How hospital CIOs can prepare for the onslaught of coronavirus patients

How hospital CIOs can prepare for the onslaught of coronavirus patients


There are steps that IT departments can take to strengthen their technical infrastructure in advance of COVID-19’s arrival at their facility.

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It seems that nearly everyone across the US is preparing for the onslaught of COVID-19 cases, with 1,875 people in 47 states and Washington, D.C. testing positive for coronavirus. 


President Donald Trump announced on Friday that the federal government is working with Google
to create a website to improve access to coronavirus testing. But hospital CIOs also can take steps to collaborate with healthcare providers and strengthen the technical infrastructure of their facilities

Healthcare IT Today collected advice from two healthcare CIOs who are bracing their facilities for impact. Aaron Miri, CIO for the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin, had suggestions for preparing IT infrastructure, while David Chou’s ideas focused on supporting doctors, nurses, and data analysts. Chou has held executive roles with the Cleveland Clinic, Children’s Mercy Hospital, University Of Mississippi Medical Center, AHMC Healthcare, and Prime Healthcare. 

Chou said that IT departments should identify dedicated support for the healthcare facility’s contact center and the patient portal. 

Chou recommended preparing the contact center since they are the first line of contact for appointment scheduling for patients. CIOs must ensure that their contact center system has the relevant integration so that the agent can provide the most up-to-date information for a patient.

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He also said IT professionals should expect a potential uptick on the patient portal usage and monitor the portal to ensure that it is functional and provide IT staff for support.

Providence St. Joseph Health in Seattle built a chatbot to help people assess their symptoms and figure out what to do. The chatbot offers a series of questions about travel and symptoms. The “conversation” ends with a recommendation about what to do next. To reduce the risk of exposure to healthcare workers, experts recommend that people call first or use testing facilities outside the hospital.

We have presented some of the advice from Chou and Miri below; check out the full list of advice on Healthcare IT Today.

Supporting the medical team

  • Modify questionnaire in the electronic medical record to identify potentially infected patients that visited the facility with COVID-19 symptoms
  • Discuss the need for communication, testing, and data storage with internal infectious disease teams and lab teams
  • Prioritize clinical requests with the analytics teams

Strengthening the technical infrastructure

  • Telemedicine: Set up the mobile solutions, a computer on wheels or other form factors in the ER, and lead the organization operationally to fast track to the virtual world
  • Lead the data collection effort: Partnering with the hospital’s infectious disease leader to coordinate the transmission of relevant information to the Centers for Disease Control
  • Optimize the remote access solution: Prepare now to accommodate a remote workforce
  • Clinical scheduling system: Employees should have access to time and attendance systems for workforce scheduling from anywhere at any time
  • Shore up video conferencing documents and how-tos and make available
  • Talk to two-factor authentication vendors to ensure remote services and what to do if issues prevent remote login
  • Work with doctors on any internal communications gaps, consider two-way radios if needed
  • Block malicious websites that claim to be COVID-19 tracking sites
  • Assess the need for boosting external wifi or cellular augmentation

Putting collaboration practices in place

  • Establish emergency communications with other CIOs of health systems in the local area for rapid information exchange
  • Work with facilities on temperature or air handling sensor alerts that could go to a larger audience

Also see

TOPSHOT-ITALY-HEALTH-VIRUS

Hospital workers are in the midst of the epidemic in a triage tent at the Brescia hospital, Lombardy, on March 13, 2020. 

Image: MIGUEL MEDINA/Getty Images





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