Why We Gave Hospitals Our Free COVID Dashboard and What Happens Next in Healthcare
The past few weeks have forced every company to forget what it thought it knew about its primary market as the world was turned upside down by the COVID-19 shutdown. Yet despite all the dramatic changes, staying consistent with core values and first principles has helped provide some much-needed stability in a sea of uncertainty. For EPSi, this meant continuing to live out our higher purpose or “why”: serving healthcare organizations with cutting-edge technology and insightful consulting services so they can make the best financial decisions possible.
Life on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 has been particularly arduous for healthcare professionals and the patients they serve. We were determined to do everything in our power to help hospital executives make the right choices for their staff, communities, and bottom line. I was shocked when the CFO of a major health system told me that their facilities had cancelled all elective procedures indefinitely. The initial estimated revenue lost? $250+ million. He and his colleagues weren’t alone in such a financially desperate situation, and even the most prestigious institutions were not immune from the coronavirus fallout. One of the most renowned provider organizations in the world lost 80 percent of its quarterly revenue, and then had to lay off or furlough 40 percent of its staff because of this severe revenue drop off.
When I learned from the CFO of Johns Hopkins that his facility had access to an unprecedented stream of live COVID-19-related data that could be extrapolated to each hospital’s local community, I knew this had to be something we could utilize and share with our clients. This wasn’t merely raw information but contextual data that could be utilized to create a more accurate and realistic model of what the coronavirus situation was in any given community, how it was likely to evolve over the coming days and weeks, and when each town or city would see a rise, peak, and decline in the number of cases and deaths.
As our consulting team drilled deeper into the reasoning behind such drastic decisions, they discovered that it was based on an absolute worst-case model that was adopted across the country without taking into account the fact that the impact of the pandemic varied widely, sometimes even within different communities all located in the same small regional area. Under Ryan Self’s leadership, the team executed a rapid development sprint to develop a set of dashboards that coupled available data with advanced analysis. After a set of alpha clients vetted and provided feedback, we made the first analytic toolset available.
Armed with such pertinent details, hospitals and health systems could make better purchasing decisions (including COVID-19-centric ones for PPE masks, gowns, and gloves), allocate ICU beds and ventilators more judiciously, and, in the case of that system that stood to lose a quarter of a billion dollars, better plan the COVID-19 demand peak and when to resume allowable elective procedures. Rather than simply planning for the worst, healthcare executives would be able to reckon with reality and make the best choices for their staff, patients, and business operations. That’s why we decided, with the help of generous technology underwriting from our partners AWS and Tableau, to develop and make this dashboard available to our clients for free. And then to open up this beneficial technology to ANY hospital or health system that needed it.
Now that most parts of the country have reached their peak in terms of first-wave coronavirus cases, it might seem from first glance that our work here is done. But in fact, it’s only just beginning. The healthcare system as we know it isn’t going to be fully back on its feet in hours or days. It will take many months or even years for some organizations to reach whatever the new normal ends up looking like. That’s why we will remain fully committed to helping the healthcare community get through the ensuing chaos and uncertainty so they can not only survive when they come out the other side, but also thrive in different ways. The next stage of our dashboard initiative provides a new and more intense set of analytics that will help hospitals provide better patient care and make more informed operational and financial decisions. The path to recovery will be long and sometimes arduous, but we’re determined to come alongside our clients to help them every step of the way.
In the past few days, we’ve seen the healthcare market pivot from crisis response to recovery. Yes, there will inevitably be COVID-19 virus re-occurrence as states and cities re-open their communities, which we’ve already seen here in my home city of Austin, Texas. So, we’ll continue to monitor the evolution of this pandemic and refine our analytics as healthcare systems and the people they serve need assistance in answering a burning question that’s not going away anytime soon: “What do we do next?” By providing dashboards, advisory services, and other resources, we’re seizing the opportunity to not only get our healthcare partners back on their feet today, but also to help them change how the industry operates tomorrow.