Health Care Collaboration is Necessary to Re-Start the American Economy
April 19, 2020
Late last week, the White House released its plan for resuscitating the U.S. economy. Hospitals, doctors, health systems, and other health care professionals and facilities should see in this guidance – along with requirements at the state and local level – an opportunity for leadership and bold action. Moreover, these doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers should take advantage of the current flexible regulatory and enforcement environment to collaborate and align within local markets and regions to drive lasting change.
Whether on the national, state, or local level, hospitals and doctors bear a tremendous responsibility in the government’s criteria for setting the economy back into motion. For instance, in the White House guidance, the “Gating Criteria” for commencing state and regional phased economic opening requires the following:
- hospitals treating all patients without crisis care; and
- hospitals implementing robust testing programs for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing; and
- adequate community testing and contact tracing
- the establishment of safe and efficient screening and testing sites for symptomatic individuals and trace contacts of COVID+ results; and
- the ability to test Syndromic/ILI-indicated persons for COVID and trace contacts of COVID+ results; and
- the establishment of sentinel surveillance sites are screening for asymptomatic cases and contacts for COVID+ results are traced at locations that serve the elderly, the poor, racial minorities, and Native Americans; and
- the ability to quickly and independently supply sufficient Personal Protective Equipment and critical medical equipment to handle dramatic surge in need; and
- the ability to surge ICU capacity; and
- the ability to adequately protect the health and safety of patients and health care workers
All of these conditions precedent for economic re-opening in the White House plan, and those like them under consideration at the state and local level, require that area health care providers take these tasks upon themselves. Certainly, state hospital associations and public health authorities can also provide necessary support for these activities, but local hospitals, health systems, doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals and facilities have a much deeper understanding of and responsibility to their patients and their communities. Moreover, hospitals and health systems have a clinical mission whose financial viability they must sustain – as such, it should provide a real sense of urgency that the President’s task force sees completion of the “Gating Criteria” as a necessary step before elective procedures can commence once again.
Collaboration, here, is key. Because of the current CMS blanket Stark waivers and the encouragement of the federal antitrust enforcement agencies to pursue COVID-19 joint ventures, doctors, hospitals, health systems, and other health care professionals and facilities have an unprecedented freedom to align their collective talent, know-how, resources, and incentives to combat the coronavirus.