WHCC20 | Blog - How the World Health Care Congress Community is Responding to COVID-19

By: Brian Eastwood (@Brian_Eastwood),
Senior Health Care Content Strategist

On behalf of the entire World Health Care Congress team, I want to thank you for your patience, flexibility, and understanding as we made the difficult but necessary decision to postpone the 17th Annual WHCC and reschedule the event for later this year. 

As we look forward to our rescheduled event, we wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the hard work that our confirmed speakers and their organizations have been doing to respond to COVID-19. In these challenging times, we are seeing all health care stakeholders take simple, practical, and innovative steps to provide care, expand coverage, shift priorities, and simply do whatever it takes to support their staff and the communities they serve. 

Here’s a brief roundup of how the WHCC community has responded to COVID-19. If you would like to highlight your organization’s work in a future blog post, let us know and include a link to the article or news release where your work is mentioned.

Flattening the Curve “Best Hope for Saving Lives”

Keynote speaker Robert Pearl, MD, is urging the United States to take a “curve-flattening” approach to slowing the spread of COVID-19. In an opinion piece for Forbes, the Stanford University professor and author of the book Mistreated: Why We Think We're Getting Good Health Care and Why We're Usually Wrong encouraged the country to continue taking actions such as social distancing, keeping restaurants and schools closed, and avoiding large gatherings. “It’s our nation’s best hope for saving lives,” Pearl wrote.

In addition, Pearl discouraged comparisons of COVID-19 to the seasonal flu, advocated for mode widespread testing as a way to help hospitals anticipate staffing needs, and called for stronger protective measures for physicians and nurses on the front lines of treating COVID-19. Read the full opinion piece here.

Major Health Plans to Waive COVID-19 Treatment Costs 

Three of the nation’s largest health plans have announced plans to waive customer cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment. Aetna led the way with in announcing its change of policy on March 25, with Cigna and Humana following suit on the morning of March 30. These changes in policy follow announcements that the major insurers would cover the cost of COVID-19 testing. 

Read more about the details of these waivers here. Executives from Aetna and Humana will participate in keynotes at WHCC; these executives include Heather Cox, Chief Digital Health and Analytics Officer, Humana and Jonathan Mayhew, President, Aetna Markets, Aetna.

Health Systems Shift Technology Innovation Strategies

Becker’s Hospital Review spoke to health system innovation leaders about how COVID-19 has impacted their digital strategy. WHCC speakers Michelle Stansbury, Vice President, IT Innovation, Houston Methodist and Daniel Durand, MD, Chief Innovation Officer and Chair of Radiology, LifeBridge Health offered their thoughts here. Key points include an increased focus on virtual visits, particularly as a way to keep patients out of clinical spaces that will be needed to treat an expected surge of COVID-19 patients.

Nonprofit Health Plans Adapt to Community Needs 

Keynote speaker Ceci Connolly, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP), highlighted the work that the group of nonprofit plans have been doing to assess community needs and adapt coverage policies accordingly. These adaptations include waiving cost-sharing for testing, expanding access to telehealth services, and enabling workers to telecommute whenever possible. 

“On the ground in the communities they serve, [our] members are leading efforts to address the very real challenges presented by this crisis,” Connolly wrote. Read more about these efforts here. ACHP member companies and plans represented on the WHCC speaking faculty include Kaiser Permanente and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

Collaboration and Coordination to Save Lives

A group of 17 health systems and technology companies have formed the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition. Group members have set as their mission to “coordinate their collective expertise, capabilities, data and insights to flatten the pandemic’s curve in order to preserve the healthcare delivery system.” 

You can learn more about the coalition here. WHCC speaker organizations represented on the coalition include Intermountain Healthcare and Mayo Clinic. WHCC Health Care Innovation Partner MassChallenge is also a member of the coalition.

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