The CDC has estimated that 1 in 10 people develop long-term Covid symptoms. Shortness of breath was the most common symptom among hospitalized patients who tested positive vs. those who tested negative. The prevalence of new fatigue and type 2 diabetes was higher among those with positive versus negative test results. In general, hospital-acquired COVID-19 infections rates have been dropping! In the last half of 2021, the rate of patients who contracted the virus in a hospital rose to only half of overall COVID-19 admissions. This is likely due to increased vaccination rates among hospital staff, patients, and visitors.
Meanwhile, the WHO is calling on wealthier nations to donate $16 billion to a program to provide access to the covid-19 vaccine, treatments, and tests in low-middle income countries. It is estimated that less than 0.4% of the 4.7 billion covid tests administered worldwide have been used in these countries. CMS is developing an initiative to enable access to eight free over-the-counter covid-19 tests for Medicare beneficiaries in early spring.
COVID-19 has been a burden on many businesses across the globe, but this doesn't seem to be the case for CVS. CVS's profits increased by 33% in Q4 due to an increased booster shot and test demand and lower COVID-19 treatment costs.
2. Patient Experience Strategies
West Monroe, a digital consulting firm, released a 5 step approach to reach a five-star patient experience.
Step 1- Get organizationally aligned. It is critical to operate and be effective in a top-down approach and align collaborators from the bottom up. To be more efficient, organizations need to combine diverse perspectives with learning how to work in new ways and solve problems.
Step 2- Evolve and expand patient access. With new and emerging technologies being released every day in the healthcare space, health service organizations need to optimize their telehealth, remote monitoring, and digital health strategies.
Step 3) Design programs and tools based on evidence-based human-centered research. Health service organizations’ decisions should be based on proven and reliable research findings.
Step 4) Optimize your digital front door. This is the customer's entry point into the digital health universe. It is a gateway, an entrance, a landing page, the first experience of your company. The first impression can make or break the patient's experiences. A report by Frost & Sullivan discusses three drivers of change for the healthcare industry: precision care, the hospital-to-home movement, and the importance of digital front doors. The same report by Frost & Sullivan predicts that the healthcare & life sciences industry will boom, resulting in global revenues of over $2.7 trillion by 2025.
Step 5- Measure, evaluate, and refine. Companies need to learn through real-time feedback (and failure) to adjust for a better round 2. Too many companies think they "got it right" the first time and fail to adapt to the changing marketplace. Healthcare organizations need to measure, evaluate, and refine their processes.
3. Staffing Shortages
At the height of the covid surge in January, almost 25% of US hospitals reported critical staffing shortages. Moody's Investors Service predicts staffing shortages and supply chain disruptions are two factors that will continue in the healthcare industry into 2022. Staffing firms have faced scrutiny from providers for the increasing pay rates throughout the pandemic. Even so, staffing firms have defended the traveling nurse rates as industry groups within Congress are pushing for investigations.
4. IT Updates
Cybersecurity has been a growing issue at hospitals, with almost half reporting an attack in the last 6 months. Ransomware gangs are increasingly targeting unpatched vulnerabilities in software and operating systems to gain access to business networks, weaponizing zero-day vulnerabilities at record speed. 2022 will be a pivotal year for interoperability and patient experience. The increasing trend to collaboration and thus innovation will also prove true for human resources (HR) technologies. Paycom released several tips to find the best HR technology for health service organizations.
Tip 1- Understand the differences in HR tech providers. Organizations need to prioritize single-application software for a seamless user experience.
Tip 2- Ease of use matters most for successful adoption. Consider how easy the software is to use for your entire workforce.
Tip 3- HR tech should help you positively impact culture and engagement. Seek an option that tracks and monitors employees' technology usage.
Tip 4- Choose technology that supports your employer brand and hiring strategies. Elevate your onboarding strategy with technology for preboarding, electronic form completion, and access to learning and development tools.
Tip 5- Be audit-ready at all times!
Tip 6- Do your due diligence.
Tip 7- Expect a service model as committed to your success as you are.
5. Policy Updates
With the pandemic worsening the country's mental health and substance abuse disorders, Congress has been forced to address this crisis. Legislators seem in support of giving federal departments the power to force health insurers to comply with parity laws. With almost 130 million people living in mental health professional shortage areas, Congress held the first Senate committee hearing in over a decade to combat the crisis. The CDC is toning down its opioid prescribing guidelines for physicians and therapists. The new guidelines state, "opioids should not be considered first-line or routine therapy for subacute or chronic pain," with other treatment options better suited for acute pain. This comes at a pivotal time in our nation's opioid crisis and the goal to safely lower patients' doses and intake. Mental health therapists are seeking partial exemption from the surprise billing ban. Therapists claim that requiring diagnostic billing codes before seeing a patient is unethical.
Eric Lander resigning
Biden's White House Science Advisor, Eric Lander, resigned, which could have lasting implications. It could threaten not just the Biden administration's revamped Cancer Moonshot but also its push to create the new agency ARPA-H and the selection process for a new NIH director. With Lander's resignation, there are vacancies at the OTSP, FDA, and NIH.
The HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) plans to conduct a nationwide review of hospice beneficiary eligibility in a new addition to its Work Plan. The watchdog agency is "focusing on hospice beneficiaries that haven't had an inpatient hospital stay or an ER visit before the start of hospice care."