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 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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Healthcare provider stories you may have missed – September 20201

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.”

Supporting the efforts of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Supporting the efforts of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Governor Baker holds press conference after touring East Boston Neighborhood Health Center’s vaccination clinic at Oceanside Events in Revere.

As we turn the corner on the COVID-19 pandemic, we take a moment to reflect on some of the important work we’ve done over the past 15 months. At Greenough Brand Storytellers  we have had the honor of working alongside many clients who have played extraordinary roles in saving and improving lives during the pandemic.  

For example, when COVID-19 was first reported, it was Thermo Fisher Scientific who immediately launched a test to detect the virus, now available in 175 countries worldwide. Home-based medical care provider Prospero Health quickly invested in virtual technology to continue to care for vulnerable, chronically ill patients.  


EBNHC president and CEO Manny Lopes is interviewed on MSNBC in April 2020

And right here in our local community, I have been proud to support the work of East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) in helping hundreds of thousands of people in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  It was a monumental effort and an important story worth telling.  

As the first surge raged through the northeast, Chelsea was featured in national headlines as one of the hardest hit communities per capita in the country. Like East Boston, Chelsea is a highly populated, dense city that is home to a large immigrant population, many of whom live in multi-family dwellings and who work in essential, front-line healthcare roles. EBNHC president and CEO Manny Lopes was interviewed on national broadcast news to discuss the health disparities the community faced and the stark inequities that the pandemic exposed.  

EBNHC launched the first drive-through COVID-19 testing site at Suffolk Downs and several other public testing sites in East Boston and surrounding communities. Throughout the summer, as tensions over racial justice escalated around the country and demonstrations were held in Boston, EBNHC worked with the City of Boston to stand up pop-up testing sites in COVID-19 hotspots. In total, to-date, EBNHC has processed more than 130,000 COVID-19 tests. The Boston Globe shared the perspective of the “swabbers.”   

Beyond healthcare, it became clear that the communities served by EBNHC were suffering from joblessness and food insecurity. EBNHC’s Community Resource and Wellness Center provided much needed services such as guidance on how to stay in one’s home under the State’s eviction moratorium and by providing food each week through a partnership with the Red Cross 

Dr. Jaime Gallegos of EBNHC

EBNHC’s Dr. Jaime Gallegos was the first person in Massachusetts to receive the Moderna vaccine.

On December 21, 2020, Dr. Jaime Gallegos of EBNHC was the first person in Massachusetts to receive the Moderna vaccine, expressing “relief” after receiving the injection. He would later play a crucial role in educating the community about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines by hosting town halls and webinars with multiple government and community partners.  

The lessons that EBNHC learned through its robust COVID-19 testing efforts were then applied to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, prioritizing equity.  

In order to open vaccine clinics, EBNHC realized it needed the three “S’s:” Supply, Space and Staff. The state and federal government provided the supply of COVID-19 vaccines. EBNHC opened four brick-and-mortar vaccination clinics in easily accessible, familiar locations in the South End, Chelsea, East Boston and Revere. And at the sites in East Boston and Revere, the State provided members of the National Guard to administer the vaccines  

Ramelfo Frometa received a COVID-19 vaccine at EBNHC’s clinic in Chelsea, MA

EBNHC also partnered with other organizations to meet the needs of the community. The staff worked with Last Mile Vaccine Delivery and Get Out the Vax (GOTVax) to create pop-up sites in neighborhoods where the vaccination rates were low. They also worked with major employers in food processing and with school districts such as Revere to vaccinate teachers and students. They collaborated on “Mobile Vax” with Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Care. Partnerships with Blue Cross Blue Shield and Lyft also came together. EBNHC partnered with community organizations like La Colaborativa in Chelsea to engage and educate residents. COO and senior vice president Gregory Wilmot spearheaded the effort to bring these partners together and get the community vaccinated quickly and effectively.  

At Greenough, our goal was to share up-to-date, factual information that would resonate with the community. We made it a priority to reach out to Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking media to share story angles that would reassure community-members of the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. We placed several stories in UnivisionTelemundoEl MundoEl Planeta and others. We had providers grace the front page of the Boston Globe four times over the past year. The leadership of Manny Lopes was recognized in a profile in the Boston Business Journal and he became one of Boston’s Most Influential People according to Boston Magazine. Additionally, EBNHC was featured on NBC National News for its efforts on vaccine equity.  

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren made her first public appearance since the pandemic started at EBNHC’s vaccination clinic in Chelsea, MA.

The work of EBNHC was recognized by our elected officials. Governor Baker toured three of the four brick-and-mortar sites, noting in his press conference that Manny was on a path towards, “world domination.” Senator Elizabeth Warren made her first public appearance since the pandemic started at the vaccination clinic in Chelsea. Senator Ed Markey, Representative Ayanna PressleyAttorney General Maura Healey, District Attorney Rachael Rollins and many other local leaders visited the vaccination clinics. And even President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden sent 800 commemorative Easter Eggs to EBNHC to thank the staff for their tireless work.  

To date, EBNHC has administered 80,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Health Center has vaccinated more than 90% of its staff. By the end of April, the number of Latinx people vaccinated in East Boston was double that of Caucasians. But most impressive is that state data released in mid-May showed that the highest rate of Latinx vaccinations were in East Boston, Chelsea and Revere, a testament to EBNHC’s efforts.  

After serving these communities for 50 years, EBNHC was perfectly poised to do this work. In addition to the leadership of Manny Lopes and Gregory Wilmot, we must also recognize Steven Snyder and Brett Phillips for their unrelenting work to ensure that EBNHC’s message was getting out there. We are grateful to have been there in partnership to support the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center’s heroic efforts.  

Maria Kucinski

Maria Kucinski

Vice President

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Healthcare provider stories you may have missed – September 20201

Healthcare Stories You May Have Missed – May 2021

 On consecutive days, President Biden met with six governors to discuss “best practices” in vaccinating citizens and the CDC’s advisory committee recommended giving Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine to kids as young as 12. While these are important milestones in the fight against the coronavirus, a new poll shows us that most of the Americans who remain unvaccinated need convincing. According to the survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 11% of people who remain unvaccinated say they definitely will get the shot, while 34% say they definitely won’t. That leaves a large group of citizens in the middle who might still roll up their sleeves — including 27% who say they probably will and 27% who say they probably won’t — if someone credible addressed their concerns.

As efforts to combat vaccine hesitancy continue especially among communities of color, the American Medical Association (AMA) is vowing to “fight and dismantle white supremacy and racism in the U.S. health care system” — and within its own walls. In an 83-page report obtained by Stat, the AMA details many of the ways it has excluded Black, brown, and Native physicians, espoused racism, and harmed the people of color its members take an oath to treat.

This week also brought new protections for gay and transgender people against sex discrimination in healthcare. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said the Biden administration policy will bring HHS into line with a landmark Supreme Court decision last year in a workplace discrimination case, which established that federal laws against sex discrimination on the job also protect gay and transgender people. Hospitals, clinics and other medical providers can face government sanctions for violations of the law.

Finally, nurse burnout has been an issue for many years and the pandemic only exacerbated that. But new research from McKinsey shows there’s a real opportunity for hospitals and health systems to retain nurses. Read more in this Healthcare Dive report.

Healthcare provider stories you may have missed – September 20201

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.