TeleTracking President Chris Johnson was recently the featured guest on Pittsburgh Technology Council’s Business as Usual daily radio show. Chris shares his thoughts on the pandemic’s impact
on TeleTracking, how hospitals were able to manage patient surges and what the future of healthcare post-COVID may look like.

Chris Johnson PFQ

Q. How has this crisis impacted TeleTracking?

This global healthcare and economic crisis has illuminated the need for what we do more than ever before—managing hospital operations and providing real-time visibility with actionable and meaningful data. With our depth of experience, TeleTracking was uniquely positioned to respond quickly, with innovative, highly effective solutions. Our organization has shown an unwavering commitment to support our clients and federal agencies.

To help our clients prepare for the surge, we released an enterprise COVID-19 dashboard to provide visibility into patient census, bed availability, COVID-19 patients, patients in need of ventilation, capacity of specialized treatment areas such as negative pressure and ICU rooms, and patients by age. We also rapidly deployed a solution to expand capacity at new facilities and alternative care sites for existing clients—in some cases in less than 48 hours.

Under an agreement with the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), TeleTracking is contributing to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) data tracking. This is one of several approved methods by HHS Secretary Azar for gathering key metrics from acute care hospitals to ease the data reporting burden for hospitals and to help with the public health response to COVID-19.

We are very proud of the work that we are doing with existing clients, new clients, and with HHS to ensure that no patient ever waits for the care that they need.

This story can be found in the 2020 Spring Issue of TeleTracking's Patient Flow Quarterly Magazine. Download the full issue.

Q. Have any of the hospitals that TeleTracking supports been overwhelmed by a surge in COVID-19 patients?

The largest and heaviest impact. that we have seen is at a large health system in New York. It is the epicenter. Approximately 400 hospitals across the U.S. represent about 72% of all COVID patients, with a heavy concentration in the hotspots, New York being one of the largest.

Q. What could hospitals potentially have done better based on the knowledge you have?

From my perspective, in large part as a nation, we were caught flat-footed. Health systems that have a TeleTracking-powered command center can immediately see beds that are available across their system, expected patient discharges, when beds are clean and ready for incoming patients, the utilization of ICU beds, etc. They are also able to quickly report and share data with local, state and federal agencies.

Second, at the onset of this pandemic, we very quickly shut down non-essential procedures to protect patients and prepare for a surge. This was using a broad sword versus a scalpel in my opinion. With proper visibility and operational systems, we should have been able to manage with more of a “rolling blackout” and rolling startup approach. Without that—we had one alternative. Unfortunately, we still don’t fully understand the impact of the delay in care for many people, and the loss in revenue has put nearly every health system at risk. It’s still not clear if we were able to afford that once—we certainly can’t do it again. 

The third thing that I saw, in New York for instance, it was legislated that all hospitals have a plan in place to increase capacity by 50%, with a target of 100%. This meant converting vacant spaces like PACU’s, catherization labs and surgical suites into patient rooms, as well as finding alternative care sites like college dorms and convention centers as ways of increasing the number of available beds. This is a daunting task without an operational system to manage the extension. New York hospitals using TeleTracking were able to identify and secure space, indicate the location of the newly added beds, and determine how they would move patients to and from those locations—in 24 hours. And because of the visibility that TeleTracking provides, those health systems were able to load-balance patients to not overwhelm any one hospital.

Q. Has the pandemic changed TeleTracking’s outlook?

To some degree, it has accelerated our focus on solutions for non-acute care settings, long-term care and skilled nursing facilities, and doctors’ offices for example. We have solutions in place today, but our focus for the last three decades has been in the acute care setting.

No one could have predicted something like this, but fortunately, TeleTracking is well-suited for the management of a crisis. Hospitals and health systems have relied on TeleTracking in the past when gun violence, hurricanes, tornados and wildfires impacted their communities. We have always been there to provide real-time visibility into bed capacity, the tracking of patients associated with a disaster, and actionable and meaningful data to share with executives, family members and news outlets. Our reputation is firmly established over the course of close to three decades, and why we were called upon by HHS.

Q. TeleTracking is providing insight into the entire U.S. healthcare infrastructure, is this a national security issue?

I do believe it is a national security issue. One, at 20% of the GDP, healthcare is getting to a price point, and a cost point, in the U.S. that is unsustainable. It is creating economic pressures on employers, economic pressures on our safety net system, and it is creating incredible economic pressures on individuals. Secondly, which is more nefarious, there are bad actors. There are bad actors in the world who are seen that we’ve been able to, in a very short order, shut down not just the national economy of the United States, but the $80 trillion global economy with the release of this virus. There are people that are very interested, and I believe that you will see in the future, increased interest by the Department of Defense [DOD], the Veteran’s Administration, and our intelligence community on understanding and having analysis available regarding the pressures on our healthcare infrastructure globally.

Q. Share some of your wisdom based on recent experiences.

I think it was Bill Gates who said, “People tend to overestimate what can happen in the next two years, but underestimate what can happen in the next 10 years.” I believe in the next two years, you will see great healthcare systems no longer tolerating what is defined as business as usual; government leaders that will no longer tolerate having a blind system knowing what we know now about the impact of a disaster, natural or otherwise; and the Departments of Health and Human Services, the VA, the DOD, and our intelligence community will be demanding sensitivity and visibility into the utilization of resources—beyond what exists today. This will require a national operating platform capable of providing visibility and management to the over 900,000 acute beds across the country.

Now more specific to health systems, I predict that every health system in the U.S. will have an operational command center. Most studies indicated that would happen by 2025. I believe that the timeline has accelerated dramatically. I believe by 2022 every major health system will have a command center in place…powered by TeleTracking of course!

More information about this resource

COVID-19, Hospital Command Center, Company Insights
Media Type
Executive, Administration, Operations

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