The True Challenge of COVID-19 Solutions in Healthcare: Q&A with Bill Schwacke & Jaime Henry

While a world-wide trend in developing resources and solutions for coronavirus has proved fruitful, the healthcare industry is inundated with massive day-to-day challenges, leaving little-to-no room for implementation.

The healthcare industry is undoubtedly at the forefront of the global battle against COVID-19. However, the overwhelming nature of the pandemic on health organizations has become apparent, and from it, a realization that tools and solutions that were once viewed as a luxury are now a necessity for preparedness.

Origami’s Bill Schwacke, Senior Sales Executive, and Jaime Henry, Senior Market Strategy Lead – Healthcare, discuss making sense of the overabundance of resources, how solutions like Origami Risk’s stand to solve organizations’ many coronavirus challenges, and why implementation mid-pandemic might not be an option, but preparing for the future is.

Making Sense of an Abundance of Information

The rapid spread of COVID-19 has sent many healthcare organizations into a tailspin, preparing for and dealing with overcrowded hospitals, healthcare professionals left with limited personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies, and a lack of already available solutions to aid in taking strategic action. While the industry has had an overwhelming response to the pandemic, the wave of information can be too much for organizations to sift through while trying to find ways to protect both their employees and their patients, all while simultaneously fighting a pandemic.

How can healthcare organizations make sense of the overflow of information sources?

Bill: Everyone has been drinking from a fire hose in terms of the amount of information that has become available. The response has been unprecedented between the sharing of information, resources, and creating standards or best practices.

Healthcare organizations are fighting this pandemic on two fronts, whereas other organizations may only be looking at it from a single point of view. It’s not only about how to treat patients and how to address the spread of the disease and the appropriate steps to prevent that, but you’re also working to protect your employees, make sure that they’re taken care of, and that they have what they need.

All of this together is making it very difficult for the professionals making decisions inside of healthcare organizations to understand all of the requirements, options, and best practices regarding how to respond.

At Origami, we’re fortunate because we get to consume that information and come up with a solution to fix a problem. With a tool like ours, you can take the information from industry resources (OSHA, CDC, and others) and leverage that within an organization’s existing capabilities and tools.

For organizations looking to make an impact right now, what might a solution look like?

Jaime: A solution that would be able to answer a lot of the unanswered questions right now, specific to the health of our country overall and the resources available, is what organizations need. But right now, there are still a lot of assumptions around ventilators and PPEs, which is where a better fix is needed.

Bill: Use and availability of PPEs that providers need is a prime example. There’s a large wave of people creating masks and donating them to providers, but what do you do with those masks? How do you distribute them? And to who? How do you make sure that they get into the right hands within an organization? We saw that as a problem that we could solve for. We applied it against a solution that we already had for things like certifications and training, uses outside of healthcare, and then applied that same functionality to the PPE issue facing the healthcare industry right now.

Given the industry’s COVID-19 response—the overall willingness to share data, make data sources available, put them into formats that can easily be consumed by other technology—Origami has been able to leverage that data to answer key questions in a timely manner for our clients and prospects. From things as simple as hospital bed or staff availability all the way up to daily trends for COVID-19 exposures or cases. We’re uniquely positioned to be able to incorporate those datasets, match them, and correlate them with internal datasets in a quick and user friendly way.

An Immediate Need With No Time to Spare

While RMIS solutions can make a dramatic difference in the operations and strategic planning for healthcare organizations, the global war on COVID-19 means having little to no bandwidth to take on an organization-wide implementation. Enacting change within healthcare orgs also provides its own challenges, even outside of a pandemic, as it affects both employees and patients on a large scale. While near term implementations may be unlikely, many organizations will be looking for long-term solutions post-pandemic.

These solutions seem like they could make a huge difference in the battle against the coronavirus, but is there bandwidth to implement this type of change in the middle of a pandemic?

Jaime: Unfortunately, a lot of organizations aren’t in the position to or don’t have the processes in place to collect some of the data that they could be working with right now. It’s a problem that we’re seeing nationally. Additionally, organizations that don’t have an intuitive solution for employees may not see this as a possibility right now when they’re so focused on supporting the frontlines.

Bill: Healthcare organizations required substantial planning and organization to implement change, and obviously, right now is not the time to drop a new risk and safety platform into a healthcare facility or system to specifically address this problem. Healthcare orgs simply don’t have the time and resources to be able to do that—they are focused on the influx of patients that are consuming their full attention. However, what COVID-19 is doing is it’s creating an awareness of solutions for problems they’re facing right now. This pandemic is going to prepare them for the next time something like this happens and they’re going to be aware that we have these solutions.

What should healthcare solutions in a post-pandemic world look like, and do we foresee a “next time” use for these solutions?

Bill: COVID-19 has raised awareness of technology solutions needed in a critical situation such as a pandemic or a natural disaster. While COVID-19 put forth many unique challenges to the healthcare industry as a whole, there have been a handful of previous situations that required a similar response on a lesser scale.

The Ebola scare in 2014, for example, opened risk managers’ eyes to the risk management and safety needs of their organization during a pandemic. As a result, many organizations began to make changes and prepare for the ‘next’ critical situation to arise. I think we will see a lot more healthcare organizations looking for specific tools that can handle and address pandemics and similar situations. The need for tools that can handle variations in care, distribution of information and provide timely and actionable information will be a requirement, not just a nice tool to have. The ability to turn a tool on and off to address these situations is something that is going to become a requirement in the industry going forward. Organizations are going to be looking to leverage tools to be at the ready going forward.

Jaime: I hope we also see greater use of the GIS Map. Obviously, the data from Johns Hopkins, WHO, and CDC on COVID-19 specifically aren’t going to be applicable in the future, but that tool will still be here post-pandemic. There are these public, external resources that we can so easily bring into Origami, and layer with our own data or an organization’s, to solve for a variety of challenges and crises, like an Ebola or natural disasters.

A Use Beyond COVID-19

While coronavirus poses an immediate need for RMIS solutions within healthcare organizations, there is a need for them post-pandemic as well. With natural disasters and infectious diseases becoming more common and severe due to climate change, lessons learned from COVID-19 will better prepare the healthcare industry for future crises, including hurricanes, floods, and more, making a need to implement long-term solutions sooner rather than later.

You both mention these solutions being helpful for hurricanes or earthquakes—can pandemic tools be deployed in a non-pandemic setting?

Bill: Yes—one of the solutions that we put out there, the PPE and fit testing management, is something that’s applicable across the board. Whether there’s a pandemic or something of a similar magnitude, that is still a requirement from industry organizations and standards, and it’s still a problem that exists in a healthcare world outside of COVID-19.

Some organizations are doing that on spreadsheets or they have developed an internal tool to do that—what those don’t take into account is how that applies to an organization’s over all risk in a crisis situation. Incorporating risk and building those requirements into a platform like Origami allows for a more holistic picture of risk within an organization overall, in addition to solving the problem that exists today.

Given all of this, where does the healthcare industry go from here?

Bill: It takes a sizable effort to enact change in the healthcare system. Part of the reason why is that they’re focused on providing care to patients and taking care of people. But another problem is that these organizations can have thousands and thousands of employees in some cases, and have exponentially more patients that they have to care for. Trying to enact change when you impact so many people is a large coordinated effort, and risk and safety is at the core of what healthcare does. You’re affecting everyone in the organization, both employees and patients alike. So trying to enact change in an environment where people are either preparing or battling this on the front lines is difficult, to say the least.

It is something that is prevalent regardless of the size of the organization or the care setting that they’re in. Whether you’re an organization with 5,000+ employees or 50, they all have the same needs, they have the same problems, and they have the same challenges. Regardless of size, you’re changing the way that they do things by implementing a new solution, so it’s no small feat, but one that will become a necessity moving forward.

Jaime: There will be a huge focus on emergency preparedness once COVID-19 passes. This was a big issue in Houston after the hurricanes and floods a few years ago, as it is in any disaster situation. How do we make sure that our healthcare providers can get safely to their place of business? How do we make sure that they’re keeping their families safe and can focus on work without worrying about their family? How can we stand-up emergency procedures quickly to provide the critical services that our communities rely on? So there will be a hyper-focus on preparedness, lessons learned from COVID-19, and documenting it all to have processes in place to revisit—a lot of that will come in the form of RMIS solutions that can be turned on when needed.

For more information on Origami Risk’s healthcare solutions for COVID-19, read our three-pager. For a comprehensive look at all of Origami Risk’s COVID-19 resources for the healthcare industry, click here.