Healthcare IT stories you may have missed – March 2021

Healthcare IT stories you may have missed – March 2021

The Biden administration is making headlines with new appointments to key healthcare posts, while tech giants like Amazon and Google continue to make waves with novel offerings to support a new era of care delivery focused on telehealth services and improved data sharing.

Earlier this month the Senate confirmed Xavier Becerra’s nomination for U.S. secretary of health and human services, making him the first Latino person to hold the position. Only minutes after the confirmation, advocacy groups were reminding him of the need to bring the American healthcare system into the 21st century. In a statement, Connected Health Initiative executive director Morgan Reed said, “Secretary Becerra’s support for digital health tools and services’ increased use will be critical as we continue the fight against COVID-19 and to bring the best healthcare available to all Americans, particularly those in underserved communities.” Get the full story at Healthcare IT News.

Additionally, Amazon made a splash with plans to scale up telehealth services that will heat up market competition for virtual care giants like Teladoc Health. But traditional providers should also carefully watch Amazon’s moves into healthcare. In a report by Healthcare Innovation’s Heather Landi, she quotes Canaccord Genuity healthcare IT analyst Richard Close: “Amazon can offer things that other players can’t, and that is what makes it such a powerful company in the space. It can offer virtual healthcare visits, prescription medication delivery and also can deliver all the over-the-counter products and even durable medical equipment. In addition, they can offer on-demand, in-person visits with a provider.”

Lastly, Google published a blog post about using its technology to accelerate Covid-19 vaccination and improve data sharing in states across the country. STAT rightly points out that the company is far from alone as Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple published similar posts last week. “Just about every tech company under the sun has a legitimately positive story to tell. But taken together, they also tell you just how unprepared the U.S. health care system was to manage this rollout.”

Look out for the next Healthcare IT Newsletter in April!

 

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Healthcare provider news articles you may have missed – February 2021

Healthcare provider news articles you may have missed – February 2021

All eyes are on the vaccine rollout, but despite a bumpy start, COVID-19 case numbers are dropping and the fall is not just a result of mass vaccinations. In a column published on the New England Journal of Medicine’s Journal Watch website, Brigham and Women’s Hospital infectious disease specialist, Dr. Paul Sax, says there are five factors that could be behind the weakening of the coronavirus pandemic across the nation, but it’s not clear which factor, or combination of them, is responsible.

Additionally, with equitable distribution at the forefront of the vaccine conversation, community health centers (CHCs) are gearing up for an expanded role in Massachusetts’s vaccination effort. CHCs often serve the most vulnerable populations and provide direct access to the neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID-19. During a recent interview with the Boston Globe, Michael Curry, CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, said “Our health centers want to make sure that the patients that are closest to the disease are closest to the vaccine.” Manny Lopes, CEO of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center and Greenough client, added, “When you open up the doors, you’ll see that first flood of people, the strong yesses. But you’ve got to stay focused on those that are on the ‘maybe’ list, and those that are saying the hard ‘no.’ ”

On the health policy side, Xavier Becerra’s pathway to becoming the next health and human services secretary appears smoother after this week’s confirmation hearing. During his first day of questioning, the California attorney general threw his support behind efforts to improve access to care, aligning himself with President Joe Biden’s healthcare agenda. He also embraced price transparency, which received widespread, bipartisan support from the Senate committee. Becerra said that HHS would aggressively enforce price transparency under his leadership, suggesting that Congress should give the agency more power to create and enforce transparency rules.

President Biden’s pick for CMS administrator, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, will also face senate confirmation. A health policy veteran, Brooks-LaSure worked at the agency in the Obama administration. According to Avalere CEO Dan Mendelson, “Chiquita has very broad experience at CMS and also has experience in the major governmental organizations where CMS collaborates. She is also an outstanding listener which combined with her experience will help her succeed.” It will be interesting to see how these two appointments impact the Affordable Care Act and the transition to value-based care as the year progresses.

Healthcare IT stories you may have missed – March 2021

Health IT stories you may have missed – February 2021

The U.S. healthcare landscape has evolved immensely amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but in many ways the changes we’re seeing now have been in process for some time. Virtual care, patient data exchange and engagement strategies have been top of mind for industry professionals for years, but the pace of progress in the last year, particularly by nontraditional players, is noteworthy.  

From making telemedicine more consumer friendly to increasing access to care during the pandemic, retail giants like Amazon, Walmart and Walgreens are further infiltrating the healthcare delivery system by ramping up their virtual care initiatives. A recent article in Becker’s Hospital Review details telehealth expansions introduced by these companies over the past year, and some may surprise you.

But retail companies aren’t the only ones making waves. Terry Myerson, best known for his work at Microsoft developing Xbox and Surface, is at the helm of a new healthcare company with an interesting value proposition. STAT reported that Truveta, which was formed by 14 U.S. health systems, intends to aggregate and sell de-identified data on millions of American patients to help answer some of medicine’s most pressing questions. Not surprisingly, Truveta’s launch is spurring important conversations about the way medical data is defined and put to use.

Lastly, while having an app to engage patients is widely considered table stakes today, some hospitals have been recognized for taking the concept a step further. Modern Healthcare details the journeys of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Baylor Scott & White Health, and El Camino Health in developing and launching apps that engage their patients, particularly during a tumultuous time. As smartphones have become tightly intertwined into so many Americans’ lives, hospital executives have realized that to play a central role in their patients’ health, they need to meet them where they are—via their phone.

Look for our next Health IT newsletter in March!

Healthcare provider news articles you may have missed – February 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 – March 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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