What many of us in the healthcare industry expected would occur – the inevitable spread of COVID-19 to and within the U.S. is now happening. What is surprising, however, is the rate at which the virus is spreading – so fast in fact that the World Health Organization has now deemed the outbreak a pandemic.
In many ways, the country and its healthcare providers are not ready nor adequately equipped to handle the increased demand that COVID-19 is putting on our clinical teams and resources. With limited hospital bed space, respirators, and at the moment coronavirus test kits, we find ourselves grappling with the question of how best to prepare for the continued spread of COVID-19 and how we can provide the best care to those who need it now.
As an industry, we need to ban together to share best practices, pool knowledge and resources as needed. We take great pride in being able to support our health system and health plan partners, as well as our providers and the patients we serve. While even the most seasoned experts are learning as they go with COVID-19, here’s how we at Amwell are working to prepare and handle this coronavirus outbreak.
Up-to-Date Education: It’s of the utmost importance that especially during these times of need and increased strain on our clinical resources that providers have the information needed to do their job. This means that we are constantly writing and rewriting protocols in alignment with evolving CDC guidelines and ensuring that our care conforms to national and international standards. We are making sure that our providers are aware of the situation as it changes as well as know how to handle patients that may present with COVID-19 symptoms.
Coordinated Approach: The key to this effort is widespread industry collaboration. The only shot we have at combatting this outbreak is by working together and ensuring that for example, if one doctor sees a patient virtually, who they deem as high-risk for COVID-19, that we have a referral process in place to have that patient seamlessly transferred to a local hospital for further testing. As such, we have developed a “white glove” referral process to ensure a seamless and coordinated handoff between care teams. By collaborating with hospitals and health systems in this way, we can help prepare our colleagues for high-risk patients as needed, so that they are ready.
Excessive Training: Training should be approached from two sides – 1) making sure that providers feel empowered and comfortable using telehealth, especially if it’s not the medium on which they typically operate, and 2) ensuring that even those who use telehealth as their preferred method for seeing patients regularly, understand the nuances of COVID-19 and how to best evaluate patients during this time. Our doctors are being trained on policies for care and treatment of suspected cases that we’ve developed in line with CDC protocols and those of our hospital systems partners. We’re also helping our hospital partners get additional doctors on board and comfortable using telehealth as a first line of defense.
Staying Nimble: Managing this outbreak requires us to stay nimble and respond quickly. The situation is evolving quickly, yet unpredictably and the ability for organizations of all kinds and sizes to be able to pivot in correlation with these changes is invaluable. We have created a COVID-19 Readiness team comprised of various individuals from across our organization who are helping us stay apprised of the latest guidelines and respond accordingly.
Amwell has been proactive from the outset to ensure that we are prepared, but it’s never too late. We don’t anticipate COVID-19 to be going away any time soon, in fact, it’s likely to get worse before it gets better. Ensuring preparedness will take cooperation from everyone and the more we can work together, the better positioned we will be to fight this pandemic.
To learn more about how Amwell is readying itself and for recommendations to help your organization prepare check out our webinar: https://business.amwell.com/resources/covid-19-outbreak-wbn/