During these unsettling times, it’s important to keep an eye on how health systems and large integrated delivery networks are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. These vital networks are shouldering the lion’s share of caring for the most critically ill patients in our healthcare system. Therefore, it is crucial to understand how they are managing their patient care operations/workflows and addressing competing priorities in their network.

With the variability in how states are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is also variation in how health systems and IDNs are responding as well.

For starters, many health systems are cancelling and postponing elective surgical procedures so they can dedicate staff, providers, and resources to manage the large number of COVID-19—afflicted patients in their care centers. Triaging, treating, and caring for these patients takes a severe toll on many health systems; even the CDC weighed in,1 issuing strong guidance that regions such as the Bay Area, hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, “cancel all elective and non-urgent procedures.”2

Another mitigation strategy is leveraging the use of telemedicine for virtual provider consultations via webcam or phone. This allows providers to triage patients effectively and manage routine complaints. This large-scale ramp-up to telehealth has been swift. One health system VP in the state of Washington stated he observed a 10-fold increase in telehealth visits and a 7-fold increase in providers joining the platform.3 This trend is expected to continue as shelter-in-place orders continue in many affected states through May 2020.

Many IDNs are maximizing the use of their electronic health record (EHR) for patient communication and engagement via online health portals. Geisinger Health System, which services more than 3 million patients, is working with specialists such as radiologists to utilize voice-to-text capabilities to transcribe documentation to funnel back into the EHR.4 All while the specialists are working from their homes to ensure patient care is uninterrupted.

There have been many advances for IDNs during the COVID-19 pandemic, but many gaps remain where pharma manufacturers could possibly assist these health systems. One very tangible way is addressing critical medication shortages, which are a growing concern for many health professionals and systems.5 Manufacturers should be proactive and reach out to their health system accounts and contacts to see if they can provide any further support to the front-line healthcare practitioners who are caring for the most critically ill COVID-19 patients.

Avi Mamidi, PharmD
Senior Director, Access Experience Team