In early 2020, the COVID-19 global pandemic overwhelmed our healthcare system with an unprecedented influx of seriously ill patients. Healthcare providers placed themselves at personal risk to treat patients who were infected with this new and unfamiliar virus. Since those early days, healthcare providers made great strides in adapting to this “new normal” that is likely to remain with us for some months to come. They’re providing patients with the latest therapeutics and the best possible standard of care, and taking additional steps to protect themselves from becoming infected.
As the U.S. healthcare system adapts to this situation, state and federal authorities have issued new documentation and reporting requirements. Administrative tasks are no small part of the picture as they can take up as much as 33% of a primary care physician’s work-day1, and that means less time devoted to patient care.
In October of 2020, more than 6,000 hospitals across the country received letters from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The letter identified new data reporting rules for COVID-19. Non-compliant hospitals, unless they take corrective action, risk being cut off from Medicare and Medicaid payments. These payments can make up as much as 40% to 60% of a hospital’s total revenue.2
Under the HHS requirements,3 hospitals across the United States are required to submit inventories and patient totals for numerous coronavirus-specific categories and six new influenza questions. Some of this information needs to be submitted daily. To meet these reporting requirements while minimizing burden on staff, you will want an EMR that:
- Provides a public health reporting utility compliant with strict data entry and formatting requirements
- Meets HIPAA guidelines
- Automates the completion of forms
- Places minimal administration burden on staff
Track Medical Staff Exposures
The COVID-19 pandemic also highlights the need to pay close attention to Employee Health (EH). If there is an exposure where a hospital employee is potentially infected with COVID-19, it could lead to a disruption of the workflow and even a temporary shutdown. To avoid this, clinical managers may benefit from the capability of tracking which rooms the potentially-infected employee entered and identifying co-workers with whom the employee came in contact. Look for an EH software solution which easily generates reports that list employees by unit.
Inform Employers about Telehealth
OccMed practitioners have seen a sharp downturn in routine employer services such as drug screens and physicals. Employers are understandably worried about sending their employees into a healthcare facility during this pandemic. We have seen that our client providers have already started to shift more of their services to a telehealth platform. Therefore, it’s wise to make sure that employers know what practices are doing to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure. Let them know if the practice has taken steps such as:
- Regularly testing staff members for infection
- Asking patients to register and provide demographic data online through a secure platform, so they don’t need to be onsite while they are filling out the forms
- Limiting the number of patients who are in the waiting room at any given time
- Seeing OccMed and urgent care patients in different spaces or different times of day
- Implementing shield protection and hygiene protocols
- Disinfecting patient areas between visits
- Administering screening questions and temperature checks at the door
Reassess Office-based Staff
If relying more on offsite personnel, then it’s wise to reassess your need for office-based staff. By monitoring your newly-initiated processes carefully, you may see opportunities for improved efficiencies and opportunities to spot potential problems impacting the safety of staff members and patients. Actively monitoring the workflow also helps ensure that all patients continue to reach a provider promptly and receive the same level of care.
There’s no way of knowing for certain what the landscape will look like post-COVID-19. We can predict that both providers and patients will continue to show greater acceptance of the value of telehealth and be more comfortable using it than they’ve been in the past. There’ll be a need to track staff member uptake of a future COVID-19 vaccine. Using the right health information technology – whether it is a system for maintaining electronic health records or an employee health software solution – will play an increasingly important role in this rapidly changing environment.
2. Santhanam L, “How Federal Rules For Reporting COVID-19 Data Could Threaten Hospital Funding,” October, 12 2020.
3. Department of Health and Human Services, “COVID-19 Guidance for Hospital Reporting and FAQs For Hospitals, Hospital Laboratory, and Acute Care Facility Data Reporting,” October 6, 2020.