My last day in the office was Monday, March 16, 2020, when my long-standing executive assistant and I scrambled to gather some files to take home. I sagely told her to bring home materials for the next 2 weeks or so, figuring we would be back at it soon enough. I bet that my experience resonates with many of our readers. It certainly was not what I expected during my 30-year anniversary on the faculty at Jefferson.
I was grateful to be one of those lucky “knowledge workers” who is able to shelter and work from home. Suddenly, the folks who delivered food to our front door, collected our trash, and kept our home Internet connection going were deemed essential, which is an apt description indeed.
Sitting down at my desk at home in March, I did have anxiety as to what exactly this new world order meant. Of course, like you, I worried about our health and the health of our children, especially my own hospitalist attending daughter who was on the front lines of the early surge in New Jersey. I had never been on a Zoom call before March 2020. I had never taught online. I am embarrassed to admit that I was so spoiled by my assistant of 30 years (yes, working together every day for 3 decades!), that I was not confident that I could actually do anything by myself anymore.
However, within about 2 weeks, something amazing occurred, namely, a tsunami of e-mails from across the globe clogged my e-mail inbox. Apparently, many people had some sudden insight that the population health aspects of the pandemic were creating an unprecedented global challenge. I heard from companies, nongovernment agencies, and individuals from around the world. My anxiety as to how my new role might evolve quickly faded as I buried myself in hours of Zoom calls and e-mails, sometimes foregoing meals and working late into the night.
Although I could no longer contribute to the fight against COVID-19 at the bedside, I decided to pivot and join the scrum in the only way I knew how, by spreading the science and not the virus, with special thanks to my faculty colleague Rosemary Frasso, PhD, MSc, CPH. I was going to raise my voice and tell anyone who would listen—and there were scores of organizations and thousands of individuals—that the tools of population health were more important today than ever before.
Hence, I would like to review some of my remote work during these very trying past 8 months, and try to weave a connective thread through most of my activities. During the early phase of the pandemic, I was fortunate to be able to join with several fascinating companies in various sectors of our industry as an outside expert consultant.
Among these companies was Knowledge to Practice (K2p), an educational platform that promotes a different kind of continuing professional education. The tools of K2P deliver timely, evidence-based clinical updates, as well as accompanying tools that implement the clinical wisdom to drive change and to improve outcomes. Imagine a continuing professional education experience that is virtual, exciting, easily navigated, and really makes a difference to patients. I liken it to continuing medical education on steroids.
Another company, healthPrecision, created the Medical Brain, which enables clinicians to connect the dots on evolving COVID-19 clinical protocols that sometimes seem to change hourly. HealthPrecision also pivoted to enable its software to track employee wellness in the immediate period after the COVID-19 surge, to help employers reopen and allow employees to return to work safely.
Raziel Health, a company that offers acute care at home, is another firm with a future orientation that envisions a postpandemic world in which persons are getting all kinds of care in their own home. By harnessing the new technology of remote patient monitoring, Raziel Health’s clinicians can deliver a dazzling array of inpatient services in the patient’s home, which can greatly lessen the risk for exposure to the novel coronavirus that can be posed by an inpatient hospital stay. Coordinating the technology, building new outcome measures, and establishing novel clinical pathways are all on the agenda for Raziel Health.
DocASAP is a private equity–backed software company that takes all the friction out of finding a doctor. Its novel software and virtual connection service joins patients and caregivers together without the need for any intermediary and obviates the waiting room. This is clearly welcome news in the pandemic era. DocASAP is also collecting outcomes data and can help patients find the appropriate clinician, which, in turn, reduces waste and lowers costs. DocASAP’s mission makes sense now more than ever before.
CareAdvisors, a healthcare technology company, tackles pesky social determinants of health, and readily enables Medicaid-eligible patients to enroll and receive services in a much more timely and efficient manner. This is clearly more important than ever before, given the national impact of skyrocketing unemployment. With novel social needs screening technology, coupled with a very experienced leadership team that originally helped to implement many aspects of the Affordable Care Act, individuals in need no longer endure many of the historic indignities and delays of Medicaid enrollment in multiple states across the nation.
Finally, MDClone, a company based in Be’er Sheva, Israel, has created what it calls “synthetic data.” Imagine being able to tap into each of the major electronic medical record systems in the domestic US marketplace, extract the data, copy them so they no longer represent personal health information, and then manipulate the data to answer pressing clinical questions. MDClone rapidly became an Israeli leader in organizing the burgeoning clinical data regarding caring for patients with COVID-19, which enabled leading worldwide academic medical centers to begin to differentiate which treatments were working from the treatments that were not, essentially in real time. I am proud that Jefferson Health is a founding member of the MDClone Global Network.
My consulting practice with these companies as well as others, coupled with my writing and virtual public speaking, have given me renewed energy to spread the science and not the virus. The COVID-19 pandemic is a population health emergency that has shone a glaring light on the deficiencies and inequities of our healthcare system.