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The Pulse: February 2020 Edition

Keep your finger on The Pulse of what’s happening in health care. We deliver monthly highlights of the developments shaping our exciting field. From how we can prepare for the potential COVID-19 pandemic to the best EHRs for 2020, this is the latest from February.

Are We Being Hysterical About the Coronavirus?

It’s been all over the media for the last month, and the mass hysteria, psychological ramifications and racism that has come with it has been just as infectious. COVID-19 has claimed the lives of over 2,800 people now and infected more than 83,000 others across the globe. To illustrate the spread, we updated this map from last month with data from CNN and the Centers for Disease Control.

Yet we still have to wonder if the media sensationalism is inciting unnecessary hysteria around this novel illness. After all, the 2019-2020 flu season has killed an estimated 18,000 to 46,000 and infected 32,000,000 to 45,000,000 in the United States alone.

Much of the fear stems from the uncertainty over if and how health officials and government agencies can combat the spread of this disease. On the one hand, we have the World Health Organization reporting that a global pandemic of COVID-19 may be inevitable and that every government on the planet needs to “wake up.”

Then in a recent press conference, President Trump said, “Because of all that we’ve done [the establishment of travel restrictions, aggressive quarantine efforts of Americans that are returning, the declaration of a public health emergency and establishing the White House Corona Task Force], the risk to the American people remains very low.”

He continues citing a study from Johns Hopkins, “Johns Hopkins, I guess, is a highly respected, great place. They did a study, comprehensive, ‘The countries best and worst prepared for an epidemic,’ and the United States, we’re rated number one. We’re rated number one for being prepared.”

Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar gave an update at the press conference on the number of cases in the United States:

As of today [February 26th], we have 15 cases of COVID-19 that have been detected in the United States with only one new case detected in the last two weeks. We also have three cases among Americans repatriated from Wuhan and 42 cases of Americans repatriated who had been stuck on the Diamond Princess in Japan.

Azar later affirms, “Our containment strategy has been working. At the same time…the degree of risk has the potential to change quickly, and we can expect to see more cases in the United States.”

For now, the number of cases in the U.S. is relatively low in comparison to other countries. But it seems there have been glaring flaws in our containment strategy, especially in light of recent reports that HHS workers tasked with treating quarantined Americans evacuated from China did not have the necessary protective gear or training.

The whistleblower who filed the complaint claimed that the HHS workers only had gloves and paper masks, while their onsite colleagues from the CDC had full protective gear with respirator masks. Worse yet, none of the HHS workers were tested for the virus after assisting evacuees, according to the source.

Coordinating care on a mass scale, especially in the face of a global health emergency, is an immense responsibility for everyone involved. It’s no surprise that there are some missteps along the way, as we rush to treat those in need while trying to contain a virus we know little about.

What do you think? Is the media exaggerating the issue of COVID-19? Do you feel that your facility and our country is ready to combat a potential pandemic? We want to hear your feedback and expertise.

Top EHRs for 2020

Medical Economics published a study in late 2019 in which they surveyed physicians nationwide, asking them to rate the EHR system they use in their practice. These ratings are based on various criteria, such as the quality of and amount of time devoted to training, the usability and customization features, as well as the technical support.

The best EHR according to the survey was Athenahealth for its ease of navigation throughout the patient visit. The second highest-rated was Epic for its user-friendly data sharing capabilities with patients, and the third was eClinicalWorks for its quick customer support. See the full list here of all seven EHRs. If yours didn’t make the list, maybe it’s time for an upgrade.

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