With more than 170 million vaccines administered as of this writing, I am optimistic that the COVID tide is slowly turning and that we could be on the way to what one day may be herd immunity. While the past year was exacting on healthcare providers and the population as a whole, many of the opportunities seized and lessons learned will fundamentally alter life as we knew it.
Countless forms of innovation were the result of unprecedented collaboration throughout the pandemic from alliances between the public and private sectors as manufacturers, scientists, healthcare systems and staff, communities and individuals joined forces on a common mission: fighting COVID-19.
As many of the articles in this edition illustrate, it’s worth pausing to examine some of the silver linings that have emerged.
An innovation explosion
A major outcome has been the never-before-seen speed at which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a number of new technologies for emergency use authorization (EUA), including vaccines. Under the watchful eyes of the world, pharmaceutical companies completely transformed the vaccine development process, with three manufacturers delivering FDA EUA-approved versions in under a year. In fact, as HealthTrust Physician Advisor S. Shaefer Spires, M.D., shares in “Silver Linings Around the Cloud of COVID,” the COVID vaccine is probably the biggest scientific achievement to happen in his lifetime, rivaling, if not superseding, the U.S. moon landing in 1969.
When the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services expanded Medicare coverage for telehealth services, another silver lining emerged in the widespread use of those services throughout the country. While telemedicine is not new and may not be appropriate for all patient encounters, its explosive use has proven effective for chronic disease management, and it has allowed many patients to get the care they need from the safety of their homes.
Collaboration essential in coordination
William A. Cooper, M.D., MBA, a HealthTrust Physician Advisor, discusses in “Optimizing COVID Care Coordination” how care coordination has become a top priority during the pandemic. There is value in collaboration through utilizing electronic medical records (EMRs) as well as the basics of good communication—not only between providers, but between providers and family members. Effective use of an EMR to accurately document a patient’s history and treatment throughout the continuum of care is key to strengthening their transition (to home or another provider).
Echoing the coordination sentiment is HCA Healthcare’s SVP & Chief Nurse Executive Jane Englebright, Ph.D., RN, CENP, FAAN, who shares in “In Nurses We Trust” that, “The RN in acute care is going to become more engaged in care coordination, overseeing the work of assistive personnel, and monitoring patient needs and conditions using technical tools and evaluating alerts from artificial intelligence.”
While the full impact of the pandemic remains to be seen, one thing is for certain: We are on a new path. Here’s to continuing to search for silver linings that will emerge throughout the months ahead.
John Young, M.D., MBA, FACHE
Chief Medical Officer, HealthTrust
Executive Publisher & Editor-at-large, The Source magazine