The rapid rise of virtual care

Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, hospitals and health systems were already scaling up their virtual care capabilities in response to consumer demand and competition from retailers and other tech-savvy new entrants. But the service’s unique benefits in the social distancing era is unleashing a wave of innovation from hospitals and health systems, spurred on by exposure concerns about in-person care, consumer demand, and rapidly shifting reimbursement policies. CMS announced plans this week to expand Medicare coverage to 85 new conditions, from coronavirus monitoring to unrelated services like neurological and psychological testing.

At Jefferson Health in Philadelphia, the number of patients scheduling online appointments has jumped from 50 to 2,200 patients a day. And some physicians at Jefferson Health—including those who have been quarantined after being infected or individuals who are higher risk for potential COVID-19 complications—have shifted to offering telehealth appointments from remote locations to help safely meet the rising demand.

MarinHealth, a 235-bed California hospital, is taking the technology a step further, outfitting 90 patient rooms with cameras and large-screen TVs to allow clinicians to care for patients infected with COVID-19 from remote locations within the hospital. The effort is intended to both minimize staff exposure and help conserve personal protective equipment, or PPE.

 

Convention centers, dorms, hotels moonlight as hospitals

As hospitals struggle with active or projected capacity shortfalls, efforts to press alternate facilities into service to help close the gaps are taking off, from using existing or recently closed healthcare facilities as treatment sites to tapping other community resources to house quarantined patients.

CMS cleared the way this week to use surgery centers, inpatient rehab hospitals, hotels, dormitories, and other locations as hospitals, healthcare centers or quarantine sites. In South Bend, Indiana, officials plan to use hotels, university buildings and closed hospitals via Indiana’s surge plan. In larger cities, convention centers are being repurposed as temporary hospitals with thousands of beds, including the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. Chicago’s McCormick Place will have 500 available beds by the end of this week and 3,000 beds by the end of April, according to city officials.

 

In Brief

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