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Grappling with COVID surge, health systems leverage automated virtual care technology to manage capacity

Jan '22

With daily COVID-19 hospitalizations regularly exceeding 140,000 in January, American hospitals have faced the most severe influx of hospitalized COVID patients in the pandemic. The incredible strain that caring for these patients is putting on American hospitals would be difficult enough on its own, but coming after nearly two years of COVID surges, the Omicron wave leaves healthcare professionals and hospitals at their breaking point

The numbers are startling. A survey of more than 6,000 nurses conducted by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses found 92 percent of nurses surveyed believed the pandemic would shorten their careers working in hospitals, while 66 percent said their pandemic experiences have caused them to consider leaving nursing. In a survey of 1,000 U.S. healthcare workers in September, 18 percent said they had quit a healthcare job, and 12 percent said they had been laid off, since February 2020; 54 percent of these respondents said the pandemic was a reason they quit or were laid off, and another 49 percent cited burnout.

“The Omicron wave is putting maximum pressure on our hospitals, providers and caregivers,” says Dr. Brian D’Anza, Medical Director – Digital Health/Telehealth, for University Hospitals Health System in northeast Ohio. “The explosive growth in transmission in our community is bringing more patients and, at the same time, severe staffing challenges as our frontline clinicians and caregivers test positive for COVID themselves.”

Automation frees up front-line workers

Leading health systems like University Hospitals are looking for every possible way to ease the burden on the nurses, physicians and other front-line hospital workers. Automating tasks that are important but routine and time-consuming allows front-line workers to focus on what only they can do—providing medical care and emotional support to patients and their families.

To reduce the workload on front-line caregivers, University Hospitals uses Conversa Health’s COVID-19 Screener & Triage, one of several COVID-19 programs Conversa quickly developed in response to the pandemic. The screener provides a starting point for the tens of thousands of University Hospitals patients who are experiencing symptoms during this time of high transmission. University Hospitals is also deploying Employee HealthChecks to remotely screen its 29,000 employees for COVID-19 symptoms.

University Hospitals has used Conversa’s Virtual Care and Communication™ platform to engage patients with chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes and heart failure, and also to provide post-discharge follow-up care since 2019. 

“The Conversa screener frees up overburdened providers and nurses while providing patients with 24/7, on-demand access to COVID symptom screening at scale,” Dr. D’Anza says. “We work with Conversa’s automated platform to provide more frequent touchpoints with our patients, as our care delivery and care management teams are already stressed and stretched thin.”

Clinicians described the value of Conversa’s programs in extending their care management resources for chronically ill patients in an article titled, “Chatbot-Assisted Care Management,” published in the January/February edition of the journal Professional Case Management.

Daily COVID screener offers peace of mind

Hospitals are also turning to Conversa to extend their capacity to manage COVID and mitigate burnout among their front-line workers. Using Employee HealthChecks to remotely screen employees for COVID symptoms helps health systems manage their risks and employee wellness. The quick, easy-to-use, automated program enables employees to screen themselves and provides some peace of mind for front-line caregivers during another difficult surge.

Conversa built its COVID-19 programs on the it’s versatile automated virtual care platform, which is used by leading health systems such as Northwell Health, Prisma Health, UCSF Health, UNC Health SCL Health, and University Hospitals to effectively and efficiently risk stratify and remotely manage patients across the care continuum for a wide range of clinical uses. Conversa programs are delivering compelling outcomes, including significantly reducing hospital readmissions and procedure no-show/cancellation rates while improving patient satisfaction.

“The Omicron wave poses yet another systemic risk to the existing healthcare delivery model,” says Conversa CEO Murray Brozinsky. “Front-line clinicians and caregivers are exhausted from grappling with COVID-19 for two years now. Health systems are turning to automated technology like Conversa to dynamically expand care capacity, help reduce burnout, and give patients a closer, safer, connection to their care teams.”

Learn more about Conversa’s COVID program suite here: Conversa COVID HealthChats Overview