Over the past couple of years, many of us have been overwhelmed with chronic stressors related to work, parenting, relationships, and everything in between. Although we recently had a break in the number of rising Covid-19 infections in the United States, stress continues to show up in our day to day. In addition, numerous studies indicate job-related stress among healthcare workers exceeds other occupations. We cannot show up for our patients, as parents or in other relationships if we don’t manage stress before it manages us.
Recently I have had conversations with clients about how hard it is to make the most of the revenue generated and keep the loyal but burned-out staff engaged so the practice can survive to work another day. Recovery from COVID for small businesses has been tough, but especially in healthcare where the demand for service remained high during the pandemic. Now, medical practices are looking to make the most of the revenue they can generate without overwhelming current employees. With that in mind, it’s time to work smarter, not harder.
Each day, we are learning more about the social impacts of COVID-19 and the mitigation strategies, and it should be no surprise that these impacts are deleterious. Over a few months in early 2020, most of our lives became completely reoriented in an effort to manage the unknown effects of the new illness. Families with schedules that were structured around school activities, sports, and church suddenly found themselves sequestered at home indefinitely. When schools reopened, they did so with disjointed schedules subject to the randomness of positive COVID cases. While families felt increased stress, people without children or partners experienced an even more crushing isolation. With remote working, holidays cancelled, churches closed, community activities suspended, and restaurants carry-out only, individuals endured this period through Zoom and social media.
“The Only Constant in Life Is Change.”- Heraclitus
As a healthcare administration professor with the recent global healthcare-related events in mind, I often think about the future of our healthcare industry.
The Alabama Pediatric and Congenital Heart Center at Children’s of Alabama continues to achieve unsurpassed results and bring the latest technology and procedures to children and adults with congenital heart disease in Alabama and throughout the Southeast. Despite the challenges of the COVID pandemic, the volume of patients has remained steady, demanding adaptability among the 300 members of the Heart Center.
For years, medical professionals have discussed the need to transform the healthcare system, while also keeping it available to all people. There are many different ways of doing this including government programs, fee-for-service, Medicare programs, waivers, etc.
A pediatric oncologist colleague of ours from Cornell Medical Center in New York posted a question to Facebook on March 23, 2020: How would the new COVID-19 pandemic impact the pediatric cancer population? We were asking ourselves the same question here at Children’s of Alabama. As social distancing and virtual meetings became the norm, we put our heads together – nearly 1,000 miles apart – to figure out how best to provide ongoing care for our oncology patients.
The result is the Pediatric COVID-19 Cancer Case (POCC) Report, a national registry of pediatric cancer patients diagnosed with COVID-19. It’s designed to better help our fellow clinicians provide vital care during an evolving pandemic.
It is back to school time. Although it is still hot outside, many schools have opened, we have taken first day of school pictures, and football practice is underway. As we enter this new season, it’s a good time for physicians to review some practice fundamentals. To that end, I offer ten reminders about regulatory compliance fundamentals that can help to avoid legal liability and an unwanted invitation to Montgomery.
Children’s of Alabama marks an important milestone with the celebration of its Asthma Clinical Pathway’s 10th Anniversary. The quality improvement initiative began in March 2011 with an aim to reduce inpatient asthma length of stay through the delivery of evidence-based excellent acute asthma care.
With the imminent emergency of the Covid virus subsiding, discussions have shifted from the physical dangers to concern about its lasting psychological effects. Healthcare organizations report alarming levels of stress, burnout, anxiety, and depression in employees, especially clinicians. This sharp rise should bring another equally troubling issue to the conversation: substance use disorders and addiction among healthcare providers and professionals.
When the Birmingham Medical News asked me to write a blog, they told me I could write about anything. Anything? Anything.
What a year we’ve had. This time last year, we were starting to transition out of stay-at-home orders, attempting to find balance between a return to work and life, and trying to keep ourselves and loved ones safe. In a year’s time, Alabamans lost 11,043 friends and loved ones. Many also lost jobs, personal connections, and much more. Now, vaccines are widely available, giving us all an opportunity to regain some normalcy. All over the country, individuals aged 12+ can be vaccinated, which allows us to protect ourselves, but also others.
As we all know, 2020 was a difficult year in the healthcare due to the COVID pandemic. Now, with a large number of people vaccinated, there is hope that things will stabilize.
In the past year, most physicians have been so busy with all the complications and changes in approach to care that resulted from the pandemic that they haven’t had time to examine aspects of their practice that aren’t part of the daily work. If you haven’t performed a recent review of the potential threats to your practices’ financial health, I recommend doing that, starting with your commercial insurance plan.
Partnering with an experienced agent who specializes in the healthcare arena can provide you with multiple carrier options to compare while helping you negotiate more favorable terms than some companies will offer to clients who work directly with the carrier only. Let’s take a look at a few of the items my team is focused on for our healthcare clients and the emerging threats that are continuing to impact more medical businesses.
It’s great to see the continued momentum in the state’s quest to get all Alabamian’s vaccinated. As COVID-19 vaccine availability expands to include more age groups, providers are naturally going to get more questions about the vaccine, potential side effects, interactions, etc. The Risk Consultants at Inspirien Insurance Company have compiled a list of 10 frequently asked questions regarding the vaccine to expedite clinical visits and support clinicians in their quest to combat COVID-19. These FAQ’s were obtained from evidenced based sites such as the CDC, The American Medical Association, and The New England Journal of Medicine.
According to Dr. Carlos del Rio, a Global Health Expert at Emory University “there is no contraindication in my mind to take the COVID-19 vaccine.” Dr. Rio goes on to note that clinical trials did not include those individuals in an immune-compromised state, so the efficacy of the vaccine is still unknown and may not be the same as an individual who is not in an immuno-compromised state. Patients are advised to not take the vaccination if they have had an allergic reaction to the vaccine or any component of the vaccine.
Currently, Alabama ranks toward the bottom in the country in regard to the number of citizens receiving the vaccine on a per capita basis. Why does Alabama seem to be trailing behind the rest of the country in vaccination rates?
It has been a difficult 2020 with the ongoing presence of COVID 19 exhausting frontline healthcare entities and stalling the outpatient services. The pandemic has been a devastating historical event, but it has brought sweeping changes for 2021.
Because of COVID-19, many of us will be more alarmed than usual when we hear a sneeze or a cough this allergy season. The truth, however, is that seasonal allergies are very common so it is important to be able to tell the difference between COVID-19 and seasonal allergies.
State Health Officer is a difficult role to fill, especially this year. While partisanship and conspiracies continue to divide us, it is the job of the State Health Officer to make decisions for the good of all people throughout Alabama. This is exactly what Dr. Scott Harris has done for Alabamians during (and before) the COVID-19 pandemic.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced $20 billion in new funding for providers related to the coronavirus pandemic. Under this Phase 3 General Distribution allocation, providers that have already received Provider Relief Fund payments are eligible to apply for additional funding that considers financial losses and changes in operating expenses caused by the coronavirus. Previously ineligible providers, such as those who began practicing in 2020 will also be allowed to apply, and an expanded group of behavioral health providers confronting the emergence of increased mental health and substance use issues exacerbated by the pandemic will also be eligible for relief payments.
As we enter into the last few months of this challenging year, many practices will be looking to perform a HIPAA IT Security Risk Analysis. When considering the approach to this year's analysis, it's important to consider any changes that may have been made to critical IT systems as part of the practice's response to COVID-19.
September is National Childhood Cancer and Sickle Cell Awareness Month. This year’s observance comes as we continue to learn more about COVID-19 and its effects, and we are fortunate that our pediatric hematology-oncology patients have not been severely impacted. Two of our faculty members, Julie Wolfson, MD, MSHS and Emily Johnston, MD, MS are involved in a national research effort to collect information on pediatric cancer patients infected with the virus.
The COVID 19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into all of our day to day routines, including going to work, taking our children to school, running household errands, exercising, and even going to see our doctors or dentists.
The importance of a having well-designed website and creating an online presence is crucial to your medical practice now more than ever, regardless of how the pandemic affects your marketing outcomes. You don’t want to risk deterring new and current patients from using your practice.
Alabama’s hospitals are grateful to Governor Kay Ivey and State Health officer Scott Harris, MD for their leadership today in announcing a statewide mask order. We appreciate our state’s leaders for highlighting the importance of the mask ordinance in reducing the spread of COVID-19.
Pediatric office visits have declined by half during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Not only are children missing well-child checks, but also the vaccines that are given during these visits. Manufacturers are reporting a decline in vaccine orders and vaccine doses distributed through the Vaccines for Children program.
Eric Wallace, M.D., the medical director of UAB eMedicine, and Curt Carver Jr., Ph.D., vice president for Information Technology, both at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, were appointed by Governor Kay Ivey to serve on the Broadband Working Group to provide input and guidance on how to allocate funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
Obesity is a growing disease both in the US and around the world. It is a major cause of many diseases including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, cerebrovascular disease and stroke, gastroesophageal reflux disease, bone and joint damage and respiratory disorders. It also places individuals at increased risk of developing serious complications from COVID-19.
Never before in history have we been so limited in our ability to be freely active, to compete, or simply to spectate the sports we love. The devastating effects of Covid-19 are at the front of our collective consciousness, and we have nothing to distract us. Though fall football may be a fan favorite, spring, it can be argued, is one of the best stretches in sports with March Madness, The Masters, Major League Baseball’s opening day, and the ramp up to NBA and NHL playoffs. While we struggle with the frustration as fans without a team to watch or games to attend, my greater sympathies reside with all of the senior athletes, both college and high school, whose final steps on the field, court, green, or rink were never realized.
There is still a great deal of uncertainty regarding the coronavirus. Although researchers are studying several pharmaceuticals that may have positive effects on the virus, we still don’t have a definitive antidote. This is why it is important to do what we can to flatten the curve, and social distancing is one of the most effective remedies. This limits the spread of germs between people so that fewer people become sick and it buys our nation time to strengthen our healthcare forces.
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged virtually every aspect of life, and for many of us, sleep has been severely affected.
We are in the midst of a historic and unprecedented event. The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 will be one for the history books. How will history judge our response to this crisis? Certainly we as a nation and as a health system were unprepared for a pandemic of this magnitude. It has exposed the flaws and weaknesses in our health system and pointed out the real need for expanded primary care in our country.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has published a bulletin that provides several key reminders for people who have had to shift to working remotely as a response to COVID-19. The guidance, which can be found in full at the link below, summarizes previous NIST guidelines for working safely when out of the office.
On March 19, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) issued mandatory health orders to medical practices statewide to delay all elective medical and dental procedures until April 6th. On March 28, the order was amended such that non-emergency procedures are postponed further notice. Under these guidelines, Medical and dental practices have had to reduce office hours and/or close their office.
Unfortunately, significant events like the COVID-19 pandemic typically lead to a rise in phishing attacks that leverage the ongoing situation to fool people into providing confidential information or downloading malicious software. Now is a good time to remember a few key characteristics of phishing attacks to help prevent being a victim of a phishing attack.
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