Healthcare provider stories you may have missed – September 20201

Healthcare provider stories you may have missed – September 20201

The FDA formally authorized booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for adults over 65, those who are at high risk of severe Covid-19, or those who are at risk of serious complications because of exposure to the virus in their jobs. There’s a lot of ambiguity in those requirements. Now the question turns to who exactly needs a booster shot and when? The New York Times writes: “Roughly 22 million Americans are at least six months past their second Pfizer dose, according to the C.D.C. About half are 65 or older. But who exactly risks becoming severely ill? What does it mean to be exposed on the job? Do teachers count as exposed, or just frontline health care workers? And what about Americans who got the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots?”

One day after the FDA announcement, scientists on the C.D.C.’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices began tackling these complicated issues. Director Rochelle Walensky signed off on a series of recommendations, saying boosters should be offered to people 65 and over as well as those 50 to 64 years with underlying medical conditions. People with underlying medical conditions ages 18-49 may also get shots. The extra dose would be given at least six months after the last shot. But one of Dr. Walensky’s endorsements broke from the panel’s recommendation, saying people may be offered boosters if they are ages 18 to 64 years and are healthcare workers or have another job that puts them at increased risk of being exposed to the virus.

And just as the booster shot campaign begins, hospitals across the country are grappling with workforce burnout and staffing shortages. Lisa Tomasso, spokeswoman for the Hospital Association of Rhode Island, told the Boston Globe, “The healthcare workforce shortage existed prior to COVID-19. The pandemic and its protracted nature have only exacerbated that problem.” In New York, hospitals and nursing homes are bracing for the possibility that a statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers could lead to staff shortages when it takes effect Monday. To ensure there’s enough staff to care for all the patients, hospitals and nursing homes were preparing contingency plans that included cutting back on elective surgeries and, at one hospital, halting maternity services.

Finally, taking a novel and innovative approach to tackling health inequities, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts will begin paying doctors more money if they close longstanding, harmful gaps in care for people of color. In an interview with WBUR, Dr. Mark Friedberg, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Senior Vice President of Performance Measurement and Improvement, said, “We are taking these steps to really, in an intentional way, try to improve the equity of care, because this has been a longstanding interest of the company.” Details of the financial incentives are still being worked out, but they would apply to doctors who care for Blue Cross Blue Shield members in Massachusetts and could be implemented by 2023.

Healthcare IT stories you may have missed –September 2021

Healthcare IT stories you may have missed –September 2021

While tech giants are seemingly falling down in healthcare, retail players are eyeing big moves.

Recently, Google Health and Apple both reported reining in their healthcare efforts. Digital health expert Paddy Padmanabhan posed a good question in a Healthcare IT News commentary: Is healthcare too hard for big tech firms? Paddy explains that finding the answer requires understanding the structural issues within tech firms in their approach to the healthcare market. Read his full piece here.

Elsewhere, as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated mental health conditions, retail companies Walmart, CVS Health and Walgreens are toying with the idea of offering counseling services in their retail stores. “It’s an interesting idea to post a mental-health resource at a place where people already are at,” said Ken Duckworth, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The WSJ published a feature on the potential strategy, fittingly titled, “CVS Wants to Be Your Therapist, Too.”

Last, as telemedicine maintains its foothold as an accepted mode of care delivery, experts say studies focusing on technological obstacles and virtual experiences as well as the effectiveness of telehealth are needed to assess quality. Modern Healthcare reported that a group of researchers who are part of a coalition that includes Kaiser Permanente, Advocate Aurora Health and Johns Hopkins Medicine are working to inform that research.

Only time will tell how successful these initiatives will be and their ultimate impact on the future of healthcare delivery. That’s all for this month but look out for my newsletter soon!

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Health equity stories you may have missed – August 2021

Health equity stories you may have missed – August 2021

Perhaps one of the biggest issues that has come to light during the COVID-19 pandemic is equity. The healthcare sector, private industry and nonprofits are now addressing equity in a variety of ways.

It was reported that life expectancy in the United States dropped by an average of 1.5 years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the largest drop since World War II. But life expectancy for Hispanic and Black people in the US dropped by 3 and 2.9 years respectively, highlighting the disparities that exist within the US. According to the New York Times, these inequities are “a reflection of many factors, including the differences in overall health and available health care between white, Hispanic and Black people in the United States.”  

To address disparities among vaccination rates in Massachusetts, Eastern Bank recently donated $2 million to support last mile vaccination efforts among populations with the highest incidences of COVID-19 cases, according to the Boston Business Journal.

 While the Delta variant is a cause for concern, the pandemic is causing worry among health experts for non-COVID-19 related illness. National studies show that 1 in 5 adults delayed medical care for serious health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic with a majority of these individuals reporting negative health consequences related to the delay. Many providers are seeing massive declines in visit volume and preventative screenings including cancer screenings, depression screenings, weight and nutrition counseling, and high blood pressure control. East Boston Neighborhood Health Center president and CEO Manny Lopes discussed how these delays in care are causing the “Covid Cliff” on Boston 25.

 The Boston Foundation recently released its report, Health Starts at Home, which evaluated how housing instability impacts overall health. In an interview with WBUR, Stefanie Shull said that findings from the report showed “housing stability meant less illness.” This included modest improvement in child health, reduced visits to the emergency room and reductions in anxiety and depression among caregivers.

Healthcare IT stories you may have missed –September 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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Healthcare provider stories you may have missed – September 20201

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.