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How COVID-19 has transformed public policy and population health efforts

Telehealth, mental health and racial inequality issues have put a spotlight on how to address the needs of underserved populations.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

Photo by d3sign/Getty Images

The COVID-19 global pandemic has highlighted disparities in our healthcare system and is informing public policy decisions on everything from how the newly unemployed can gain access to health insurance to mental health needs – including those of physicians and nurses. It has also put the focus on funding for hospitals, access to telehealth, especially in underserved communities, and an equitable vaccine distribution.

This month, HIMSS Media looks at how public policy is influencing population health and what that means for the current public health emergency and beyond, as we begin to turn the corner.

Intermountain uses AI, synthetic data to improve chronic kidney disease care

A patient undergoes kidney dialysis at Intermountain Healthcare System Kidney Services.

The health system has achieved tremendous results for nephrology patients, boosting its value-based care program in the process.

Roundup: Sir Simon Stevens to step down as head of NHS, Leeds Hospital goes live with Agfa Enterprise Imaging and more briefs

Person taking a photo of another with a tablet

Also, PainChek upgrades its technology to improve care home pain assessment platform.

Google travel searches now show COVID-19-related restrictions

Person next to bridge taking photo with a smartphone

Users can get updates about the changing travel rules.

Ending racism in healthcare often begins with medical education - and is the target of a new national project

Patient in mask getting vaccinated

Inequities can be found in every facet of the industry, but targeting medical students and residents can help stem the tide.

Member states agree on technical specifications for EU-wide vaccine passport

Patient in mask getting vaccinated

The "Digital Green Certificate" is on track to be rolled out by June.

Eden Health's new program lets employees opt in to share COVID-19 vaccine records

Eden Health screenshot

With this consent-driven initiative, Eden Health aims to give both employers and their workforce assurance that job sites can safely reopen and remain open.

YouTube COVID-19 PSA aims to inform young people about vaccine facts

Patient getting COVID shot

The program pairs up celebrities and health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci to talk about COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

HHS and partner organizations launch media campaign to increase Black enrollment in ACA health plans

Patient wearing mask

So far in the SEP, Black Americans have enrolled in federal health plans at higher rates than in previous years.

Telemedicine came to the rescue during COVID-19 – could it help climate change too?

Patient and child attending telehealth appointment

Research and experts agree: Telemedicine's green potential is something to look into.

Kaiser Permanente paying $11.5 million to settle racial discrimination class-action lawsuit

Patient with blood pressure cuff

Kaiser is agreeing to institute comprehensive workplace programs to ensure compensation is fair and equitable.

Oxford University and Prenetics announce collaboration to launch COVID-19 testing tech globally

Lab worker putting sample in test tube

Dubai's GluCare has released its first set of findings, taken over 90 days since launch. Report shows that diabetic patients achieved an average HbA1c reduction of 1.7% in just three months.

UAE diabetes clinic showcases results of tech-focused care

Person putting a smart device on another's wrist

Dubai's GluCare has released its first set of findings, taken over 90 days since launch. Report shows that diabetic patients achieved an average HbA1c reduction of 1.7% in just three months.

ChristianaCare, Highmark partner on tech-focused VBC venture

ChristianaCare building

The 10-year collaboration, billed as a "radical departure" from the transactional status quo, includes launch of a new company aimed at data-driven approaches to value-based care and the creation of a new virtual health center.

Q&A: A year down the road - What has the EPR accomplished in Switzerland?

Lucerne Cantonal Hospital

Healthcare IT News asks Stefan Hunziker, CIO at the Lucerne Cantonal Hospital (LUKS), how the EPD has developed in Switzerland and how the hospital has managed it.

Derek Chauvin conviction prompts HHS vow to tackle racism as a serious public health threat

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra

Earlier this month, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky declared racism to be a serious public health threat.

Cigna launches COVID-19 vaccine transportation for Medicare Advantage members

Doctor in PPE giving vaccine

Lack of transportation is a social determinant that is especially prevalent among economically disadvantaged communities.

How COVID-19 opened a new chapter for population and public health

Doctor in PPE

The impact of COVID-19 is felt most severely in communities of color, yet the disparities have not been the result of the pandemic.

Fitbit looks to close diversity gap in research with new Health Equity Research Initiative

Researchers looking at a computer

Interested researchers must submit a letter of intent describing their research and how they will use Fitbit's products and services in it.

State-specific COVID-19 vaccine information is confusing. Facebook says it can help

Facebook COVID page screenshot

The social media giant will begin notifying its users when they become eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in their state.

EU leaders want 'Digital Green Certificates' ready by summer

Office building with EU flags

The launch follows a successful pilot scheme in Germany and Italy.

AXA and Microsoft join forces to build digital healthcare platform

Latticed sculpture

The launch follows a successful pilot scheme in Germany and Italy.

Denmark launches COVID-19 passport 'Coronapas'

Patient in mask getting vaccine

Non-essential businesses are now able to use the passport to show proof of vaccination or a negative test result from the last 72 hours.

Intermountain Healthcare enters partnership with the University of Utah on population health

Intermountain Healthcare building

Intermountain is financing a new university program that will teach practitioners to provide preemptive care.

GE researchers look to put COVID-19-detecting sensors in phones

EndeavorRx screenshot

GE Research has received a grant from the NIH to develop sensors that can be embedded into mobile devices to detect COVID-19 particles on their surfaces.

Akili to study EndeavorRx as a COVID-19 brain fog treatment

EndeavorRx screenshot

The digital therapeutic is designed to treat children ages 8 to 12 with ADHD, but the two studies announced this week will focus on an adult population.

VCI member orgs plan verifiable COVID-19 vaccine credentials next month

Patient in mask getting vaccine

More efficient staffing and mental health supports for staff will allow health systems to address pandemic-related workforce issues.

To tackle nurse and staff burnout, healthcare needs to staff efficiently and emphasize employee wellbeing

Depressed doctor

More efficient staffing and mental health supports for staff will allow health systems to address pandemic-related workforce issues.

Health literacy seen as an important tool in increasing COVID-19 vaccine uptake

Patient in mask receiving vaccine

Vaccine confidence is increasing, but more needs to be done to convince Americans to get their shots.

AstraZeneca working with Mass General on tech for heart failure, asthma

Patient using an inhaler

The organizations said the collaboration will use AstraZeneca's AMAZE disease management platform to deliver insights to clinically validate digital health solutions.

The data challenges of SDOH, and how to overcome them

Rahul Sharma, CEO of HSBlox

Rahul Sharma, CEO of HSBlox, a social determinants of health-platform company, walks through the obstacles to healthcare fully leveraging SDOH and potential solutions.

Intermountain and its analytics subsidiary help manage value-based care

Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah

At providers working closely with Castell, the cost of care for patients has decreased in a meaningful way, its chief analytics officer says.

AI technology detects 'ticking time bomb' arteries

Doctor looking at raidiology display

System which identifies patients at risk of fatal heart attack obtains CE mark.

Provider groups applaud President Biden's American Jobs Plan

President Joe Biden

The plan would spend $400 billion toward expanding access to home- or community-based care and improving the wages of caregivers.

England's personal child health records to be digitised by April 2023

Parent holding child in the air

Following a government review to reduce health inequalities for babies and children, the digitisation process has been brought forward a year.

FCC moves ahead with relaunch of COVID-19 telehealth program

Telehealth appointment

Round 2 contains a number of tweaks that seek to address disparities and distribute funding to more areas.

Senate passes moratorium to Medicare sequester cuts

US capitol building

The 2% cut to Medicare reimbursement is delayed through the end of the year, to the relief of hospital and physician groups.

AHIP, others applaud House bill focused on audio-only telehealth for Medicare Advantage

Doctor on the phone

The organization says seniors, during the pandemic, increasingly relied on telehealth to safely access their care.

Special Affordable Care Act enrollment period is extended to August 15

Screenshot of website

The additional tax credits reduce premiums by an average of $50 per person, per month and $85 per policy, per month.

Medicare for All push resurrected by U.S. House of Representatives

US Capitol building

Two Democratic senators say the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for national healthcare coverage.

Biden administration invests in expanding COVID-19 testing and treatments

President Joe Biden

States will get $12 billion to increase testing, and vulnerable populations will get $150 million for monoclonal antibody treatments.

MedPAC recommends the continuation of telehealth for a limited time

President Joe Biden

During a study period, Medicare should pay for specified telehealth services regardless of a provider's location, MedPAC says.

Biden announces national vaccine finder website, May 1 eligibility for all adults

President Biden addresses the American people.

The president promised rapid progress on vaccination in his first prime-time address to the American people.

New collaborative care model improves access to mental healthcare

Woman looking out of window

Penn Medicine's program uses a resource center to facilitate intake, triage and referral management.

New York State's hospital nurse staffing legislation predicted to save lives and money

Hospital workers in PPE treating patients

The cost of improving staffing would be offset by savings achieved through reducing readmissions and lengths of stay.

$250 million in COVID-19 grants aim to vaccinate underserved populations

Doctor talking to patient in mask

The money is expected to fund about 30 projects in urban communities and 43 projects in rural communities for two years.