Healthcare IT stories you may have missed – July 2021

Healthcare IT stories you may have missed – July 2021

Big moves from tech giants inside and outside of healthcare dominated headlines this month. From Amwell’s acquisition of two digital health startups to Google’s launch of a new interoperability platform, the second half of 2021 will be interesting to watch.

Forbes reported that Amwell is acquiring two digital health startups for a combined $320 million as the publicly traded telehealth company looks to expand its platform offerings beyond the Covid-fueled virtual care boom. The two companies—SilverCloud Health and Conversa Health—are part of Amwell’s strategy to work with patients along their entire care journey and not just limit the relationship to one-off virtual visits. From a strategy standpoint, the acquisitions seem necessary to compete with Teladoc and other rivals who are also trying to deliver more comprehensive services. Only time will tell if combining with these two particular companies will pay off.

Additionally, following Amazon’s announcement of its newly repackaged cloud services for health businesses, Google has introduced a new interoperability platform built off its ​​Google Cloud Healthcare API that it’s sharing with limited private partners. The company says the offering is designed to give researchers and clinicians a more real-time, holistic view of patient records. You can get all the details from Healthcare IT News.

Lastly, U.S. hospitals and healthcare systems have been under such relentless cyberattacks in recent months that it is beginning to be a threat to their bottom lines, according to a new report from Fitch Ratings. “Attacks may hinder revenue generation and the ability to recover costs in a timely manner, particularly if they affect a hospital’s ability to bill patients when financial records are compromised or systems become locked,” the report said, adding that patient care may also begin to be impacted. Healthcare Dive has the full story.

That’s all for this month! Be sure to look out for my next newsletter in August.


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Provider stories you may have missed – July 2021

Provider stories you may have missed – July 2021

The Delta variant is now responsible for 83 percent of new coronavirus cases in America. This is a drastic increase from earlier this month when the variant accounted for about 50 percent of genetically sequenced coronavirus cases. Testifying at a Senate hearing this week, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, “Each death is tragic and even more heartbreaking when we know that the majority of these deaths could be prevented with a simple, safe, available vaccine.”

But as case counts rise, vaccine efforts across the country have stalled and many healthcare workers are still not immunized, particularly in rural areas.  According to the New York Times, one recent estimate indicated that one in four hospital workers were not vaccinated by the end of May, with some facilities reporting that fewer than half of their employees had gotten shots. To keep their workforces healthy, some hospitals, ranging from academic medical centers like New York-Presbyterian and Yale New Haven to large chains like Trinity Health, are now mandating shots.  

Covid’s lingering effects, even in those who had mild disease, are also still impacting elective surgeries. In addition to concerns about respiratory complications from anesthesia, covid may affect multiple organs and systems, and physicians are still learning the implications for surgery. Kaiser Health News reported on a recent study that compared the mortality rate in the 30 days following surgery in patients who had a covid infection and in those who did not. It found that waiting to undergo surgery for at least seven weeks after a covid infection reduced the risk of death to that of people who hadn’t been infected in the first place. Patients with long-haul symptoms should wait even longer, the study suggested.

During the pandemic outpatient facilities rose in popularity and now they’re receiving higher patient satisfaction scores than hospitals. A new survey by The Leapfrog Group of patients at hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers suggests that while patients are satisfied on several levels, safety issues remain a significant concern, especially when children are being treated. CEO, Leah Binder, told Healthcare Dive, “We are worried about signs of patient safety problems, particularly in pediatric units, where parents appear hesitant to raise concerns about mistakes. We also see issues with communication that can lead to patient harm.” 

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3 PR Lessons I Learned During My Co-Op at Greenough

3 PR Lessons I Learned During My Co-Op at Greenough

By Lilly Wilcox, English and Communication Studies at Northeastern ’22

While it’s a word that has been overused to describe the winter of 2021, uncertain is how I felt coming into my co-op with Greenough. I was worried about joining the agency virtually, and I didn’t have any background in healthcare or tech PR.  

Luckily, the Greenough team is experienced in remote onboarding and was eager to teach me everything I needed to know about these new industries. Working with brilliant colleagues, I have learned an immense amount in a short period of time, and I can hardly believe that my co-op has already come to an end. Following are just a few nuggets of wisdom from Greenough that will stick with me long after my departure:

If you can send an email, you can pitch.

In a weekly debrief meeting in the early part of my co-op, I confessed to Annie, a former co-op turned full-time account executive, that I sometimes felt I wasn’t qualified to pitch seasoned reporters as a college student. Annie passed along advice that she received when she was experiencing the same uncertainty during her first stint at Greenough—pitching is just sending emails.

While it is a little more nuanced than that, Annie gave me a confidence boost and reminded me that everyone has to start somewhere in the PR industry. With the support and expertise of my teams, I was able to develop my pitching skills and deliver results for clients.

Working in PR, you can become an expert in anything.

I was responsible for putting together media scans each morning to track coverage of Greenough clients and industry storylines. While this could be a time-consuming task, it became one that I enjoyed. Kicking off each morning with a deep dive into the news of the day quickly brought me up-to-speed about the clients I worked with and the industries that were new to me.

In a response to a thank you email from a colleague after a particularly long scan, I wrote, “I’ve learned a lot about something I likely wouldn’t have been tuned into otherwise, so doing these media scans has definitely been a valuable experience for me.”

Before working at Greenough, I never imagined I would be able to explain the semiconductor shortage or the significance of allergy diagnostics. Although news scans aren’t the most glamourous part of PR, they have been a crucial part of my learning experience.

PR affects more than just your client.

One of my great privileges at Greenough was supporting the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, which has been diligently working on the front lines of the pandemic. EBNHC was responsible for some of the first and biggest testing operations in Massachusetts and began vaccinating the greater Boston population shortly before I joined the team in January.

One of the Health Center’s missions this past six months has been to combat vaccine misinformation and get shots into the arms of vulnerable populations. Their work has paid off. State data released in May shows that the highest rate of Latinx vaccinations were in East Boston, Chelsea and Revere—all hard-hit areas that were served by the Health Center.

I saw firsthand how Greenough’s efforts getting EBNHC’s message out led to a successful vaccination campaign in the greater Boston area, and I am grateful to have played a small role in that.

Looking back at my co-op experience, I’m grateful for all I’ve learned and know that these lessons will stick with me. I’m excited to take them back the classroom for my final year at Northeastern and pass the baton to Greenough’s next lucky co-op.

Dear Greenough… a message from an endlessly grateful, departing co-op

Dear Greenough… a message from an endlessly grateful, departing co-op

By: Nicole Reading, Business Management/Consulting and Communication Studies student at Northeastern

Thank you, Greenough, for a rewarding journey and setting the bar so high for my future co-ops. I was lucky to experience the Greenough culture in person and virtually, and it is truly one of a kind. Everyone at Greenough carries themselves with professionalism, but also knows how to have fun. It was a joy to be surrounded by that energy for six months.

I will miss my days in the sunny Watertown office dearly. Although I never saw it at full capacity, I am grateful for the safe, physical workplace during the pandemic as well as the camaraderie, occasional puppy visits, and surplus of jolly ranchers that came along with it!

Thank you to my incredible colleagues for bringing me into the fold on day one. Yes, I was on two client calls my very first day at Greenough! One of which I began leading just a few weeks later. You all helped me find my voice and feel comfortable using it, despite being brand new to the world of PR.

Thank you for not giving me a reason to believe that little voice in my head that whispered, “You aren’t qualified.” I learned to embrace the uncomfortable because growth and comfort do not coexist.

From the very beginning, I felt like an integral part of each account team with client-facing responsibilities and ownership over important tasks. This is a credit to the “learn by doing” mentality at Greenough which gives co-ops the space and support to grow so much in a short time. I took great pleasure in taking on a new challenge, pushing myself with the encouragement of my coworkers, and coming out the other side with new skills and confidence.

The best part about working at Greenough for me is no two days are the same. During my co-op, I touched 10 different client accounts specializing in everything from semiconductor chip manufacturing to insurance to healthcare technology. I know the critical thinking and adaptability required to navigate these various industries will serve me well in both the classroom and my future career.

To the next cohort of lucky co-ops, know that this job is fast paced, but that’s the most exciting part. I encourage you to come into the office (or log into Teams) each day with a positive attitude and prepared to work hard. Ask plenty of questions, take notes and trust your instincts. Most of all, have fun and send gifs (you’ll learn quickly that the Greenough team is obsessed with Schitt’s Creek). Lastly, when you visit Watertown, don’t erase the chalkboard next to Ed’s office.

Thank you for everything, Greenough!


Nicole Reading

Healthcare IT stories you may have missed – July 2021

Healthcare IT Headlines You May Have Missed – June 2021

Consumers’ growing interest in their health data has mobilized healthcare organizations and tech giants alike to develop new applications that meet demand. 

Fierce Healthcare reported that iPhone users will soon be able to review long-term analyses of their health, receive automated alerts of changes to their loved one’s condition and share health data directly to their provider’s EHR system through the Apple Health app. According to Sumbul Desai, M.D., vice president of Apple Health, “A critical part of taking care of yourself is monitoring changes in your health, which can be subtle and easy to miss; so, this year we’re offering three new features to help you to identify, measure and understand those changes.”

Further, a new report from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT stated that 70% of acute care hospitals give patients access to their health data through mobile apps or other technology, and 75% give patients access to detailed clinical notes through a patient portal. However, access is geographically uneven. Healthcare Dive has the full story.

Another aspect of consumer health behavior is also making headlines: A new report from FAIR Health finds telehealth utilization is going down as the pandemic recedes. Claims for telehealth fell by around 5% in March compared to February 2021, which had a nearly 16% drop from January 2021. Despite the drops, many experts believe telehealth is here to stay, and providers would be wise to develop forward-looking strategies for optimizing virtual care before the public health emergency ends.

Look for my next health IT newsletter in July!

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Provider stories you may have missed – July 2021

Healthcare provider stories you may have missed – June 2021

All eyes are on the Supreme Court as we await a decision on the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act. The key issue this time is whether a 2017 decision by Congress to remove the financial penalty for not buying health insurance — the individual mandate — also eliminated the legal underpinnings that led the court to uphold the law previously. But despite the pending landmark ruling, President Biden and the new Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, have said they want to expand Obamacare.

In one of her first interviews since confirmation, Brooks-LaSure laid out her plans to broaden the Affordable Care Act saying, “I believe that most people who are not enrolled want coverage but may not understand it’s available or how to get it.” Brooks-LaSure also suggested the administration would support efforts in Congress to ensure coverage for the millions of Americans in the so-called Medicaid gap.

On the private payer side, UnitedHealthcare announced a controversial new policy intended to crack down on emergency department visits and costs. Starting July 1, UnitedHealthcare will evaluate ER claims using several factors to determine if the visit was truly an emergency for its fully insured commercial members across many states. If the insurer finds the visit was a non-emergency, the visit will be “subject to no coverage or limited coverage.” No doubt misuse of the nation’s emergency departments for minor ailments is a costly issue for the healthcare industry. But is this policy in compliance with federal law? How much will it be enforced? And will this discourage patients from seeking care for actual emergencies? Answers to these questions will be the true measure of how well this policy performs.

Finally, Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and an adviser to President Joe Biden, urged more U.S. Covid vaccinations as the harmful ‘Delta’ variant continued to spread in U.K. At a news briefing, Fauci said the Delta variant that was first reported in India now accounts for more than 6 percent of cases being sequenced in the U.S. while in the U.K. it has overtaken the Alpha variant that originated there. Across the U.S., Covid-19 caseloads are falling but so too is the pace of vaccinations. To help keep the momentum up, President Biden has launched a “month of action.”