how they will manage to make ends meet. Did you know there is Federal coronavirus stimulus funding available to help healthcare providers address COVID-19? The bill, Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES Act) was signed into law by the President on March 28th. This stimulus could be a lifesaver for many of you!

COVID-19 Funding

Paycheck Protection Program

Small businesses can get federal money to meet payroll costs for up to 8 weeks via the Paycheck Protection Program, which is part of the CARES Act. Any organization with 500 employees or less, including non-profits, is eligible. Organizations will receive a loan of 2.5 times their average monthly payroll costs. The loan will be forgiven if it’s used to pay employees.

Get more information from the US Chamber of Commerce.

Payroll Tax Credit

Small businesses can get a payroll tax credit for 50% of wages paid to employees if revenue dropped by 50% or more, The credit is provided for wages paid from March 13 – December 31, 2020. 

See Section 2301 Employee Retention Credit for Employers Subject to Closure due to COVID-19 for more details.

Delayed Employer Payroll Taxes

Employer payroll taxes can be delayed. This provision requires that half of the deferred taxes be paid by December 31, 2021 and the remaining by December 31, 2022. 

See Section 2302 Delay of Payment of Employer Payroll Taxes for more details

Economic Injury Disaster Loan

If your state is designated as a disaster state, then your organization can apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan via the Small Business Administration. However, only the Payroll Protection Program or this loan may be used, not both. 

Click here for SBA Disaster Assistance Information.

State-specific Funding

New Jersey Small Business Emergency Assistance Program

In ADDITION to federal funds, the state of New Jersey is offering Loans for Small Businesses. Applications are being accepted this week for The New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s (NJEDA) Small Business Emergency Assistance Loan Program. The program makes low-cost financing available to cover operating expenses and ensure continuity of operations during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Check your eligibility here.

Additional Resources:

The Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security (CARES) Act

The CARES Act Section by Section Summary

Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance

Corona Virus Emergency Loans Small Business Guide and Checklist

Guide for Small Businesses to Obtain a Paycheck Protection Loan

Paycheck Protection Program FAQs

Why Health Information Exchange is Important for EHR Use

Health Information Exchange is Important for EHR Use

Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are an integral part of today’s healthcare system. Despite initial hesitation to switch to an EHR, an overwhelming majority of organizations that have made the change cannot imagine going back to paper. EHRs improve efficiency and increase reimbursements while improving patient care. As providers become more fluent with the technology, EHRs help them with decision making and influence the way a client is treated. Additionally, EHRs enable connectivity, or to use the current buzzword, interoperability.

Interoperability refers to health information technology that enables electronic health information to be easily exchanged. It lets authorized professionals access, exchange and use the health information. In our journey to transform healthcare, Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) have been established. Connecting an EHR to an HIE allows health information to flow seamlessly to the right people at the right place at the right time.

What is an HIE?

But what exactly is an HIE? Historically, when a patient visited a healthcare facility, the provider had two paths to understand the medical history of the patient:

  • Check the facility’s own EHR system for prior visit information, such as allergies, medications, procedures, etc.
  • Ask the patient to fill in any missing information not already documented.

As you know, there are several problems with this process. Not only do patients rarely remember information from prior visits, but they are seen in multiple facilities using various EHR systems, as well. Also, consider a patient who comes into the ER and is unresponsive. How would a provider find out about his or her missing information?

A Health Information Exchange addresses this issue. An HIE is a secure central repository of patient data aggregated across multiple facilities and EHR systems in the same region. The goal is to provide a holistic view of the patient’s electronic health record through a secure, standardized system. EHRs connected to an HIE can share information via the federally defined standards of CCR (Continuity of Care Record) and CCD (Continuity of Care Document). This is the standard all federally-certified EHRs must follow.

Any federally-certified EHR connected to an HIE can (if permitted) send and/or receive information between the EHR and the HIE. Thus, the provider can send and receive electronic information with any community provider also connected to the HIE.

Benefits of Health Information Exchange

Benefits of Using an EHR for Health Information Exchange

Using an HIE streamlines information and connects a practitioner to all aspects of a client’s medical history. Practitioners can receive health information from the HIE, such as a patient discharge summary from a community hospital. This information can be brought into a patient’s chart as electronic health data after it has been reviewed. Using an HIE helps facilitate coordinated patient care, enabling an organization to:

  • Save time by minimizing readmissions
  • Increase efficiency by moving away from paper and fax machines
  • Save money by avoiding duplicate testing
  • Provide clinical decision support tools to improve care and treatment
  • Minimize medication and medical errors
  • Engage consumers about their own personal health information
  • Improve healthcare quality and outcomes.

HIEs reduce the amount of time patients spend completing paperwork and briefing their providers on their medical history. This frees up more time for discussions about health concerns and treatments between the patient and provider. By saving time for patients and providers along the continuum of healthcare delivery, HIEs have the potential to both reduce costs and improve health outcomes.

Health Information Exchange Challenges

The push for nationwide interoperability and improved health data exchange have increased HIE and EHR use. In some cases, organizations have been mandated to make the adoption. But, that doesn’t mean HIE connectivity doesn’t come without challenges.

HIE and Data Security

One of the biggest concerns with HIEs is ensuring health data privacy and security are maintained throughout the entire data exchange process. Participating organizations must follow all federal and state requirements related to data security, but they still need to allow information to be exchanged freely for patient care. While information exchange between EHR systems and HIEs is HIPAA compliant, the growing number of cybersecurity attacks have piqued concern about health data security.

A 2017 Black Book survey confirmed these fears extend to patients. Patients surveyed were nervous their digital health information might be shared beyond their physician and hospital. Furthermore, they are not confident their physician will be able to keep their personal information secure. 69% felt their primary care physician “does not demonstrate enough technology prowess” to reassure them that their data is safe.

Physician Burnout

Another major challenge HIE connectivity brings to the forefront is information overload. Physicians are already experiencing burnout. Providers are further burdened with copious amounts of data flooding them, which can lead to less effective care.

While the Patients Over Paperwork initiative is promising to reduce administrative burden and physician burnout, it doesn’t fully account for the volume of data providers will be faced with.

Many providers have lamented that their EHR system is not built with an easy to use clinical workflow. Adding another step to incorporate data from an HIE is just that – another step.

Regardless of the challenges, EHRs and HIEs aren’t going away. They are a major part of the digitization of healthcare and the shift toward value based care. Learning to utilize these tools effectively will help your organization provide more streamlined, effective patient care. And, of course, we recommend working with an EHR vendor who will help you navigate this process with training, support and best practices!

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