The CIO's role in the coronavirus response

With more than 233 cases and 12 deaths attributable to the coronavirus in the U.S., hospitals and health systems across the country are in high alert.

In January, Epic released an automatic software update to its standard travel screening questionnaire to help hospital clients spot new cases of coronavirus due to recent travel, and other EHR vendors including Athenahealth followed suit.

In California, lawmakers are trying to stop hospital closures amid the coronavirus spread so access to care doesn't decrease, and Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital has prepared a warehouse full of emergency supplies that it may need to combat the outbreak. Some health systems, like Renton, Wash.-based Providence and Cleveland Clinic have asked patients to use video visits or chat boxes to ask clinicians questions instead of traveling to urgent care clinics or hospitals and expose other patients to the virus.

B.J. Moore, CIO of Providence, said the IT team is supporting the increased demand for remote work and team collaboration through the VPN infrastructure and leveraging workplace collaboration tools across the organization, including Microsoft Teams. They are also standing up a command center to consolidate activities and information in support of the many needs of the healthcare system.

"At this point, the main focus has been in the preparedness necessary to support different potential crisis scenarios," he said. "This includes things like telehealth workflows, bed/unit adds and specific operational needs in supply chain, lab testing and protocols. At some level, Providence has been preparing for years for this kind of scenario."

Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente began using telehealth for patients quarantined at home and issued more laptops to physicians so they can conduct visits remotely. On March 3, American Well launched its national coronavirus response program to work with healthcare providers to ensure telemedicine is available and created an "always on call" infection control officer to guide clinical operations and quality.

"For IT in particular, I anticipate this experience will provide us with valuable insight on areas we need to improve and incorporate in our future preparedness plans, primarily with regards to our processes and coordination with a wide range of stakeholders," said Mr. Moore.

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