Optimizing Care Delivery Amid COVID-19: A Detailed Report on Current Trends, Responses in US Health Care

A report by Innovaccer, titled “COVID-19: What It Means to American Healthcare: Trends, Impacts, Predictions, and the Road Ahead,” details implications of the pandemic for the US health care system, with additional recommendations on how to optimize emerging services such as telehealth.

Inflating health care costs have been widely scrutinized in the United States, a trend that was detailed by the Peterson—Kaiser Health System Tracker as having increased 2 times faster than workers’ wages over the last 10 years. Amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, efforts to address these costs have stalled as health care providers and workers accommodated the massive patient influx.

However, aligned with the need to provide effective and timely care for patients with and without COVID-19, telehealth has become a major, cost-effective tool that was previously derailed by issues with reimbursement and physician adherence. A recent research-based report by Innovaccer, titled “COVID-19: What It Means to American Healthcare: Trends, Impacts, Predictions, and the Road Ahead,” highlighted benefits associated with the emergence of virtual care and telemedicine, as well as a COVID-19 Management System to address shortcomings exposed in the US health care system by the pandemic.

During the first 4 months of the pandemic, the report, authored by Paul Grundy, MD, MPH, FACOEM, FACPM, chief transformation officer of Innovaccer, noted 3 significant areas of resource shortages, including the number of the hospital beds, intensive care unit (ICU) beds, and ventilators. Based on advanced regression framework models analyzing available COVID-19 data, projected trends of resource utilization for health care organizations that would be needed by the end of June were 15,178 hospital beds, 4688 ICU beds, and 4145 ventilators.

As hospital systems continue to address these concerns, Grundy notes, “the right care management strategy in the times of COVID-19 and in the post-pandemic will be around engaging patients in real time while minimizing the threat of spreading the infection.” In this scenario, Grundy highlights that the best option is to leverage telemedicine.

When gauging the preparedness and postpandemic strategies of 1000 health care executives, telemedicine served as a major point of emphasis:

  • 57% of health care organizations are using technology to triage high-risk patients.
  • Approximately 90% of hospitals are using telehealth to meet their patients virtually.
  • A majority of hospitals are using stand-alone telemedicine solutions compared with telemedicine that is part of the electronic health record.
  • 45% of health care organizations are leveraging technology solutions to automate their outreach efforts.

“Innovaccer’s COVID-19 Management System is a HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act]—compliant application that enables self-assessment, CDC-based education, telemedicine, and analytics to empower providers with free telehealth services to assess risk profiles and triage the influx at medical practices and primary care clinics in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” expanded Grundy.

As the health care industry continues to address the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic with potential strategies tailored around telehealth, Grundy says that in the days to come, hospitals and health systems may also need to be prepared for a surge in critical care that would not be possible to provide via telehealth. Notably, the nationwide easing of social distancing restrictions and the gathering of mass crowds to protest against the death of George Floyd and police brutality may lead to potential rises in COVID-19 cases.

To avoid a situation characterized by a lack of health care resources as observed in the pandemic’s peak, significantly expanding critical care capacity with a focus on social distancing in hospitals could prove crucial, notes Grundy.

“It will be very important to address the social determinants of health factors in the care plans as they will be playing a major role in understanding the patient’s feedback to care processes and their health journey. Needless to say, virtual care will be the new and emerging superhero of modern care management,” concluded Grundy.