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Tag Archives: Healthcare

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COVID-19 and the power of the collective

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The coronavirus pandemic has shed light on myriad aspects of the healthcare system here in the United States, including the good, the bad, and the painfully ugly. We have also witnessed the many faces of the public’s appetite — or lack thereof — for a coordinated national response, not to mention the scientific community’s deep dive into the heart of the pandemic’s causes and possible amelioration.

Public health messaging has fallen on far too many deaf ears, and the federal government continues to botch multiple facets of the battle. If we are to prevail and save as many lives as possible in the coming months, the power of the collective must be more fully harnessed and realized.

The Collective Mind and Heart

In terms of the scientific and medical communities’ response, exponential progress has resulted from manifold collaborative efforts, the sharing of data and best practices, and the courage and dedication of scientists and medical personnel. In this regard, we see shining examples of collectivism, and the mounting body of literature will fuel research and discovery for years to come.

In medical facilities nationwide, teams form the bedrock upon which the treatment of COVID-19 is built. While we consistently heap gratitude on the praiseworthy nurses, doctors, and first responders on the front lines, we must also recognize the contributions of environmental service staff who clean the rooms of infected patients, and the innumerable individuals who keep medical facilities running smoothly. Beyond acute care, we have social workers, parent aides, ambulatory medical personnel, and home health staff who keep the wheels of healthcare delivery turning.

The societal collective manifests in grocery store and pharmacy employees, and those working in countless essential services and businesses, from the post office and its mail carriers to the local hardware store or bodega.

In the realm of the private citizen, contributions are made by helping neighbors, donating money or time, and remaining as calm as possible amidst existential fear and uncertainty. Our public health messaging has indeed reached millions willing to hear it, and every American who agrees to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and limit unnecessary travel also contributes to limiting the spread.

Where the Collective Falters

The power of the collective falters when the president and other politicians fail to model proper behavior by refusing to socially distance or consistently wear masks. The undermining of science and highly corrosive rhetoric fuel the fire of public distrust, and this only serves to make the work of those laboring around the clock to save lives that much more difficult.

When scores of young people feeling their fictitious invincibility gather at a popular beach en masse or pack a fraternity house without masks or any regard for social distancing, the power of the collective is further hobbled.

Even in the face of danger, accusations fly regarding the impingement on personal liberties vis-à-vis lockdown orders, mask-wearing, and social distancing. The forces of confusion reign supreme in some quarters, and this only extends the depth, breadth, length, and severity of the pandemic.

Misinformation, biased media sources, and those out for their own aggrandizement are a terrible hindrance, and even the tech giants appear unable to reign in the negative consequences and reach of the ubiquitous social media platforms they foisted upon our culture.

The collective falters when rabid individualism or the desire for personal gain eclipse the good of the whole, and we all suffer at the hands of those refusing to fight on the right side of history.

Pulling Together

In order to overcome this grave threat to every aspect of our lives — and life itself — we must unfailingly pull together in unprecedented ways on a daily basis.

If the government wants schools to reopen for full-time in-person education, the funds and federal wherewithal must be made available so that this can be done as safely as possible. If we want every citizen to wear a mask and socially distance, elected leaders must consistently model such behavior. And if we want Americans back to work, we must create an environment wherein this too can be done with relative safety.

In 1918, groups united against social distancing and mask-wearing also arose, and millions more likely died than might have otherwise. In such scenarios, only a centralized federal mandate will mitigate these battles, yet the prospect of such occurring is bleak.

Individual citizens, families, social groups, neighborhoods, and other communities must band together in these times. Faith leaders, social justice movements, and other powerful forces can also join the conversation.

Corruption, infighting, partisanship and politicking, and unfettered opposition to science must be reined in if we are to succeed, and leaders must be elected who can unite the country when the need for collectivism could not be greater.

When the years have passed and the complete history of this coronavirus pandemic is written, we will indeed see the good, the bad, and the veritably ugly. Collective thought and action will certainly be seen as central pillars of the battle; thus we must cling to hope, even as we feel hopeless. The human spirit and the will to survive are strong; now we need even more of us to grasp this notion and cleave to one another and the strength of the collective in the struggle for our future.

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Getting grounded: Implications for business

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We may all be ready to be done with the coronavirus, but the virus isn’t ready to be done with us.

While airports and airlines are doing what they can to keep their facilities clean, the bottom line is not that many people are ready to take on either the risk of flying, or the discomfort of spending several hours on a plane wearing a mask. International flights are few and far between, since many countries are limiting visitors from virus hot spots, like the United States.

As a result, some of the short-term changes to how and where we work may turn out to be more longer-term than we ever expected. Not only do we need to maintain social distance and wear masks when out and about near others, but we also have to face the fact that for the most part, we’ve all been grounded.

What do you need to do to be as effective as possible given these constraints? Here are six things to consider:

Rethink how to get things done. We’ve never done it that way before is no longer an acceptable approach. What worked through February of this year likely won’t work today — or any time soon.

So, what do you need to change? What processes and procedures can you put in place to make it easy to do business with you — today?

Not traveling, but not in the office either. Your employees may not be on business travel, but they’re likely not sitting in your offices either. If they’re working from home, they’re adapting to new challenges and new technologies.

They may not be used to having spouses, children, and pets around while they try to work. And they may have to step in and help their kids with schoolwork as well. What can you do to help employees be productive with this new arrangement?

Suppliers are stuck. Everything that’s happening to you is probably happening to your suppliers, too. Not only may their supply chains be disrupted, but they’re also trying to navigate home-based workforces and the inability to do things the way they did before. Be patient and be flexible.

Customers are stuck, too. On the other side of the equation, your customers are facing similar challenges. It not just you that can no longer travel to see your customers and prospects. They can’t travel to see their customers and prospects either. They may not be able to operate their normal facilities or offer their regular products and services.

What can you do to help them remain competitive? How can you show added value?

Understand the ripple effects. When someone tests positive for COVID-19, it’s not just that individual who’s affected. Their family and friends need to isolate to make sure they’re not infected, and co-workers who may have been exposed need to be tested as well. The more people exposed, the less likely it is we can return to any kind of normal work environment any time soon.

That’s why it’s so important to maintain clean workspaces and to insist that anyone who enters your facility wear a mask. Offer testing to those who need or ask for it, and work closely with your local health officials when necessary to ensure as safe a work environment as possible.

Hope is not a strategy. We all hope this situation resolves itself quickly, that the virus is effectively contained soon, and treatments and vaccines are available fairly quickly. But hope alone will not keep a business viable.

Now’s the time to develop scenarios for how your business might be impacted if the pandemic rages another six, 12, or 18 months. What do you need to do now to prepare for a longer-term scenario?

This is certainly not the business environment we all expected at the beginning of this year, but this is where we are today. Take the actions needed to make the most of the situation. Even though your feet are solidly grounded, there’s no reason you can’t continue to reach for the stars.

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Flying scared? You’re not alone

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The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted how comfortable Americans are traveling these days, especially if that trip involves a flight. In fact, a new survey shows that more than two-thirds of Americans these days are afraid to fly the friendly skies. Older Americans are particularly concerned when it comes to regions experiencing surges in cases.

According to a new survey from The Manifest, a business and news website, 67% of Americans are at least somewhat uncomfortable with flying in the next month, limiting summer travel possibilities.

The survey accounts for 351 Americans’ comfort with travel in May 2020 and another 501 American opinions on travel during the COVID-19 pandemic in July 2020. The same percentage of people (67%) said they were uncomfortable with air travel in May and July 2020.

Change of Travel Plans During COVID-19

Despite concerns about air travel as daily new cases surge, only 23% of people have fully canceled their 2020 travel plans. Instead, 32% of people in the U.S. are stopping additional travel planning while 15% are continuing to plan. This shows that people are still looking for ways to travel safely during the pandemic and are unwilling to completely write off travel plans.

Regional Hotspots Mean Travel Anxieties

Residents of regions that have seen more success with flattening the curve are more comfortable with air travel now than they were in May 2020. For example, the number people in the Northeast who were very uncomfortable with flying decreased from 67 to 51% from May to July.

  • The South and West, however, both experienced increases in travel discomfort from May to July 2020:
  • In the South, 58% of people were very uncomfortable with flying in July, compared to 48% in May.
  • In the West, 43% of people were very uncomfortable with flying in July, compared to 38% in May.

Conversely, residents of virus hotspots since May 2020 are less comfortable with flying in July 2020, mirroring spikes in positive coronavirus cases.

Demographics and Comfort Levels

COVID-19 hospitalization records show that older Americans are more vulnerable to severe cases of the virus. The Manifest found that more people 55 years old and above were very uncomfortable with air travel than people 18-34 years old in both May (59% vs. 45%) and July (56% vs. 44%). Conversely, Americans ages 18-34 are also more likely to be at least somewhat comfortable with the idea of plane travel than those 55 and older.

Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020, the U.S. travel industry has tracked more than $273 billion in losses. New research, however, reveals that the travel economy has sustained continuous expansion for over two months.

Methodology

The Manifest collected data regarding comfortability with travel from 351 Americans in May 2020.

  • 44% were female; 36% were male; 21% did not identify a gender.
  • 24% were ages 18-34; 36% were 35-54; 40% of respondents were 55 or older.
  • 20% were from the Midwest; 16% were from the Northeast; 42% were from the South; 22% were from the West.

Data was also collected on questions of people’s comfort with travel during coronavirus from 501 Americans in July 2020.

  • 44% were female; 42% were male; 14% chose not to identify themselves.
  • 27% were ages 18-34; 33% were 35-54; 39% of respondents were 55 or older.
  • 33% were from the Midwest; 11% were from the Northeast; 36% were from the South; 21% were from the West.

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Trump administration throws additional support behind telehealth

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President Donald Trump signed a new executive order Aug. 3 to expand access to telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic, notably in rural areas. The Trump administration also is extending some telehealth services even after the pandemic public health emergency ends.

The order requires the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to roll out new payment model testing innovations for rural hospitals to transform the care in their communities on a broader scale.

The order is meant to improve connectivity and directs the government to create a joint initiative within 30 days to improve health communication infrastructure and expand rural healthcare services.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the president is directing the agency to transform rural healthcare with new, more sustainable models, which it already has been working to do for some time.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) officials said they plan to issue a proposed Physician Fee Schedule rule to ensure flexibilities related to the reimbursement for telehealth visits, including some emergency room visits, nurse consultations, and speech and occupational therapy.

CMS’ annual Physician Fee Schedule and Quality Payment Program updates Medicare payment rates.

These telehealth expansions would build on the work CMS has done during the public health emergency to more than double allowable telehealth services.

The executive order issued Aug. 3 proposes to permanently add some services to the Medicare telehealth list, including prolonged office visits, mental health services like group psychotherapy, neuro-behavioral exams and other types of visits. A previous action also proposed to make telehealth for home health services available permanently.

Prior to COVID-19, about 13,000 people received telemedicine service in a week compared to more than 10.1 million beneficiaries from mid-March to early July.

During the pandemic, CMS has enabled Medicare to cover more than 135 services through telehealth.

A more sweeping extension of pandemic telehealth policies, including enabling patients to get telehealth visits at home, would require congressional action, CMS officials said.

“Revenue for rural providers varies significantly month to month, making it difficult to stay in business. Many are having a difficult time,” Trump said at the signing.

The order also directs the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services and the Federal Communications Commission to form a task force to focus on improving broadband infrastructure in rural communities to support telehealth.

“One of the only good things that we’ve gotten out of this whole horrible situation is telehealth, has been incredible,” Trump said at a Aug. 3 press briefing.

POLITICO reports that some of the pieces unveiled in the executive order were considered for as long as two years. Federal health officials retooled the proposals to demonstrate they would save the federal government money.

Meanwhile, a new bill in Congress is designed to further remove barriers to telehealth expansion, specifically regarding interstate licensure.

Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) unveiled the Temporary Reciprocity to Ensure Access to Treatment (TREAT) Act, enabling healthcare providers in good standing to use connected health to treat patients in any state during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique challenges for our health care system, like reaching patients who are advised to avoid clinics and hospitals, allowing students to continue care when they’re away from campuses, or speeding reinforcements to areas with a high number of cases,” Blunt said in a press release. “The TREAT Act responds to those challenges by increasing flexibility for providers to care for patients wherever they are.”

Current guidelines require providers to have licenses in each state in which they practice.

The new bill is similar to the Equal Access to Care Act, introduced in June by Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas). That bill would allow providers in any state to use telehealth to treat a patient in any location for up to 180 days after the national emergency.

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3D printing: Making biocompatible, sterilizable plastic and metal components possible

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The medical industry is changing quickly. While there have been major advances in the technological and biomedical engineering spaces, medical device manufacturers still need viable options for manufacturing devices and equipment both to patients and healthcare providers in an efficient, low-cost manner.

Moreover, the industry has an enormous need for customizable biocompatible and sterilizable components.

While many device manufacturers still use traditional production methods, 3D printing is making it possible to create biocompatible and sterilizable components at a pace that is equally fast as inexpensive.

Applications of 3D Printing in the Medical Field

3D printing has a number of novel applications that are making a big impact on the medical industry. These include:

3D Printed Prosthetics: Prosthetics need to be customized to meet the needs of each patient, making them both expensive and time-consuming to produce. Usually, the fitting process requires multiple castings and follow-up appointments to make sure they fit properly. With 3D printing, patients no longer need a physical cast. Using a scanner, data can be fed to a 3D printer that will develop a model that serves as the basis for a customized prosthetic in a single visit.

Patient Devices and Implants: Hearing aids, artificial joints, and heart valves have all been converting to 3D printing quickly. Hearing aids and heart valves can be produced in a single day when they used to take a week. Furthermore, silicone heart valves provide a major upgrade over traditional heart valves because the fit is more precise.

Dentistry and Orthodontics: Tools in the fields of dentistry and orthodontics require a high degree of customization as well. Dentures, crowns, implants, and retainers have to be tailored to meet the needs of the patient. Today, 3D scans and X-rays can be used to produce 3D printed models using sterilizable plastics in a short amount of time.

The Expansion of 3D Printing Materials

The materials used in 3D printing in the medical industry provide a major upgrade over traditional ingredients. Both TPU and Nylon have been rated by the FDA as Class I to VI for medical devices. This means they can handle prolonged skin contact without causing cytotoxicity. Some of the most popular materials used in 3D printing include:

  • Nylon PA-12: This is a general-purpose plastic that is durable, light, and resists corrosion. It can be sterilized in a steam autoclave.
  • Estane TPU: This is the only 3D printable rubber currently FDA approved for when applications call for an elastomer instead of rigid plastic.
  • Titanium: Titanium is the leader when it comes to biocompatible metals. It is used for pacemakers, replacement joints, dental implants, and more.
  • PC-ISO: This is a biocompatible polycarbonate that is used in FDM 3D printing. It is used in surgical guides and molds.

These materials make it possible for components produced via 3D printing to meet biocompatibility and sterilization requirements.

Benefits of 3D Printing in the Medical Industry

Manufacturing components for the medical industry requires precision to ensure compatibility, reliability and compliance. Turning to 3D printing as an option for producing components and parts offers the industry many benefits including:

  • Cost reduction thanks to no tooling requirements
  • The medical industry tends to be a low-volume space, which means that 3D printing makes this process much more affordable
  • Customers can be flexible with their orders, allowing them to change their designs on short notice
  • Shorter turnaround times than traditional methods

As the field of medicine advances and the need for highly customizable devices, components increase, 3D printing can offer the industry an option to produce these in a highly effective manner. With more options for making biocompatible, sterilizable and efficient components, the medical industry can advance in providing better patient outcomes.

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Are schools reopening prematurely?

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In some areas where school has already started, a rash of COVID-19 cases has led to a chaotic start to the new academic year. While infections continue to rise in large parts of the country, reopening schools with in-person learning may foreshadow dire results.

There are already reports of teachers and students bringing the virus to school with them in the South and the Midwest, triggering quarantines. More cases like these will result in delayed openings and further shutdowns.

The Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FCAAP) is raising concerns about reopening schools. It released its recommendations on a return to school. The letter recommends school districts with test positivity rates over 5% delay their start dates till the numbers go down.

The threshold from the U.S. Attorney General to keep schools closed is 10%. The Florida Department of Health dashboard shows that number is over 13% for the state. The Florida Senate Democratic Caucus, like the FCAAP, also recommends that school dates are pushed back, among other restrictions, and schools should be allowed to decide when to open depending on the infection rates in each district.

Despite expert warnings and high case counts, there seem to be protests from parents to open schools with in-person learning. A case of example is Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia, which has alarming rates of confirmed community spread. Yet, parents are demanding that children be allowed to return to in-person learning. The protests happened despite official reports that 260 employees in the school district have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed and are barred from work.

According to Georgia’s Department of Public Health, Gwinnett County has the second-highest total of COVID-19 cases in Georgia, with 17,781 confirmed cases. The district wants parents to understand the high risk and announced that employees won’t return to school just yet. Other districts across the country continue to adjust their back-to-school plans to prevent the spread of the virus.

It is easy to blame school districts for their decisions, but the reality is they are, at times, overwhelmed by families that want their kids to return to school.

Everyone expected the quarantine to end, and the virus to be controlled by fall, but that hasn’t happened. School districts are also under tremendous pressure from President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who have threatened to pull federal funds for school districts that don’t reopen.

The CDC, which has been guiding the American populace with science-based arguments and counseled caution at all stages, has itself fallen to intense political pressure. It had no choice but to issue a new set of “resources and tools” for school reopening, despite educators’ professional advice and the best scientific evidence stating otherwise.

There are also widespread global reports of coronavirus cases exploding after school re-openings. Following those are reports of schools closing down and shifting to the virtual mode. The U.S., which is reeling with COVID-19 cases, should opt for caution.

Students indeed learn better in a classroom setting, and school closures have been particularly hard on working families. Children suffer psychologically from social isolation. But none of these are insurmountable problems. What is unthinkable is risking the health of our children by deliberately putting them in high-risk environments.

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As federal funds for hospitals continue to be used, talks ongoing for more

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If there’s going to be additional federal funding that provides protections to consumers and the U.S. economy, the list of hopeful recipients is getting a little long. Healthcare providers across the country are making their voices heard through their lobbying groups, essentially begging the Senate to include as much as $100 billion more in COVID-19 relief packages.

The American Hospital Association, American Nurses Association and American Medical Association are specifically pressing legislators for the cash. Their hospital and provider groups say they are struggling to fight financial burdens brought on as part of the pandemic’s near shuttering of the economy throughout a significant part of 2020.

A letter from the group included: “Physicians, nurses, hospitals and health systems all across the country are incurring expenses [because of] sourcing and purchasing additional and potentially more expensive supplies and equipment, when available.

“For outpatient providers, there continues to be decreased demand for services, and those offices and facilities that are open are scheduling fewer patients due to social distancing precautions while incurring higher expenses for scarce personal protective equipment and other supplies,” the letter added.

The lobbyists continue to fight for operating cash to protect the U.S. health system, which is hemorrhaging cash responding to patients with the virus and due of a loss of elective procedure funds.

Additional expenses as a result of the virus include standing up emergency operation centers and providing housing and care for patients who don’t require hospitalization “but do not have housing in order to prevent spread of COVID-19; and construction or retrofitting facilities.”

The groups, which received handouts from a previous infusion of cash, want additional funds from the Department of Health and Human Services to “infuse these funds as soon as possible.”

Hospital groups also requested Congress to forgive loans made to providers under the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payments Program. The White House and Congress are working with these groups on a new legislative package, facing a deadline of July 31, when federal unemployment benefits expire.

Previously, from the Provider Relief Fund, rural providers in support of the national response to COVID-19, for example, were slated for as much as $10 billion in rural distribution for rural acute care general hospitals and Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs), Rural Health Clinics (RHCs), and Community Health Centers located in rural areas. In this instance, they received e a minimum base payment plus a percent of their annual expenses.

On July 17, HHS, through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), announced a distribution of $10 billion in a second round of high-impact COVID-19 area funding to hospitals.

“The top priority for HHS’s administration of the Provider Relief Fund has been getting support as quickly as possible to providers who have been hit hard by COVID-19,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar in a statement. “Because we’ve carefully targeted support, we can make payments to areas most in need as the pandemic evolves, like we are doing with this round of funds.”

The second round of funding is based on a formula for hospitals with more than 161 COVID-19 admissions between Jan. 1 and June 10, or one admission per day, or that experienced a disproportionate intensity of COVID-19 admissions (exceeding the average ratio of admissions/bed). Hospitals will be paid $50,000 per eligible admission.

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4 ways healthcare tech has been impacted by COVID-19 and what the future may hold

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COVID-19 forced most healthcare institutions to offer more telehealth services. Now that patients have a taste for home-based care, they will expect more of such services in the future.

In essence, COVID-19 has pushed the idea of a healthcare system built on consumerism to the forefront of the discussion in medical circles. Here are four ways COVID-19 is having an impact on healthcare, and a glimpse of what the future may hold for patients and practitioners.

1. The Demand for Telehealth Will Increase

Many patients used telehealth services for the first time in the past few months to avoid possible exposure to COVID-19. Their experiences will likely increase the demand for this service in the future. Patients will want to continue to avoid exposure, long commutes, and excessive in-office wait time for exams.

Before COVID-19, many consumers accessed telehealth through their insurance company. Consequently, in most cases, they would see a provider that was neither their primary care physician nor specialist. After experiencing the benefits of telehealth, patients are likely to expect their regular providers to start offering telehealth services.

Patients believe that if practitioners can offer telemedicine during a crisis, then they should be able to continue offering the service all the time. As a result, practitioners will likely have to alter how they offer their services to keep pace with an increased demand for telehealth.

2. Increased Interoperability

The lack of tech-savviness in medicine has surprised patients for decades. Patients expect medicine to use technology in the same way, and with as much ease, as other industries. There will likely be a call to reassess universal provider access to healthcare information as patients begin to expect quicker, more efficient healthcare services from their physicians.

COVID-19 has made it abundantly clear that computer systems and software must easily exchange and make use of information in new and improved ways. A shift toward patient populated data and laws that support this are around the corner.

3. A Provider’s Location May Temporarily Matter Less

Less affluent patients in suburban and rural areas have typically been affected by the lack of provider choices for specific procedures in their region. With limited funds to travel to facilities outside of their neighborhood and pay to stay at a hotel while they receive services, physician location has given providers in suburban and rural areas a steady flow of business. However, with many patients canceling or postponing medical visits, providers in rural areas in the market of elective procedures are experiencing a hit to their bottom line. Until COVID-19 is a distant memory, rural and suburban providers will probably have to find new ways to attract patients.

For the time being, merely being the only business in town to do a procedure may not be enough. Patients have had a taste of convenience in healthcare with telehealth, and they have realized how much elective procedure providers depend on their business. In the future, patients will expect more from local providers in exchange for their business, at least temporarily; a return to “business as usual” does not hold a lot of appeal to patients, including patients with few provider choices.

4. A Battle over Urgency

COVID-19 has, arguably, driven more change in a short period than any other event in our history — at least where healthcare tech is concerned. Some say that, in modernizing the use of technology in medicine, we have accomplished more in the last three months than we have in the previous three decades.

But, when the pandemic is over, and people act as if they have forgotten COVID-19 was ever a thing, will medicine continue to modernize itself with the same sense of urgency? The extent to which medicine purses technological modernization may be one way to gauge society’s readiness and willingness to improve its healthcare system significantly.

COVID-19 Brings Rapid Change to Medicine and Places Consumerism at the Forefront — But, for How Long?

Consumerism-based healthcare is getting a major boost in the COVID-19 pandemic as patients realize that their practitioners are more beholden to them than thought. Primary care physicians and specialists will almost certainly have to continue to offer telehealth services after COVID-19, now that patients wield the upper hand in controlling how and when they pursue routine visits, basic office exams, and elective procedures.

But, how long will this shift to consumerism-based healthcare last? Will we continue to devote the same time and energy into modernizing the delivery of healthcare or will we fall back to the way it has always been done?

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Sending kids back to school this fall: Yay or nay?

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August is when we start to think about the upcoming school year. But so far, August looks like it will hold more uncertainty and anxiety. Even if schools reopen, parents may opt to redshirt the year.

Will Schools Reopen?

Whether your child’s school will reopen or not depends somewhat on where you live. You can find state-by-state information about school reentry in this list.

Of course, a lot can change between now and late August, depending on how well we follow social distancing guidelines. States that have experienced a second wave of coronavirus cases are likely to reconsider their current approach to reopening schools this fall.

Parents should pay close attention to their local news from now until September to stay abreast of the most up-to-date information about their school district.

What Will School Look Like This Fall?

One thing is for sure — the 2020-21 school year will be drastically different from all previous academic years.

Connecticut and New Jersey are reopening this fall. These states are among the first to release formal guidelines for reopening.

A brick-and-mortar education will likely encompass required temperature checks, face coverings, and social distancing measures. But, beware of distinctions between how districts execute and enforce safety guidelines.

Is It Safe to Send My Kids to School This Fall?

Unfortunately, conflicting opinions from respected institutions, disparities in reopening procedures, and patchwork reentry means that a single answer about school safety will be difficult to obtain. For now, the answer to the question all parents are asking — “is it safe to send my kids to school this fall?” — depends on who you ask.

The California Teachers Association (CTA) wrote a letter to government officials and school leaders recently, arguing that it is not safe to reopen schools in California in the next six to eight weeks.

According to the CTA, “from a public health perspective, the best course of action would be to focus on improving our ability to provide robust, quality distance learning until the virus is marginalized and safety measures are addressed.”

A recent uptick in cases throughout the state contextualizes their position as well as concerns about overall preparedness.

Conversely, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advocates for a return to in-person education so long as schools address their safety guidelines and social distancing recommendations. In their COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re-Entry, the AAP argues that prolonged time away from school makes it harder to identify learning deficits, physical abuse, sexual abuse, substance abuse, depression, and suicidal ideation. They also cite concerns about the impact of school closures on child food security and physical activity.

However, many teachers feel that their districts cannot afford to implement safety guidelines to the extent recommended by public health institutions.

Consequently, parents will continue to wonder just how safe it is to send their kids back to school. Case in point: some schools are already experiencing a decline in kindergarten registration.

How Can Parents Make a Good Decision about School This Fall?

Parents face a momentous task this fall. Most will need to weigh the safety of returning to school against the cost of a delayed return to work, the cost of extending child care, and the impact of lost instructional time.

Here are a few points to consider:

Gather information about the legalities of redshirting or homeschooling this year.

Educate yourself about the number of coronavirus cases in your school district.

Consider how well your children can learn independently; get their teacher’s opinion.

Evaluate your ability to supplement your child’s education.

Think about how much social interaction your kids need and how they will get it.

Think about your family’s unique health risks.

Speak to your pediatrician about your concerns; get your pediatrician’s opinion.

Review your budget and determine the options you can afford.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 will leave its mark on families this fall.

Final Advice for Parents

Parents should focus on evaluating evidence when it comes to making decisions about the safety of sending their kids back to school, not opinions. Beyond safety and legal considerations, parents should also consider the advice of their child’s pediatrician and teachers, their family’s budget, best interests, and of course, their feelings about whether it is worth going back to school this fall.

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Infographic: The impact of the loneliness epidemic

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Loneliness kills, and chronic loneliness can shorten lifespans up to 20 years, which is a greater impact than obesity or alcoholism. This infographic outlines how the pandemic has pushed vulnerable populations into seclusion, the long-term financial and social effects of this seclusion, and steps that are being taken to provide vulnerable people with a much-needed lifeline.

Infographic courtesy Oasis Day Center

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