The Impact of COVID-19 on Healthcare

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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.

Resources:

1https://khn.org/news/nearly-half-of-americans-delayed-medical-care-due-to-pandemic/

2https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-05-02/coronavirus-california-healthcare-workers-layoffs-furloughs

3https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf

4https://www.ama-assn.org/about/leadership/we-can-t-let-essential-care-become-another-casualty-covid-19

5https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/06/01/americans-are-delaying-medical-care-its-devastating-health-care-providers/?arc404=true

Telehealth Best Practices: Enhancing “Webside” Manner

Best Practices for Telehealth Webside Manner

Staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic continues to increase the use of telehealth among healthcare professionals. 75% of individuals in the U.S. who have behavioral health conditions are continuing therapy services during COVID-19. Additionally, virtual care has increased 1.6x since the summer of 2019.  And telehealth is here to stay. Convenience, access beyond clinical hours, and increased continuity of care are just a few of the key benefits in providing telehealth. With such an increase, we pulled together a list of best practices when conducting a telehealth appointment. Just as physicians focus on bedside manner during an in-person interaction, telehealth encounters have a proper “webside” manner.

Why is “Webside” Manner Important?

“Webside” manner is just as important as a regular bedside manner during client appointments. Webside manner is similar to bedside manner. It’s the way clinicians interact with patients during an appointment.

Studies show positive provider-patient relationships matter. When providers receive training in empathy, eye-contact, and other relationship-building strategies, health outcomes often improve. In other words, there are no negative side effects when you focus on maintaining a positive relationship with clients. Building a good rapport is crucial to providing meaningful care. So, how can you enhance your telehealth experience?

Best Practices for a Telehealth Encounter

Before the Appointment

If you are new to telehealth, we recommend practicing before your first client encounter. Even if you are experienced in telehealth, best practices are important reminders before each appointment. Here are a few items to consider:

  • Have the correct equipment – Having a reliable computer or laptop with video functionality will be best for telehealth. Devices often perform best when plugged into a power source. Consider investing in a headset and a USB camera if your current technology isn’t up to par.
  • Test your internet connection – Nothing can interfere with a patient encounter more than having poor communication. During a virtual appointment, internet connection can interfere with communication. Continually test your connectivity to ensure you provide the highest quality care. Placing the router close to your office helps improve wireless connections. If you can’t do that, consider getting a wireless range enhancer to boost your wifi signal. 
  • Physical space – When using video for telehealth, physical space determines whether a client can see you clearly. Proper lighting, for example, affects how well a client can see you. You may also consider a physical space that isn’t prone to unexpected sounds (from kids, pets, etc.). Additionally, make sure you are comfortable in the space before the appointment begins. Being intentional about your physical space decreases possible distractions.
  • Practice – Grab a colleague to practice with. Set the stage just as you will during your appointments. Ask for feedback on how your space looks, whether the connection seems to be working properly, etc. For instance, a colleague may be able to comment on what the patient experience is like when logging into the telehealth appointment. Practice provides further confidence in using telehealth, which may be a new concept to you or your client.  
  • Have a back-up plan – It is no secret that technology can provide unexpected roadblocks. Whether it be a client’s internet giving out or a device losing power, know your backup plan. A backup plan may look like calling your patient instead of using video. Luckily telehealth compliance and reimbursement are flexible when issues do occur (some rules have become more relaxed during COVID-19). Your agency may provide you with a specific backup plan when things do not go as expected. Know the recommended procedure so you are prepared when challenges arise. 

During the Appointment

It’s time for a telehealth appointment! After proper preparation, remember virtual communication best practices. Consider these tips:

  • Focus on the camera to mimic eye contact.
  • Be aware of body language.
  • Stay seated when possible.
  • Avoid distractions. This tip may seem obvious, but taping or fidgeting is often more distracting on video than in person.
  • Be clear. Clarity on a virtual platform is critically important. For instance, ask clients if they can hear you okay. Ask clients if they need any clarification or have questions during each encounter. Being clear may seem like a simple communication practice, but double-checking your clients’ understanding is better than assuming they heard everything.

Your Reliable Solution

With telehealth on the rise, you need a reliable solution to continue providing meaningful care to your clients. That’s why Patagonia Health has developed an integrated telehealth solution. Our telehealth app allows users to easily integrate video appointments into their workflow. The solution is both secure and very easy to use. Interested in learning more? Contact us today. 

Resources:

https://telemedicine.arizona.edu/blog/bedside-manners-telehealth-understanding-how-your-screenside-manners-matter
https://blog.pcc.com/virtual-bedside-manner-connecting-with-telemedicine
https://healthpayerintelligence.com/features/beyond-covid-19-telehealth-partnerships-member-engagement?eid=CXTEL000000530175&elqCampaignId=14727&utm_source=nl&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter&elqTrackId=2c159cc5ff9b41378a689e2ef8be71d4&elq=6c4fc3af848642a99574d8eafa593fbd&elqaid=15411&elqat=1&elqCampaignId=14727
https://www.wheel.com/blog/ways-to-improve-your-telehealth-webside-manner/

Contact Tracing and Next Steps

Contact Tracing During COVID-19

States move toward reopening, public health decisions continue to be in the spotlight.

As curves plateau and state economies continue to struggle, people around the country are asking: when will we get back to normal? Public health and government officials, however, focus on how we return to normal. As of May 1, more than half of US states began reopening businesses and easing previously strict orders and mandates. Although, what we remember as normal before this pandemic will not be how states reopen right away. 

In order to contain this public health crisis, experts consider how to safely move toward reopening. Testing, tracing, and self-isolating will be key in taking the next steps. Communities will rely on four building blocks to combat COVID-19: contact tracing, testing, and eventual COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. These building blocks work together for an effective plan to return to society. Public health professionals will focus on where the virus is in communities and how to continue to reduce the spread. 

What is Contact Tracing?

Contact tracing is a public health strategy designed to contain the spread of an infectious disease. The idea works by tracing and contacting each person who may have been in contact with an individual who tests positive for an infectious disease. By informing individuals when they may have been in contact with a positive case, we can monitor and advise others appropriately (e.g self isolate if they also show symptoms). The concept is fundamental to public health and even more important during the current pandemic. In the U.S., we are fortunate to have strong local health departments. The staff at health departments work as quiet soldiers day in and day out to keep our communities safe. When our everyday lives aren’t at risk of infectious disease, we don’t even realize the work being done by local health departments.

The Importance of Tracing Positive COVID-19 Cases 

Johns Hopkins School of Public Health recently released a report on COVID-19 contact tracing in the United States. The report estimated each positive COVID-19 person can infect 2 to 3 other people, on average. This leads to an alarming statistic: if one person spreads the virus to three others, the first positive case can turn into more than 59,000 cases in 10 rounds of infections.

How Does Contact Tracing Work?

In addition to providing immunizations to the public, county health departments ensure communicable diseases such as STD, HIV, and tuberculosis (TB) do not spread in communities. They do this by helping infected individuals and tracing all contacts. For example, when someone tests positive for TB, health department staff are responsible for tracking and contacting all people who that person has been in contact with. The staff’s focus is to make sure each individual is safe and not positive for TB. If connected people show symptoms of the disease, appropriate actions will be advised, such as self-isolation. Electronic Health Records designed specifically for public health have contact tracing functionality for TB built into their software. During the normal course of life, an individual can come in contact with hundreds of people. The EHR software enables staff to efficiently contact and track positive cases, decreasing the chance of widespread infection. 

Contact tracing can quickly isolate people who are or may be infected to stop the spread while allowing healthy people to engage in society. COVID-19 tracing efforts by public health departments will be critical as we reintegrate back into society. Additionally, if there is a second wave of COVID-19, preparing contact tracing measures now enables more effective action in the future.

How States are Already Working Towards Reopening

States, such as Maryland, have released extensive reopening plans to the public. Governor Larry Hogan recently stated that when moving toward reopening, his administration is working to “move rapidly, but not recklessly.” Maryland’s building blocks include testing and having a plan for enough personal protective equipment. They have additionally worked hard to prioritize their contact tracing workforce. COVID-19 Link, a new platform to be used for robust contact tracing operations, will help collect information about people who test positive for COVID-19 and anyone they have come in contact with. Maryland has expanded their workforces to 1,000 contact tracers who will be trained on this platform using data from the region’s health information exchange (CRISP). Public Health EHRs connect to Health Information Exchanges, including CRISP, to provide real-time data, which is crucial during an epidemic. 

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 and doing hard work of contact tracing. 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

Managing Anxiety Amid COVID-19

Managing Anxiety

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a lot of noise flooding our daily lives. As cases of COVID-19 continue to increase, so do cases of anxiety and worry. Everyone in the world has been indirectly or directly affected by this virus. It’s no secret by now COVID-19 has a far greater impact than just those who are diagnosed. The way our world lives and works has been altered in the past couple of months. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in late April over half of U.S. adults (56%) COVID-19 stress or worry has had a negative impact on their mental health.

Now, possibly more than ever, the topic of mental health is growing in our country. Mental health literacy is gaining momentum in the United States media. A recent PsychU Webinar noted the loneliness epidemic was already prevalent in our culture. COVID-19 is helping the world to recognize this epidemic and increase resources available online to uplift people. Additionally, behavioral health professionals anticipate a reduced mental health stigma at the end of this pandemic. COVID-19 may result in greater overall recognition of behavioral health professionals.  

During this pandemic, individuals and practicing healthcare professionals alike, need reminders of ways to cope with anxiety and stress. Mental well being is just as important as your physical well being, especially during a time of crisis. 

Tips for Managing Anxiety During COVID-19

Changing the Narrative 

Instead of social distancing, think of physically distancing yourself with an enhancement of socially connecting. Shift the mindset of social distancing to physical distancing with an enhancement of social connection. Know what types of virtual social connections work best for you. Then, take time to incorporate appropriate social connections into your routine. For some, it may be calling a friend once a day or setting up a video call with friends each week. Whatever outlet you choose, connection with others is still vital during this time.

Take Note and Take Action

When worry begins turning into anxiety, take note and take action. When worry shows up frequently and with an intensity, it may be time to take action. Take a trusted mental health screening online. MHAscreening.org, for example, is an evidence-based technology and will transfer you to resources specific to screening results. When mental health is taking a toll on your everyday life, get connected to resources available to you. SAMHSA, additionally, has a free and confidential National Helpline for treatment referral and information services. The number is 1-800-662-HELP (4357). 

Avoid Anxiety Triggers

Recognize the outlets increasing your specific worry and anxiety. For example, it may be beneficial to limit screen and news intake. Make sure to stay informed and get the facts you need, but avoid media known to fabricate stories and bring on unnecessary worry. 

Take Control of What You Can

There are certain aspects of life we can take control of. Some parts of life and this virus are completely out of our control. Control the things you can each day and let go of the things you cannot control. Ask yourself: what is in my control today and what is out of my control? 

Here are some additional articles for tips on managing anxiety during COVID-19:

Specifically for Physicians 

Our healthcare heroes are specifically in need of support. The physicians on the frontline of this pandemic are likely to have many fears, pressures, and anxieties. A Philadelphia-based psychiatrist recently launched the Physician Support Line, to serve as “emotional personal protective equipment (PPE)” for physicians who may need it. Over 600 psychiatrists across the country volunteer to take shifts for the support line to be open each day from 8:00 AM to 12:00 AM EST. 

Know the Resources Available

Patagonia Health Resource Page

This pandemic will pass. In the meantime, know there are many resources available for you. COVID-19 will offer our world more tools to combat mental illness. Additionally, this time in history will show the importance of being proactive about physical and mental health. Remain hopeful, stay connected to those around you, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. As a Behavioral and Public Health EHR, we are here for you. We understand the hardships healthcare professionals are facing during these difficult times. If there is any way we can support you, please contact us today. 

Additional COVID-19 Stimulus Funding Available

Additional COVID-19 Funding

The Federal coronavirus stimulus package was so well-received, it actually ran out of money! Luckily, Phase 3.5 of the COVID-19 funding passed, making $484 billion of emergency funds available for small businesses. The SBA is accepting applications again now.

More Funding for Small Businesses:

  • The Paycheck Protection Program was replenished, allowing small businesses and nonprofits to apply for economic relief.
  • Loans can be forgiven if the money is used to keep employees on payroll.

Funds for Behavioral Health Agencies:

  • Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Providers are eligible for additional healthcare funds.
  • Eligibility is the same as it is for the CARES Act.
  • The first $30 billion of these funds are allocated to Medicare providers

ACT FAST: Get your materials in order now. Remember, items may vary by lender.

More Details:

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

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