Face coverings, physical distancing, and frequent handwashing played starring roles in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. And health technologies for symptom screening, self-isolation and quarantine management, vaccine management, and mental health care played key supporting roles in immediate response, people empowerment, and access to care.
If 2020 had been a movie, the world has seen best performances of many actors, various players, and innovators in healthcare, all against one enemy – the novel coronavirus. And if there’s an academy award for it, it will sound like this: And the Award for the best performance of a healthcare solution in a supporting role during the pandemic goes to.... (drum roll) Telehealth.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted, telehealth supported healthcare delivery through remote screening and management of persons who needed clinical care not only for COVID-19 but also for other conditions. The CDC pointed out that telehealth has “reduced disease exposure for staff members and patients, preserved scarce supplies of personal protective equipment, and minimized patient surge on facilities.”
And because other chronic conditions, including mental health issues, also needed support during this same time, perhaps even more than before, healthcare delivery shifted during the pandemic. According to the CDC, this “marked shift in practice patterns has implications for immediate response efforts and longer-term population health." With the “ongoing acceptability by patients and healthcare providers, telehealth might continue to serve as an important modality for delivering care during and after the pandemic.” And it should.
With the spotlight on telehealth or the use of communications technologies to deliver health care through a variety of remote methods, the following are some of the solutions that shared the telehealth limelight in 2020:
Symptom, Self‐Isolation and Quarantine Management, and Care Coordination
Prompt detection and effective triage are essential to preventing unnecessary exposure among patients, healthcare personnel, and visitors at healthcare facilities. An innovative communication platform, such as Lifewire's, uses assessments and guidelines from the CDC, from states, and from organizations and/or providers to deliver recommendations to users in real time. One example is to continue isolation, or to contact 911 if the user's responses are more extreme; data is forwarded to the respective organizations with the user's permission.
Using this platform enables healthcare providers to risk-stratify patients whether at home or before or immediately upon arrival at a healthcare facility. For those showing symptoms and even for those having mild symptoms who tested positive for the virus, LifeWIRE’s COVID-19 self-isolation and quarantine management program provides access to personalized care anytime, anywhere, on the user's preferred device.
Where care management, monitoring, and tracking are crucial in COVID-19 for outpatients as much as for inpatients, LifeWIRE automates routine protocols, follow-up, feedback, and outreach. It delivers a daily self-management program for quarantine and self-isolation as an adjunct to virus testing, quarantine, and ongoing symptom management for public health, employers, and schools.
COVID-19 poses unique operational challenges for population management, as it requires very particular actionable, relevant, and continuous information in real time. Engagement with those who have tested positive for COVID-19 can generate data that can be instantly analyzed and help identify and connect with individuals they have been in contact with and may have exposed.
Contact-tracing those who are suspected to have been in contact with or exposed to infected or suspect individuals calls for a rapid and scalable outreach solution to slow further spread and to recommend screening or continued home confinement.
After contacts have been identified, a patient engagement platform such as LifeWIRE can be used to reach out daily and use CDC or client assessments to ensure an instant, real-time connection with the subpopulation. This has proved to be particularly valuable for those who are reluctant to seek in-person care and those who have trouble accessing in-person care.
Acute, Chronic, Primary, and Specialty Care
Patients with chronic conditions are at high risk for severe COVID-19. Treatment must go on for people needing acute and specialty care, so providers and healthcare systems have had to find ways to adapt care-delivery models.
One robust adaptation is the use of an innovative health communication platform to provide a 24/7 lifeline for patients to connect with their providers for continuous access to acute, chronic, primary, and specialty care during the pandemic. CDC believes that the “continuing telehealth policy changes and regulatory waivers might provide increased access to these clinical cares even after the pandemic.”
For the remote management of chronic and acute conditions, the LifeWIRE platform is designed to be clinician- and patient-facing where, through the use of keywords, patients can initiate self-assessment or outreach from wherever they are. It can track, monitor, and receive patient data from wearable devices; then it can automate a dialogue on self-management as well as provide follow-up recommendations. Improved patient care is achieved.
According to the CDC, “increases in the use of telehealth precipitated by COVID-19 could have long-term benefits for improving appropriate emergency department utilization.” The decline of emergency department use during the early pandemic period has minimized overloading healthcare systems.
HealthcareIT News underscored how tele-triage helps determine whether a patient needs “to be issued a bed or if they can be seen in another area within the hospital in order to keep the patient safe and to reduce potential exposures.”
“Even something as basic as using the online waiting room features keeps patients from piling up in close proximity to one another while they wait for their exams in person, so that’s all proving to be a great help in flattening the curve and alleviating the overall burden on all hospitals," HealthcareIT News quoted Senior Content Analyst Lisa Hedges as saying.
The first COVID-19 vaccine shots have already been injected. The initial rollouts began in the UK and the US. The rollout strategy for the vaccine differs from one patient group to another. To identify who’s next among the billions of people and to educate them so they can give their informed consent to be vaccinated needs an innovative and personal yet population-wide approach.
A cloud-based platform for population management for vaccination can be precisely that innovative strategy to support any rollout strategy. Through real-time patient engagement, data can be quickly generated to help identify the at-risk populations needing to be immunized first and or to help stratify accordingly. And this can be done remotely through instantaneous communication anywhere, anytime, and on any device without the need for an app, however an individual chooses.
LifeWIRE’s technology can be used to educate patient populations identified for vaccine administration, to prepare and guide them through the process of receiving the vaccine and monitoring for after care.
The CDC urges providing mental health support to cope with stress during quarantine and self-isolation. Managing the emotional distress that COVID-19 creates — while continuing to try to stop the spread of the virus — is a proactive and vital healthcare delivery approach.
Given the escalating incidence of mental health conditions associated with COVID-19, those with, exposed to, or concerned about COVID-19 need to address their emotional responses. People need access to urgent mental healthcare resources or get connected to peer support groups to help self-manage and alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.
LifeWIRE’s COVID-19 Self-Isolation Management Program (COVID-19 SIP™) includes optional supplemental modules for mental health, such as anonymous peer support. As an add-on module, SIP can enhance health outcomes for an individual using a self-isolation and quarantine program. This can be accomplished while respecting the privacy of the individual, which is critical in mental health care.
These programs need to be on a secure platform, because communication security and individual privacy are key to patient engagement and participation. That’s why LifeWIRE is ePro-, HIPAA-, and HITrust-compliant, and able to provide an additional layer of anonymity, if desired.
As The Lancet puts it, “the pandemic has led to improved computer literacy and access to technology to facilitate physical distancing. These changes are removing barriers to telehealth and creating an important opportunity to rethink its roles.”
LifeWIRE’s communication platform provides a population management healthcare delivery model that addresses both today’s and tomorrow’s concerns and needs. It has risen to the challenge and proved its value as an agile health technology that can be rapidly deployed. LifeWIRE has made it its mission to communicate care, a lifeline with or without a pandemic. #BeLifeWIREd