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The business of health: Keeping the lights on through the pandemic and beyond

This special collection, which will be updated throughout the month, explores health organizations' efforts to adjust to the new normal.

For some hospitals and health systems, especially those in rural areas, keeping the lights on by having stable financial performance has long been a challenge. And now COVID-19 is causing even strong positive margins to slip into the red.

The government, through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has eased some of the burden by allowing providers flexibility in the use of telehealth during the public health emergency. Some of these temporary measures may become permanent, though the big question of whether payment parity will remain has yet to be answered.

In the meantime, through the pandemic and payment cuts, hospitals have done what they needed to stay in the business of serving patients. This month, Healthcare Finance News, Healthcare IT News and MobiHealthNews will talk with healthcare leaders about what they're doing to not only survive, but thrive, under the new normal.

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Dartmouth-Hitchcock's clinical trials helped get remdesivir approved by FDA

Susan Reeves, EdD, RN, executive vice president of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, oversees research operations.

The academic medical center's all-female research operations team got its studies activated in 10 days, a process that usually takes three months.

Hackensack, RWJBarnabas and Horizon strategically partner to own Medicare Advantage insurer

Office building

Braven Health teams two of the largest provider systems in New Jersey with one of the largest insurers in the state.

Universal Community Health moves from text-enabled telehealth to robust 'tele-assisted care'

Tele-assistive technology otoscope stethoscope camera physician

The health center invested in virtual care workstations with various scopes that allow physicians to remotely guide patients through near-complete examinations.

Improving healthcare literacy could save billions, improve outcomes

Doctor talking to patient

If all U.S. counties had high health literacy levels, there would be $25.4 billion in Medicare savings annually.

COVID-19 pandemic driving increased focus on healthcare consumerism

Doctor talking to patient

The youngest generations, including Gen Z and millennial patients, are feeling the biggest impact.

CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo says pandemic has pushed transformation to digital health

CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo

Turnaround times and testing capacity have greatly improved, and pharmacists will play a role in vaccine education.

Baptist Health uses digital technology for improved patient follow-through

Person using a laptop and phone in a coffee shop

Financial well-being depends on earning a patient's loyalty for life, says VP of Business Innovation and Development.

Hospital admissions projected to be down 10.5% in 2020

doctor talking to patient

The drop in admissions suggests revenue losses that may be difficult for some hospitals to weather.

COVID-19 pandemic is shifting health systems' innovation priorities

Laptop with wireframe brain and padlock image in front

Providers have looked to telehealth to continue seeing patients and revenue cycle technologies to improve efficiencies.

Utilizing telehealth in the ER can reduce wait times and patient length of stay

Hospital workers moving patient in gurney

Telehealth adoption under COVID-19 has provided a blueprint for wider implementation across ERs and other healthcare venues.

Healthcare executives fear for their organizations' viability without a COVID-19 vaccine

Money and medical masks

A complete financial recovery for many organizations is still far away, findings from Kaufman Hall indicate.

HHS awards nearly $500 million to support primary healthcare workforce

Doctor holding stethoscope

Two NHSC programs have more than doubled the number of NHSC clinicians treating patients with opioid use disorders.

Third-party biller boosts physician revenue by 7% with RCM and mobile pay

Tennessee's University Physicians' Association

The financial IT used by University Physicians' Association increased patient payments by 43%, and the payment lag for self-pay patients is down 20 days. "That's huge," a UPA exec says.

Proactivity and partnership pay off for nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic

Senior man sitting at a table with woman's hand on his shoulder

Staff received hazard pay, meals and, in one nursing home, a dedicated space to stay overnight to avoid taking the virus home to members' families.

Public hospitals are compounding COVID-19 budget risks for large urban counties, Moody's finds

Doctor using a calculator and writing on a pad of paper

The surging costs of tackling the pandemic are straining public hospital budgets, increasing the need for county support.

Health leaders question how, not if, value-based care should be implemented

doctor talking to male patient

Stakeholders argue which form of accountable care organization is best for delivering value-based care.

Atrium Health and Wake Forest Baptist Health complete merger

Doctor shaking hands with businessman

A second school of medicine campus will be built in Charlotte and a new critical care, ER and surgery tower will be constructed.

Keeping frontline healthcare workers physically and psychologically safe is paramount during the COVID-19 pandemic

Doctor in scrubs

Data should be used in ways that foster openness, communication and a better work environment for caregivers.

RWJBarnabas Health's most valuable resource during the pandemic? Its clinicians

RWJBarnabas building

RWJBarnabas is partnering with St. Peter's and will announce a definitive agreement to acquire Trinitas Regional Medical Center.

NYU combines AI and EHR data to assess COVID-19 outcomes

NYU Langone Health building

The machine learning model, which has been shown to have up to 90% precision, may help clinicians to determine which patients can be sent home safely.

MGMA outlines guidance for providers restoring volumes during COVID-19 pandemic

Person holding patient's hand in bed

Winning back patient trust is essential to stemming their avoidance of deferred care and pumping life back into volumes.

Telehealth more time- and cost-effective for chronic pain patients, bolstering case for provider adoption

Telehealth consultation on a laptop

Patient satisfaction was high even before the pandemic, and anesthesiologists say 50% of visits could be virtual.

New Jersey hospitals are a microcosm of potential COVID-19 financial impact

Doctor looking sadly out the window

The last time margins sank so deeply into the red was after the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, though today's margins are faring worse.

ROI for pop health IT still not quite in view

Groups of people walking with lines connecting them

A report from KLAS and CHIME finds that hospitals and health systems are still investing in population health management tools, but many are "becoming less optimistic" about the near-term prospects for value-based reimbursement.

Geisinger attracts more consumers after deploying provider search and scheduling tech

Geisinger office building

Since launching the new systems, the health system has increased organic traffic to its website by nearly 30% and increased provider data accuracy by the same percentage.

Northwell website patterns predict COVID-19 caseload

Doctor showing website to person

The system's dashboard has resulted in a rolling two-week forecast that has closely mirrored caseload to date.

How one hospital is using meds management tech to navigate COVID-19

Coral Gables Hospital

Coral Gables Hospital has survived major drug shortages, kept tight tabs on inventory, and helped patients and staff stay safe from coronavirus infection.

Medicare reimbursement rates for orthopedic trauma have fallen sharply

Doctor looking at an X-ray

Change will be necessary to ensure the financial health and success of physicians and hospitals caring for orthopedic trauma patients.

AMA and others ask CMS not to finalize proposed ACO quality changes

Group of doctors and nurses walking in a hallway

Groups say CMS should get more feedback as proposals change the way ACO quality is assessed, reported and scored.

HFMA task force releases best practices for resolving patient medical bills

Medical bill marked with past due stamp

The task force recommends providers engage in conversations about bills long before the post-discharge account resolution process.

Hospitals ask appeals court for a rehearing on 340B decision

pill bottle and pills

At stake is $1.6 billion in payments per year to thousands of 340B hospitals that serve vulnerable populations, the AHA said.

House bill extends repayment of hospital loans for accelerated and advance relief funds

Doctor using a calculator

Democratic leaders question what they call CMS' unauthorized use of billions from the Medicare Trust Funds.

Behavioral health providers embracing telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic

patient consults a medical professional using telehealth.

In addition to the patient care benefits, integration of virtual technology in mental healthcare can boost cost savings and efficiency.

Hospital and health system financial leaders want automation tools for revenue cycle management

Administrator compares paper and screen reports

When organizations automate their revenue cycle, they can improve their bottom line while freeing up resources to spend on value-enhancing tasks.

Telehealth is expected to drive $29 billion in healthcare services in 2020

Doctor conducts telehealth consultation

Patients are largely on board with this paradigm shift, significantly increasing their engagement with the remote care platform.

Remote workforces and virtual infrastructures may be healthcare's future, especially for payers

Home office worker with child

COVID-19 has made working from home more attractive, and healthcare could use this trend to its financial advantage.

Hospitals' financial recovery will be tied to the health of the economy, before and after COVID-19

Medical supplies with graph of downturn

While healthcare has historically been resilient during economic downturns, the nature of this cycle introduces new challenges.