The ongoing stressors of COVID-19 surges, staffing shortages, and hospitals filled beyond typical capacity have converged over the past year to make efficient care coordination more important than ever. Now, as healthcare workers also prepare for the additional difficulties that come with flu season, the logistics of rapidly distributing vaccines is making collaboration and coordination between care teams, patients, and other community healthcare providers absolutely vital.
Common workflow and care collaboration challenges related to COVID-19 include:
Screening and Test Result Notifications
Protocols for identifying persons under investigation (PUI) and ruling out coronavirus infection involve complex workflows that include a web of manual processes, email messages, and telephone calls. These antiquated methods aren’t sufficient today and can result in delays and miscommunication that present potential errors in care, with increased safety risk for patients and staff. By automating the delivery of PUI notifications and patient updates, care collaboration solutions can reduce the burden of manual communication that many organizations are currently struggling to manage.
Vaccination Coordination and Patient Outreach
As COVID-19 vaccines become available across the country, reaching out to patients presents additional obstacles. Providers and staff should be prepared to efficiently share vaccine information with patients, follow up on assessments, and schedule administration of booster doses. As Science News reported, “Keeping track of who got vaccinated, which vaccine they got…and when people are due for a second dose is another potentially daunting logistical challenge.”
Care collaboration tools can help healthcare organizations do just that. This can be particularly helpful for long-term care settings, which need an efficient system to obtain consent from patients, many of whom have powers of attorney or advocates who need to be reached. They also need to notify their patients’ primary care providers and schedule follow-up doses with the clinical care team and family.
Therapies with emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, such as bamlanivimab for reducing mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms, and those expected to follow, have complex protocols. Currently, these therapies are administered only in the acute setting. But as their use expands, care collaboration solutions can provide synchronized coordination that will be needed across the entire care continuum, from hospitals to long-term care to ambulatory care settings.
New Collaboration Tools and Better Processes
Improving care coordination during a pandemic doesn’t just require thinking outside the box; it requires getting rid of an archaic box. Innovative thinking has helped create telehealth and care collaboration solutions with more efficient, safer clinical workflows that improved intake and throughput of patients to prevent exposure to the novel coronavirus.
As the pandemic continues, hospitals and physician practices need to make major adjustments to healthcare assessments and interventions so they continue to reduce exposure to people who are sick, conserve personal protective equipment (PPE), and minimize the impact of patient surges on facilities.
For example, telehealth solutions and remote collaboration technologies have provided access to care while minimizing the risk of transmission to healthcare personnel and patients. But video chat for telehealth is only one way to leverage care collaboration technology. With COVID-19 cases reaching record highs, and as healthcare leaders roll out a rapid vaccination plan, these tools will play an important part in streamlining the following communications:
- Automated messages to share test results
- Vaccine availability alerts
- Vaccine dosage reminders via text or email
- Updates about vaccine certification
Some leading care collaboration platforms can even integrate with a health system’s web portal to make it easy for patients and external clinicians to submit a request that is routed directly to hospital staff. This will be critical in managing the wave of questions and concerns the public will have about vaccination.
Embracing these and other technologies that help providers coordinate patient care outside their facility walls, across organizations, and into their communities will go a long way toward helping everyone weather the storm.