In the News: Feb 27–Mar 5

The Coronavirus Is Causing Mask Shortages

A Wall Street Journal article highlights the growing shortage of medical masks as hospitals and public-health officials in the US and Europe prepare for a wider spread of the coronavirus epidemic. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the US has 12 million N95 respirator masks but would need 300 million for emergency purposes.

Much of the world’s supply of protective medical gear is made in China, and as that supply is cut off due to quarantines, health care facilities have to turn to manufacturers elsewhere—and those manufacturers may not be able to fill large orders for months. Other basic goods are also in danger of shortages; the European Medicines Agency is concerned that a global medicine shortage could occur due to the fact that many active pharmaceutical ingredients are made in China.

Even though new infections are slowing in China, other countries (eg, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran) are reporting cases of the virus. Health systems should prepare now for the possibility of an outbreak in the US. Sg2’s parent company, Vizient, talked to experts from Emory and Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America Outbreak Response Training Program about the coronavirus outbreak—watch the on-demand webinar Novel Coronavirus: What Hospitals Need to Know for action steps hospitals can take to address the virus’s spread.

Over 9,000 Urgent Care Centers Have Opened in the US

A new FierceHealthcare article highlights an Urgent Care Association benchmarking report that states there are now 9,616 urgent care clinics in the US. This number, reached in November 2019, marks a 9.6% increase from 2018. Urgent care has been on the rise since 2013 as patients and consumers have shifted toward more readily available, convenient sources of care at an affordable price.

The report demonstrates the convenience of urgent care centers, showing 97% of encounters last less than 1 hour and 92% of patients see a provider in under 30 minutes. Additionally, 98% of individuals seen in urgent care are in the appropriate care setting, indicating that not only are patients being treated faster within urgent cares, they are not overcrowding expensive alternatives, such as the ED. With the flexibility of this new care touchpoint, providers can treat more patients in the proper care setting in a shorter amount of time.

The rise of new, adaptable urgent care centers means the traditional model of primary care is becoming obsolete, as scheduling issues and long wait times drive patients to seek alternatives for low-acuity issues. Building a System of CARE model that adapts to these changes is essential to remaining competitive in the primary care space. To learn more about how to tie these primary care sites together to deliver a cohesive System of CARE, please read the Sg2 report Low-Acuity Sites of the Future: Reconfiguring the Primary Care Puzzle.

Virtual Reality Betters the Lives of Senior Citizens

A recent Forbes article describes how virtual reality (VR) is being leveraged to better the lives of senior citizens by improving mental health and combatting loneliness. VR allows seniors to explore other places and experience visually stimulating effects without needing to leave the comfort of home. Seniors can visit places from their pasts or places they have always wanted to travel to; they can even see their future homes by touring an elderly care facility.

While VR is often done solo, running a VR program at a nursing home allows multiple seniors to utilize the technology at the same time, fostering a sense of community and inclusion. The experience can also help alleviate feelings of social isolation, which, some studies suggest, can be worse for one’s health than both smoking and obesity.

The aging population continues to grow, and many people within this group prefer to remain/age in their own homes and communities. Health systems will need to create tailored offerings to meet this population’s needs, which can be achieved through new technology, including VR. To learn more about the aging population and how their preferences will influence health care utilization, please watch the on-demand Sg2 webinar Aging in Place.

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