Week 36 Newsletter

12/09-12/15 Updates

Surge Capacity Strategies

US health care systems are being challenged to maintain hospital capacity as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths increase throughout the nation.

Surge Capacity Strategies

(12/12/20) Rural Health Systems Challenged by COVID-19 Surge
This article from NPR highlights the current crisis experienced in rural facilities across the United States as they address the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the surge following Thanksgiving holiday gatherings. Small towns are experiencing illness and hospitalization rates never before seen.

(12/09/20) ‘There’s No Place for Them to Go’: ICU Beds Near Capacity Across US
This New York Times article discusses the intensive care unit capacity across the United States. Unlike surges in COVID-19 experienced over the summer months, the current surges are everywhere at once, edging hospitals closer to maximum capacity.

(12/08/20) UPMC Hires Nurses, Adds Beds As COVID-19 Spreads
A sharp increase in cases and hospitalizations for COVID-19 in western Pennsylvania has led the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to hire more staff and increase COVID-19 beds in an effort to meet the needs of patients in the system’s 40 hospitals.

Policies and Guidelines

Increased reimbursement is a potential option to boost administration of seasonal and routine vaccinations which have declined.

Policies and Guidelines

(12/09/20) Increased Reimbursement May Help Overcome Barriers to Administration of Seasonal and Routine Vaccines
Immunizations are an important component of treatment from primary care providers and the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged access to routine vaccination. This blog post from Health Affairs suggests improving reimbursement for vaccinations as a method to help overcome the barriers exacerbated by the pandemic.

Long-term Care

Hospital-at-home care increases in popularity as patients seek to avoid hospitalizations with fear of contracting COVID-19.

Long-term Care

(12/10/20) Another COVID-19 Effect: Hospital-at-home Care Is Starting to Pick Up
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in hospital-at-home care, with patients opting to receive treatment they otherwise would have gone to the hospital for in their own home settings. With hospital-at-home seen as a potentially safer mechanism for delivering health care, more hospitals and health insurance companies are offering it as a covered treatment option.

Health Workforce Safety

With the release of the first approved vaccine for COVID-19 in the US, hospitals are preparing for the beginning of a vaccination drive believed to be the key to ending the pandemic.

Protecting staff responsible for patient transport and room cleaning requires coordinated effort from health care systems.

Health care workers are frustrated over a lack of testing for COVID-19 among those providing care.

States are taking a larger role in enforcement of workplace safety during the pandemic. 

Health Workforce Safety

(12/14/20) Hospitals Scramble to Prioritize COVID Vaccine for Their Workers. Who Gets Them First?
Although a vaccine for COVID-19 has been approved for use in the United States, the limited supply of the vaccine means hospitals and states have needed to set priorities for administration. These priorities often include those at highest risk, such as elderly individuals or those who treat the sickest patients with COVID-19..

(12/10/20) Health Care Professionals Can Decline COVID-19 Vaccine — for Now
Some health care professionals are concerned with the leading COVID-19 vaccines, with some surveys showing as many as one-third of nurses stating they would refuse to take a vaccine. This article discusses the history of mandatory vaccination and discusses how health care providers will be allowed to refuse the vaccine, at least for the time being.

(12/09/20) Keeping Transport, Environmental Services Staff Safe: 14 COVID-19 Strategies From Northwell Health
This article from Becker’s Hospital Review offers tips from Northwell Health, a major hospital system in New York, about protecting staff involved in patient transport and cleaning patients rooms from being infected with COVID-19.

(12/07/20) Think Health Care Workers Are Tested Often for the Coronavirus? Think Again
This article from NPR covers how many health care workers have not been tested for COVID-19 often, if at all, throughout the pandemic. Some providers find it difficult to see athletes and non-essential individuals find ease in testing while health care workers are often not tested at all.

(12/06/20) States Become Worker Safety Watchdogs As Pandemic Worsens
While typically worker protection laws are a federal manner, 14 states have taken charge of monitoring workplaces for worker safety issues in the COVID-19 pandemic. Some view the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration as being too lax on COVID-19-related issues in the workplace.


Telehealth may be a solution to addressing a mental health crisis in the US.

Amendments to federal law can remove restrictions on health care providers using telehealth to treat patients across state lines.


(12/07/20) What Is Telemedicine, and How Has it Evolved During the Pandemic?
This opinion piece published in Forbes covers the background of telehealth services and how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way telehealth technology is used. Telemedicine has seen widespread adoption as an alternative to traditional in-person services.

(12/04/20) The Risks of Moving Health Care Delivery to the Internet
This opinion blog post published in Health Affairs compares the advantages and disadvantages to the movement of health care services to internet-based modalities. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there has been significant movement from traditional services to telehealth and other electronic, virtual-based services.

(12/04/20) HHS Expands COVID-19 Telehealth Capabilities in PREP Act Amendment
This article covers a new amendment to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act from the United States Department of Health and Human Services. This amendment aims to ease the regulatory burdens on health care providers seeking to provide telehealth services to patients across state lines.

(12/03/20) Survey: Make Telehealth a Regular Part of Care Management
A new survey from Luma Health finds that patients’ fear of COVID-19 infection may be keeping them away from in-person visits with their health care providers. Telehealth services are suggested as an alternative to help keep patient care on track.

(12/02/20) CMS Adds 60+ Services to Medicare’s Telehealth List in Final Rule: 7 Details
In this update from Becker’s Hospital Review, some new changes to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services 2021 Physician Fee Schedule are listed, with impacts on telehealth services. More than 60 new services are added to the list of reimbursable services, potentially increasing access to patients.

(12/01/20) A Shifting View on Telemedicine
A palliative medicine and critical care doctor writes about the way in which patient and medical perception of telemedicine use has changed, both before and throughout the pandemic, in this piece published by The New York Times.

State Workforce Strategies

New Jersey may soon make COVID-19 outbreaks among hospital staff public knowledge.

State Workforce Strategies

(12/07/20) Murphy Indicates He Could Make Info on COVID Outbreaks Among Hospital Staff Public
Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey has announced the state may soon provide the public with information regarding COVID-19 outbreaks among hospital staff. Currently it is optional for hospitals to release this information.