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Applying Lessons Learned from COVID for Improved Healthcare IT 

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The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on every facet of life – most obviously the healthcare industry. In caring for patients and maintaining public health, healthcare organizations have quickly adopted new ways of working to meet the immediate need. After the pandemic concerns ease, these changes will continue to make an impact on how (and where) we receive care.  

Telemedicine is here to stay

Use of telemedicine grew astronomically during the COVID pandemic as doctors used it to treat routine issues, freeing up in-office time and space for emergency and critical cases while also keeping doctors and patients safe from COVID transmission. While many healthcare practices had rudimentary applications and technology in place for Telehealth, these solutions cannot support long term, greatly scaled use. In rural areas, a huge issue was access to the bandwidth needed to support video visits. The Iowa Communications Network engineered and implemented site upgrades to the Iowa Rural Health Telecommunications Program (IRHTP), a consortium that connects about 85 health facilities to a dedicated broadband fiber network. Ensuring that rural facilities have access to needed bandwidth helps with specialty care since many of these facilities do not have specialists on site. Being able to teleconference them into an online visit saves patients travel time and provides quicker care in many cases.    

The military is also looking at how to expand Telehealth in traditionally unconnected environments. A DoD provider could be working in a forward operating base and needs to carry out a procedure they are not specifically trained in. They could use a Telehealth visit with a specialist to get walked through the procedure, saving the need to transfer the patient to a central location. 

Improving access to data

Currently, public health data is collected separately by Federal, state, and local agencies according to different requirements. This means that across these collections there are different formats and structures for categorizing and using the same data. Additionally, each group may collect slightly different data, but it is not shareable. The problem with this segmentation of data became obvious during the early days of the pandemic as it was difficult to get a holistic view of health data to inform policy. There is now a move to determine how healthcare data can be centralized and aggregated, normalized, cleaned, and linked by patient. Doing so would mean quicker identification of variants like Omicron because genetic sequencing of samples would be easier to accomplish. Additionally, AI solutions could be applied to the larger, more robust sample size to identify new patterns quicker. 

The Veterans Administration (VA) found that they were able to connect more than 400,000 VA workers remotely (via cloud services and applications) to the agency’s network to enable COVID-19 research. They established a virtual research organization that developed ways to do research remotely in a secure environment to preserve data privacy. This access to data allowed changes to the way the VA uses data. They were able to work across the Department to build a summary and tracking tool that would help gain better situational awareness of its patients and resources during the pandemic.

GovWhitePapers has resources on the wide variety of IT and policy modernization happening across the healthcare market:

  • Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H): Congressional Action and Selected Policy Issues – President Biden proposed the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) to improve the U.S. government’s ability to speed biomedical and health research. This report provides an overview of ARPA-H, outlines congressional action, and discusses selected policy issues still under debate. 
  • Governing Data and Artificial Intelligence for Health Care: Developing an International Understanding – The aim of this study is to review current health data and AI governance mechanisms being developed or used by Global Digital Health Partnership (GDHP) member countries, identify commonalities and gaps in approaches, identify examples of best practices, and understand the rationale for policies around AI use and development.
  • Investing in Health Equity: Why Strong ESG Strategies Help Build a Healthier, More Inclusive World – The World Economic Forum and partners conducted a global survey of 42 cross-industry executives to identify opportunities and barriers for embedding health equity across healthcare operations.
  • Warfighter Health: Leveraging AI for Improved Healthcare Delivery – ATARC, in partnership with Tradewind, recently held a roundtable to start to identify the barriers (technical, acquisition, training, cultural, etc.) to the adoption of AI solutions in support of Military Health initiatives. This white paper includes the highlights of this roundtable discussion among the participating military health experts, stakeholders and program offices.
  • A Call to Action to Create a 21st Century Public Health Infrastructure – Public health agencies have been under extreme stress due to significant funding reductions during the Great Recession, changing population health challenges, and in certain circumstances changes brought on by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In addition, they are increasingly working with others in the broader health system to address the social determinants of health in response to the mounting data on disparities by race/ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation, interpersonal violence and trauma, income, and geography.
  • Creating a Culture of Innovation in Healthcare Settings – Organizational culture plays a critical role in shaping healthcare delivery environments and service quality. Research is needed to identify programs and interventions that foster a culture of innovation, and to determine how culture of innovation can be evaluated and measured.
  • Digital Healthcare: Societal and Technology Trend Report – This trend report focuses on new standardization topics identified as pivotal to the realization of digital healthcare in 2030, a society in which people will be able to live a longer healthy life enabled by lifetime social healthcare support.

You can browse additional healthcare industry trends and innovations through our search engine here:

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