The future of healthcare post-COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented disruption for the healthcare industry, forcing hospitals, organizations fighting infectious diseases, healthcare workers, social services and more to think about alternative ways of delivering medical services while adapting to the new environment. Michael F. Ruggio, partner at US legal firm Nelson Mullins, discusses the future of healthcare, online vs in person medical services, and healthcare fraud.
Under the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) temporary new rules, hospitals will now be able to “transfer patients to outside facilities such as ambulatory surgery centers, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, hotels, and dormitories, while still receiving hospital payments under Medicare.”
The temporary new rules also state that a healthcare system can “use a hotel to take care of patients needing less intensive care while using its inpatient beds for COVID-19 patients.” These flexibilities will also serve to further decant services typically provided by hospitals such as cancer procedures, trauma surgeries and other essential surgeries. This massive result is estimated to result in a large decline in what would have traditionally been in-patient services.
When this is added to the reductions in regulatory barriers to telehealth access, the decline of in-hospital delivery of chronic, acute, primary and specialty care will be much greater than these numbers. Clearly, hospitals and larger health systems need to adapt to these changes immediately or risk both loss of patient markets and potential financial viability.
Changes in the way healthcare is delivered during the pandemic to reduce staff exposure, preserve PPE and minimise the impact of patient surges is reflected in the explosion of online provider visits. Both patients and healthcare providers are focused on reducing in-person visits whenever possible.
The new reality is that many visits, if not most, can be conducted remotely, which is much more cost-efficient and often a more effective means of care. Telehealth is clearly the future for much of the healthcare industry, but the great concern is that the laws and regulations that are required to guide this expansion are unable to keep pace with the growth.
A significant danger to the telehealth movement is the risk of abuse and fraud by unscrupulous providers and fraudsters. Telehealth presents certain unique risks, given the emerging technology and that guardrails have been removed by the government with many waivers.
These new waivers are having a substantial impact in the way traditional laws and regulations - including the and - are viewed by providers. These new waivers could lead to fraudulent telecommunication or phone room operations anywhere in the world taking advantage of this new opportunity.
As the healthcare industry shifts the way it provides medical services, practitioners should review these four steps to help guide the best practices possible and avoid violation of the law and potential fraud:
- Provide secure telehealth online services and detailed communication. This is a legal requirement to provide secure services under HIPAA and will also prevent sensitive and protected health information from falling into the wrong hands.
- Implement a comprehensive document verification and memorialization system. This record-keeping element is not only required by law but will also serve as a defense for any billing issues down the road.
- Be aware of the waivers by CMS regarding traditional regulations and COVID-19 exceptions.
- Train all healthcare providers on the new risks created by telehealth care to get things right from the start.
represents hospitals and other healthcare providers, including medical device and pharmaceutical corporations and their respective officers and directors in matters relating to federal regulation and investigation.
Zoom enters the healthcare market - a timeline
Since the pandemic began Zoom has become an integral part of daily life for people working from home, as well as a vital tool for families and friends to communicate. However it's also been eyeing up the healthcare space since 2017, and following the boom in telehealth the company has been rolling out additional services. Here we chart Zoom's move into healthcare.
2011 - 2013
Zoom is founded in San Jose, California, by Eric Yuan, formerly of Cisco. He got the idea to create a video calling platform from his visits to his girlfriend while he was a student, which would take 10 hours by train.
A beta version is released in 2012, which can host up to 15 participants. In 2013 this rises to 25. By mid-2013, Zoom has 1 million users.
2014 - 2017
Zoom attracts investors, including Sequoia Capital, Emergence and Horizon Ventures. By January 2017, Zoom has a series D funding worth $100 million.
2017 - 2019
Zoom for Telehealth launches, including an integration with EHR system Epic. It has cloud-based video, audio, and content sharing features, a "waiting room" for patients, and can easily be integrated into healthcare provider's workflows.
In 2019 Zoom goes public, with its IPO rising 72% in one day.
As a result of the pandemic, Zoom gains 2.2 million new users, more than in the whole of 2019. On the 23rd of March alone - the day the UK lockdown was announced - the platform was downloaded 2.13 million times around the world.
Share prices rise to around $150, and founder and chief executive Eric Yuan becomes one of the world's richest people, with an estimated net worth of $7.9 billion.
Early security issues are addressed by encrypting data with the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). By now the the platform allows 99 people to be on a call simultaneously
New features launch, including Zoom Home and Zoom for Chats. Throughout the year the platform is used to replace most kinds of real life events: work meetings, online classrooms, church services and social events.
Renamed Zoom for Healthcare, users can share secured video, audio, and content through desktops, mobile phones, and conference devices. As well as Epic, it can be integrated with Strmr, IntakeQ, and Practice Better.
It can also be used with diagnostic cameras and other point-of-care devices, including digital stethoscopes.
In an interview with Korea Biomedical Review, Zoom Global Healthcare Lead Ron Emerson said: "Our service is not simply a virtual care and telemedicine platform but a multi-purpose platform that can satisfy the needs of healthcare institutions."
"It can be used for administrative tasks, including telemedicine, medical team meetings, recruitment, medical education, employee training, and disease prevention. Analysing electronic records managed by Zoom could provide meaningful insights into patient care."
Phoenix Children's Hospital, Belfast's Hospital Services Limited, Butler Health Services and the global Project ECHO are among Zoom for Healthcare's current customers.