Although the coronavirus scuppered plans for the annual HIMSS conference as we know it, many of the health IT companies that planned to be there have found their industry in the spotlight as they respond to the public health crisis. Companies with tools to support care coordination, interoperability, remote patient monitoring, and telemedicine are in demand. Many companies are rolling out products and services addressing the Covid-19 pandemic designed to support the healthcare industry.

“Covid-19 has forced health IT leaders back to our entrepreneurial roots, to look at this new world and figure out what is needed. As an industry, we are rapidly mobilizing alongside providers and other healthcare stakeholders to help at a time when our work and tools are desperately needed,” said Drew Schiller, Validic CEO. “We’re trying to quickly rise to the occasion in a way that supports health systems — that are even more financially and resource constrained — figure out what it is they need.” 

Schiller noted that Validic developed a real-time monitoring solution designed to observe, analyze, and triage individuals remotely for the emergence of Covid-19 symptoms. A core goal is to help monitor mission-critical workers (including healthcare and emergency response teams) exposed each day to the virus — as well as helping manage and triage patients from home.  

Validic currently has three deployments of the monitoring tool live with more coming, according to Schiller. They include health systems in the mid-Atlantic region, a grocery store that needs to monitor more than 300 employees across four locations, and a county sheriff’s department in California to monitor nearly 4,000 employees.

Validic spokeswoman Ash Needham said the company soon plans to unveil a new development for the business that was intended to be announced at HIMSS. It has integrated a connected device to support its COPD remote monitoring programs, with an eye to reducing the high mortality rates for individuals with COPD after hospitalization.

NeuroFlow is another business that was supposed to spotlight its behavioral health technology at HIMSS. Chris Molaro, CEO and co-founder, noted in an email that the company doubled the size of its team last year. With that growth came updates such as adding clinical screeners, assessments, and a “gamification” engine focused on increasing patient engagement remotely to improve adherence to health plans by 70 percent. At HIMSS, the company planned to spotlight an integration with EMR provider athenahealth, and new workflows for Epic’s App Orchard with healthcare provider Jefferson Health.

Molaro said the company also developed a product in response to the public health crisis. 

“We’ve developed a series of Covid-19 content and resources patients can access remotely on our platform. We also built a free Covid-19 Risk and Anxiety Assessment that identifies if a patient is at-risk for Covid-19, location specific testing resources or instructions, and mental health resources regarding anxiety, depression, and social isolation.”

Medical billing technology business SSI Group CEO Diana Allen pointed out in a phone interview how the company has addressed the Covid-19 pandemic in its product offer.

“The SSI Group has made a number of changes to help support its clients in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Claims billing continues as usual, but SSI is providing regular updates to clients with new Covid-19 and telehealth codes and modifiers. Additionally, we’ve seen an uptick in clients using paper to electronic EOB conversion and an increased interest in electronic attachments as many offices move their workforces to a virtual environment.” We’re also seeing an increase in paper claims processing from hospitals to payers that only accept paper as staff cannot process paper claims from home.”

Revenue cycle management is an area ripe for automation as hospitals and payers look for ways to make the billing process more efficient. 

SSI Group claims to process more than one million transactions across hospital and physician practices in the U.S., for hospital and physician claims. The business enlists AI and machine learning to help providers predict what they will be paid and when. The company is well-positioned to help hospitals address bottlenecks in that process, particularly when it comes to prior authorization. 

“We’ve really focused on the automation around how to ensure we can process transactions efficiently and then send them on to the payer,” said Allen. “We have over a 99 percent clean claim rate, so that helps hospitals get paid faster.”

As part of its approach, CTO Eric Nilsson explained SSI offers customers a preview of how their revenue cycle management analytics tools can analyze their actionable data.

“We can load their data with their results, show it to them in a setting that allows them to make decisions very quickly and shows the value of the solution,” Nilsson said. “We also add our insight from the experience we’ve had working with hospitals. We can show hospitals where they’re performing well and help them pinpoint where slowdowns in the revenue cycle are occurring and quickly resolve them.” 

Analytics tools also take center stage in Alteryx’s product offer. Andy Dé, senior director for  solutions marketing for healthcare at Alteryx, noted that Covid-19 has spurred a new set of needs for their healthcare clients.

The business developed a set of tools across predictive and descriptive analytics. Its descriptive analytics tools enable hospitals to assess data from the past, such as the number of patients admitted to a hospital each month, how many patients returned one month later, and how many patients were readmitted. Its predictive analytics products can be used to help hospitals manage their medical equipment supply, such as showing how many rubber gloves were used in the past week.

In the context of the public health crisis, Dé noted that health systems and hospitals are leveraging data to address the disruption in their supply chains and across their enterprises to make the right decisions and predict their future outcomes. 

“Providers and caregivers around the world are required to do more with less. Everyone is working to ensure they are making the right choices for their patients and their own employees,” Dé said.

He noted that some of the logistics needs Alteryx is helping hospitals and health systems address include forecasting demand for ICU and ER beds in the wake of the surge, repurposing oncology beds as ICU beds with ventilators for Covid-19 patients with complications, determining the best sources for critical supplies needed or the financial impacts associated with a pandemic, self-service analytics, and predictive analysis capabilities. 

The company also has services geared to small and medium-sized healthcare facilities that don’t have the means to hire an army of data scientists and analysts, De noted. 

With more people working from home during the pandemic, cybersecurity is another topic that’s front of mind. The need for hospitals and payers to adequately protect sensitive patient information in increasingly accessible formats is also mission critical. Ryan Witt, managing director of Proofpoint’s healthcare industry practice, talked about how the company is responding to the ongoing threats to patient data security, particularly via email.

“The thrust of cyber criminal activity is around attacking people largely through email and other messaging channels, phishing, malware attacks. More and more, we see what we call EC, or email compromise, or impersonation,” Witt observed in a phone interview.

“Even though we see lots of topics around medical device security, email is the biggest pathway…. One type of email attack we see at a high level is when a cybercriminal purports to be somebody that they’re not. They have some capability which masks that information and sends emails summoning the receiver of the email to take an action against their interest but in the best interest of that cybercriminal.” 

Proofpoint, which counts CIOs and Chief Information Security Officers among its advisory board members, has conducted research at their behest to determine which job functions tend to get targeted by cybercriminals over a quarterly period. The cybersecurity business narrowed it down to four main job functions: 

Witt observed that they tend to be very overt about the work they are doing. From a cybercrime perspective, this gives them a big profile and a big target. 

  • Nurses, particularly in supervisory roles

“Our theory is that nurses interact with electronic medical records more frequently than others,” Witt said. 

  • A pharmacy function within an institution 

“It’s a monetizable activity with a return on investment because of the street value of the drugs under their care,” said Witt.

The Covid-19 pandemic is testing the limits of almost every aspect of healthcare delivery around the world. With many hospitals delaying elective surgery so they can focus on coronavirus patients and keep others safe, the reality is fewer hospitals will have the means to purchase a lot of the software health IT companies want to sell them. But the ones that can survive this pandemic will have proven themselves at a tough time and will inevitably take away invaluable insights that could strengthen their businesses and perhaps our health systems. 

Picture: Getty Images

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