This article was first published on TribLive | Read now

When Covid-19 reached America early in 2020, the U.S. health care system mobilized like never before to anticipate and meet the demand for treatment and vaccines. Ten months later, health care providers today continue to work courageously and tirelessly to deliver patient care. Talented and dedicated medical researchers have spent countless hours driving progress in treating a novel disease, and, in record time, have developed FDA-approved vaccines that are now being distributed around the country.

As part of this effort, public health officials moved quickly to address two critical questions: 1) Is there bed capacity for expected patient surges, and 2) How best will scarce medical resources be allocated to those who need it most?

In April 2020, Pittsburgh-based TeleTracking Technologies was selected to partner with the U.S. government to support the development of HHS Protect, a flexible and secure data portal that provides a safe conduit of critical information between hospitals and health systems and public health experts making these critical decisions.

For three decades, TeleTracking has been focused on mitigating the operational challenges hampering our nation’s ability to provide consistent access to quality health care across all of America, from urban centers to rural communities. Today, we empower some of the world’s largest health care systems with actionable and meaningful data to make better, faster decisions about patient access and patient care. Our work has reduced the administrative burdens of health care providers, giving them more time with patients, and allowed health systems to make informed decisions about staffing, real-time bed capacity and other critical resources, resulting in improved patient outcomes and provider satisfaction, while significantly reducing health care costs.

We further built on that experience to help health authorities address the pandemic. HHS Protect provides our nation’s public health experts with daily metrics on bed capacity, staffing, personal protective equipment (PPE) and therapeutics. It captures accurate, granular information submitted by hospitals and health systems, thus providing groundbreaking visibility of PPE allocations, and the distribution of monoclonal antibodies while balancing the flow of patients between hospitals in areas where ICU beds are at critical levels. HHS Protect is a critical tool used to protect American lives as hospitalizations increase and will continue to provide the U.S. health care system with the ability to better manage future catastrophic events.

I am extremely proud of our work and collaboration with the federal government during the worst pandemic of the modern era. Together, we have created a system that more efficiently and effectively gathers real-time data that allows health care leaders to make smarter, more informed decisions that lead to better access to quality of care for patients.

Our collective work, however, is just a drop in the bucket relative to what is required to transform health care operations in a country where nurses spend less than 40% of their time working with patients, the average ER wait time is more than four and a half hours, and where more than 3.5 million Americans each year leave the hospital without ever being seen by a doctor or nurse. With a record-high number of patients leaving the ER without ever being seen — which oftentimes results in untreated serious medical conditions that could be life-threatening — this leads to decreased quality of care, and a waste of labor and money.

The pandemic has created more visibility to the inefficiencies of our health care system that we must fix. Clearly much more work is needed, and in the coming months, policymakers will debate what’s required to improve a health care system loaded with operational inefficiencies that compromise patient care and drive up costs. Addressing this problem motivates us every day, and we know these data solutions are going to be an integral part of any health care reform.

What we are creating is a system that more efficiently and effectively gathers real-time data and delivers operational visibility that allows health care leaders to make smarter, more informed decisions that lead to better care while reducing the cost of care. This bending of the cost curve, making informed decisions about resources, investing more in patient care than in administrative activity, is non-partisan and non-ideological, and it’s a critical factor in any policy discussion about the long-term future of health care.

The smart use of data and technology is not only good economics; – but, most importantly, it’s what is best for our patients today.