Recent healthcare articles you may have missed – Jan. 2021

Recent healthcare articles you may have missed – Jan. 2021

 

The U.S. has surpassed 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, nearly one year after the nation’s first confirmed case. This grim milestone comes as a highly transmissible variant of the novel coronavirus threatens to cause a new surge in infections. Simultaneously, new presidential administration looks to speed up vaccinations and restore trust in public health agencies. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, incoming director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that one of her top priorities is strengthening the nation’s public-health departments: “We need to build a sustainable public-health infrastructure across the country, because one of the reasons that we’re in this mess is because we didn’t have it.”

Even amid a new surge in COVID infections, healthcare executives are moving “with haste” to forge new strategic and financial partnerships. According to a new report by BDO and Kaufman Hall published in Healthcare Dive, 44% of hospital CFOs expect the pandemic to drive an increase in partnerships across the healthcare ecosystem and 42% predict further consolidation. Additionally, 77% of healthcare organizations are looking to invest in primary care, 63% in specialty services, 61% in post-acute residential care, 59% in home care, 56% in elder care, 54% in virtual care and 50% in behavioral health, BDO said.

Physician-owned ASCs face similar pressures to merge with larger organizations to survive, especially amid the pandemic, which has accelerated the shift from in-hospital surgery to the outpatient setting. In this Becker’s ASC Review piece,  Jim Freund of ASCs Inc. says that in addition to hospitals and healthcare systems expanding their freestanding surgical facilities footprint, “we have seen an influx of new investment coming from the private equity and investor markets, through their own firms or partnering with ASC industry organizations and individuals.”

Finally, as more seniors look to age in place, home health aide jobs will skyrocket, growing the most out of nearly 800 job titles, with an expected addition of 1.16 million positions. The Wall Street Journal details how other healthcare jobs are expected to fare over the next decade.

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Healthcare IT stories you may have missed – Jan. 2021

Healthcare IT stories you may have missed – Jan. 2021

Although 2021 may be the year that we finally gain control of COVID-19, the effects of 2020 will impact care delivery for years to come. This was the sentiment of Jerry Penso, president and CEO at AMGA, a trade association that represents medical groups and other organized systems of care, including some of the nation’s largest, most influential integrated healthcare delivery systems.

In a recent contribution to Healthcare Innovation, Penso shared his predictions for the year ahead. The evolution of telemedicine to home care stuck out as very real possibility given its rapid adoption during the pandemic. Penso states, “Providers of care are not only planning how to optimally deploy telehealth for various clinical pathways, but also exploring the huge potential scope of services that can be provided in the home setting.”

Related, Fierce Healthcare reported that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) extended the public health emergency surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic until April, extending key waivers for regulations on a variety of topics including telehealth. Care providers and patients alike are letting out a sigh of relief. Interestingly, mental health treatment was the most common telehealth service during COVID.

Already in 2021 tech companies are stepping up in new ways to support the massive COVID-19 vaccination effort. Fierce reported that Moderna is working with Uber to raise awareness and increase access to COVID-19 vaccines. The two companies will work together initially to provide accessible, credible information on vaccine safety through Uber’s in-app messaging. The companies will also work with public health organizations to identify additional opportunities to support ongoing efforts to broaden access to COVID-19 vaccines.

These are a few of the bright spots as the nation continues to grapple with the raging pandemic. While there is little doubt that 2021 will be another transformational year for healthcare, the hope is that positive, lasting change is on the horizon.

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Medtech stories you may have missed – December 2020

Medtech stories you may have missed – December 2020

It has been a busy month for continued advancements in medical technology to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. From FDA approval of the first COVID-19 at-home test to Fitbit announcing new data suggesting wearables could detect COVID-19 before symptoms even start, medtech continues to play a critical role.

Earlier this month, the FDA greenlighted a new home COVID-19 test from Lucira Health called the “COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit.” This is the first approved test for COVID-19 that can be administered at home and, for now, will only be available via prescription. The test relies on loop-mediated isothermal amplification reaction, or LAMP. While LAMP is faster and less cumbersome than PCR, it is generally thought to be less accurate.

Public health experts say the ability to take a COVID-19 test at home and receive results within minutes could be critical to reducing transmission of the virus. According to epidemiologist Michael Mina, at-home rapid antigen tests “could stop the pandemic by Christmas.” Behind the aggressive push to scale up development of these tests is our client, BioDot, which manufactures the dispensing equipment used by diagnostics manufacturers worldwide to develop rapid, accurate at-home COVID-19 tests. Scripps TV recently interviewed CEO Tony Lemmo, who said that once at-home antigen tests are approved by the FDA, manufacturers could make millions of the tests in a matter of months.

Supporting scale at this demand requires a resilient supply chain, which President-elect Biden has committed to reinforcing. His COVID-19 plan includes ensuring American manufacturing of medical products and preventing supply chain disruptions by building domestic capacity, “not only in an effort to rectify the damage that has already been done by the pandemic, but to ensure the country is better prepared for future crises as well.”

 

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Healthcare IT stories you may have missed – November 2020

Healthcare IT stories you may have missed – November 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic was the backdrop for this year’s presidential election, triggering important questions about the future of U.S. healthcare. Despite the uncertainty that still exists today, healthcare IT leaders have a strong grasp on the issues and technologies that should take priority in the next four years.

Fierce Healthcare reported on the key issues that healthcare leaders would like to see the federal government take immediate action on. Beyond improving the nation’s public health data infrastructure, the article highlighted improving patient identification, solidifying telehealth reimbursement protocols, advancing interoperability and strengthening cybersecurity in hospitals. All these issues have been exasperated by the pandemic which has created more urgency in addressing them. 

Additionally, an Optum survey of 500 healthcare execs revealed that more than half (56%) are accelerating or expanding their artificial intelligence (AI) deployment timelines in response to the pandemic, demonstrating the importance of this business tool during the most stressful times.

In other AI-related news, a group of researchers at MIT developed an AI model that can detect asymptomatic COVID-19 cases by listening to subtle differences in coughs between healthy people and infected people. The researchers are testing their AI in clinical trials and have already started the process of seeking approval from the FDA for it to be used as a screening tool.

2021 will hopefully look very different from 2020 from a public health perspective, and beyond taking the input of healthcare leaders to heart, the federal government has an opportunity to support broad adoption of advanced technologies that can aid in the ongoing battle against COVID-19.

Life sciences stories you may have missed – November 2020

Life sciences stories you may have missed – November 2020

Parking fees should not be a hurdle to healthcare

“Even getting to a hospital or clinic for radiation, chemotherapy sessions, or regular checkups in itself can be a challenge for some patients. For those relying on public transport or in rural areas, access to public transit or the cost of filling up a tank of gas can pose hurdles to cancer care.” In an article for STAT, Priyanka Runwal covers some of the factors that contribute to higher rates of mortality among Black women diagnosed with cancer.

Fast-tracking vaccine development

The Washington Post continues to use graphics to break down the science behind vaccine development. The paper’s latest update tracks 200 vaccines, from 170+ experimental vaccines in pre-clinical development to 10 vaccines currently in Phase 3 clinical trials.

For a quick primer on the three technologies making the compressed timeline to a vaccine possible, check out this article from Michael White, assistant professor of genetics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, on genetically engineered viruses, DNA vaccines and mRNA vaccines.

CRISPR cautions

New York Times reporter Katherine Wu recently covered a study published in the journal Cell that found CRISPR-Cas9 can cause serious side effects in the cells of human embryos. The research team found the gene-editing tool “appeared to wreak a genetic havoc in about half the specimens that the researchers examined.” The results underscore what scientists have been saying since Chinese “CRISPR babies scientist” He Jiankui sent shockwaves across the industry: it’s too soon to use genome editing in human embryos.