St. Joseph's Health CIO: 11 ways hospitals can prepare for COVID-19 patient surge

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Implementing EHR updates and virtual care services are just two tasks hospitals and health systems must take on in order to handle a surge in patient volume due to COVID-19, according to Linda Reed, CIO at St. Joseph's Health. 

The Paterson, N.J.-based health system recently transitioned its scheduled and on-demand visits to a new Cerner and Amwell platform, which St. Joseph's Health was able to deploy in under a week, according to an April 6 news release emailed to Becker's Hospital Review

Here are 11 recommendations for health systems that are preparing for a surge in COVID-19 patient volume, according to Ms. Reed: 

1. Review and deploy COVID-19 EHR updates, which may include items needed for order sets, screening tools, targeted reporting and dashboards. 

2. Create or alter any telehealth documentation and education because the federal government relaxed regulations around telehealth requirements. Now virtual visits can be done outside traditional telehealth technologies, such as through Zoom's video conferencing platform. 

3. Prepare for new lab instrument updates or interfaces into the EHR for surveillance reporting to the state's health department. 

4. Create daily dashboard reporting by determining the metrics you will need and then automate daily counts from existing EHR fields. 

5. Be ready to open surge beds in non-traditional areas by reviewing IT equipment needs and updates required. 

6. Input new COVID-19 diagnosis and billing codes within the EHR to ensure proper reporting and new relaxed telehealth visit requirements. 

7. Prepare for new and increased work-from-home support needs, including virtual private networks and two-factor authentication. 

8. Review government reporting requirements from the CDC and state and local governments. 

9. Educate and test staff on remote support tools to limit trips into hospital units. 

10. Anticipate position changes and new requirements for accessing EHR documentation since clinicians may need to work in new areas. 

11. Prepare for remote patient visualization requests to limit room entry and exposure.  

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