Skip to main content
Skip to footer

Applying lessons learned to a post-COVID-19 world

Estimated read time: 5 minutes

by Matt Wildman

Published on 3/26/2021

Several hospital executives from client organizations across the U.S. have been recognized with the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) Healthcare Heroes Award, which honors the outstanding service of those who have found new and better ways to deliver healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this blog series, Matt Wildman, senior vice president, client relationships, Cerner, explores the stories of these award winners and shares some of the insights they’ve gained during these challenging times.  

Leaders, like Alan Weiss, MD, of BayCare Health System in Tampa, Florida, and Tina Esposito of Advocate Aurora Health in Downers Grove, Illinois, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, were selected as CHIME Healthcare Heroes not only for the initiatives put in place during their COVID-19 responses, but for keeping an eye on important solutions that can drive health innovations post-pandemic.

Creative use of digital tools

At the height of the initial COVID-19 surge, BayCare, a network of 15 hospitals in central Florida, amassed a number of pandemic-related patient admissions, and Dr. Weiss, the organization’s chief medical information officer, oversaw the deployment of technology and informatics to help safely continue treatment.

For example, BayCare set up a triage phone line for patients, enabling them to discuss symptoms with nurses without having to leave the house. The organization also directed patients to a mobile app — BayCareAnywhere — that helped check symptoms prior to seeking care. Community care managers guided patients through care options and placed them in appropriate facilities.

Next, BayCare pulled data from a variety of sources into a centralized dashboard that provided insights into its patient population, including more than 260,000 value-based members. The dashboard helped identify correlations and trends amongst COVID-19 patients, allowing BayCare to track potential hotspots in its service area based on where people were testing positive. In addition, the tool predicted where those people might seek care and cause potential surges.

Virtual health was another phase of BayCare’s response. In roughly one week, BayCare expanded its digital offerings to more than 500 providers. This project included tools to manage Medicare and Medicaid populations and functionality that enabled behavioral health providers to better reach patients in rural areas. At one point, virtual care accounted for 75% of primary care visits for the organization. BayCare’s leaders plan to continue expanding virtual offerings in a post-COVID-19 world with the goal of increasing at-home monitoring capabilities that will incorporate the use of the patients’ own devices.

To help bring patients back into facilities, BayCare implemented a new customer relationship management system, which facilitates patient engagement within care management programs. BayCare also deployed an online patient check-in system to minimize contact amongst patients and providers.

As Dr. Weiss helps lead BayCare past the COVID-19 outbreak and into a new normal, many of these solutions will become permanent and bring long-term change to the way the organization cares for patients. With the aid of technology, advanced analytics, creative problem-solving — and Dr. Weiss’ leadership — BayCare is better-equipped to care for its patient population.

Changing the paradigm of support

Tina, system vice president and chief health informatics officer of Advocate Aurora, was named a Healthcare Hero for continued innovation in response to the pandemic as well as other aspects of healthcare. Tina drove continued improvement to Advocate’s data science program with a focus on better outcomes for patients living with congestive heart failure. These efforts resulted in a 25% reduction in admissions for this segment of the patient population.

Tina and her team wanted to develop better interventions for patients, especially the more than 1 million who are currently in value-based contracts, so she oversaw an initiative to revamp a long-used predictive analytics program.

Tina and her team collaborated with Cerner to leverage HeatheDataLabTM the Cerner data science ecosystem built on Amazon Web Services (AWS)to build complex models and algorithms. This solution provided Advocate’s data scientists with cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools, along with vast storage and computing capacity, to pull in a wide array of health data, convert it into research-ready formats and leverage it to develop predictive models.

This innovative solution led to improved outpatient care management and the hiring of 200 outpatient care managers. Using these new predictive analytics, Advocate can target patients, specifically those living with congestive heart failure, and assign outpatient care managers to them earlier in the care process.

Within 90 days of identification, Advocate’s data scientists were able to accurately predict 324 acute encounters for patients living with chronic heart failure. Another 127 were predicted within 20 days. The patients were assigned care managers, helping to decrease the number of days these patients remained in the outpatient program by 63% and reduce the risk of future events.

The organization is also using HealtheDataLab to complete tasks in a fraction of the time they used to take — with one data scientist boasting a 90% reduction in processing time. The technology has helped Advocate establish a tighter communications pipeline among data scientists, clinicians and other health system personnel. This improved workflow reduces the risks of mishaps and enables models to perform with real-world data in near real-time.

In the face of a pandemic, Tina and her team ensured they were doing all they could to respond to COVID-19, while also remaining focused on helping other at-risk patients.

"It's been incredibly rewarding, because it's not just an outcome we want to see,” Tina said. “We're actually changing the paradigm of support.”

Cerner is dedicated to supporting healthcare providers and communities across the globe in responding to and recovering from COVID-19. Learn more here.