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By now, most hospitals in the United States are being forced to consider temporary options to handle a potential overflow of patients stricken with COVID-19. In hotspots like New York and Seattle, where a surge in hospitalization may be looming within weeks, there is even greater urgency.

The most important factor for effective COVID-19 technical support of this expansion is ensuring that IT leadership is involved in crisis response meetings to understand the hospital’s overflow plans. This will allow for effective planning of technology deployment and support at short notice. Once you understand the options in play, ensuring your IT team has plans and supplies focused on the areas below will help guarantee they can efficiently respond to the rapidly evolving needs.

RAPID INFRASTRUCTURE DEPLOYMENT

  • Hopefully, the existing swing space is already wired. Still, tents, neighboring buildings, and other temporary facilities will likely need data cabling run, telephones rolled out, access points installed, and other basic infrastructure.
  • Ensure the existing inventory of PCs, WOWs, monitors, and other hardware is adequate to support the anticipated temporary needs. Image machines now so they are ready to go. If needed, consider re-deploying devices from training rooms or other currently unused areas.
  • Anticipating that you may be on a skeleton crew with COVID-19 sick outages and disruptions to onsite staff, plan for how you will roll out cabling and devices with the anticipation that you may.

EMR BUILD

  • Your EMR and other downstream systems will need new units, rooms, and beds built out. Reports and patient lists may need to be updated to ensure the new units show up in aggregated census and other reports and dashboards.
  • Testing, testing, and more testing. As you set up new facility structure and related build, rapid testing iterations through downstream systems will ensure no unexpected issues in production.
  • A surge in new clinicians means that new users will likely need to be onboarded and credentialled in your EMR, billing, ADS, and other systems. Make sure this process is stable and well socialized now so that IT system access does not hold up a potential flood of new clinicians ready to serve patients.
  • There’s plenty more to do to optimize your EMR workflows for COVID-19.

TRAINING AND SUPPORT

  • New users will require rapid orientation to your EMR and workflows, and existing users may need tip sheets and other support on documenting for patients in temporary facilities.
  • Consider PPE for field support. If hardware or network infrastructure need hands-on support, you’ll need to make sure your IT team can address the issue while staying safe.
  • Plan for remote at-the-elbow support – make sure your application trainers and analysts are comfortable remote accessing PCs and put in place processes and structure to rapidly triage questions and issues to the appropriate tier-2 support staff.
  • It is also important that IT staff understand proper COVID-19 safety measures, like hand-washing.

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Geoff Blanding

EVP, EHR Services & Optimum CareerPath

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