This unprecedented public health crisis is touching all aspects of our lives. We’re coping with a pace of news, level of uncertainty and stress that is emotionally and physically exhausting. And yet, never before has it been so important for our communications and our decisions as physicians and healthcare staff to be thoughtful, clear and evidence-based.
A year ago when I joined Humana, I could never have imagined our current circumstances, and I would not have expected to write to you from my bedroom in the middle of a weekday. I humbly recognize that as a physician with a corporate role in a healthcare company, I am not subjected to the first-hand exposure and personal risks you face on a daily basis. We are all deeply grateful for your commitment to the health of the population and the sacrifices you make every day – you are today’s heroes.
Humana is rapidly adjusting to this new reality and trying to help you. You may have already seen some of the work our company has done to address the impact of this crisis on our members, healthcare professionals and our associates. Remarkably swift changes with state and federal guidance and regulations complicate our work. One way we’ve tried to keep pace is by having a dedicated online site to support providers through this coronavirus. It’s worth a visit if you have questions about actions we’re taking to remove barriers to care.
With all that’s whirling around us, here’s what’s top of mind for me today:
I know you are hearing from colleagues and witnessing first-hand the dire capacity issues in New York, Louisiana, Michigan and an increasing number of other cities. The stories I’m hearing from my friends and from clinical leadership at hospitals and health systems would have been unfathomable just a month ago. It’s critical that we work creatively to help wherever we can.
At Humana, expanding access to telehealth is a priority to ensure you and our members are not being exposed – and exposing others – by going to clinics and emergency rooms. Last week, we created an artificial intelligence bot to help triage members, and it’s been used thousands of times already. And, we announced that we will remove administrative barriers for members with COVID-19 and those treated in regions with capacity issues to facilitate discharge from hospitals to any post-acute setting, while finding new ways to monitor and support them in the safety of their homes.
Testing and Treatment
Access to testing remains an obstacle – although relief appears to be on the horizon as commercial labs accelerate their capabilities. The addition of serology testing, which will inform us about levels of immunity, will offer critical information for healthcare workers and all Americans as we imagine a new normal of getting back to work. At the moment, the websites of state departments of health are probably the best sources of information about testing availability.
As a nation, we must invest in resources and revise our regulations to support the most rapid possible development of a vaccine. Prevention must be a central part of any solution. Yet the fastest estimates for production still have us waiting at least six months – and likely more than a year – for a vaccine. There is limited and inconclusive evidence regarding the effectiveness of existing medications as therapeutic alternatives for COVID-19. Like everyone, we remain hopeful, yet await better evidence as we direct limited supply to those patients whom we know derive benefit.
Care in the Home
Regardless of this health crisis, we know that care in the home can be safer and more effective. In the past week, we reached out to tens of thousands of our members to offer education and resources, with a particular focus on keeping members home whenever possible. Working closely with Kindred, we’re looking to facilitate in-home COVID-19 testing and management in the home, and supporting the many contextual issues that our members are facing at this extraordinary time.
I remain deeply grateful and in awe of the continued commitment, sacrifice and compassion of physicians and care staff during this unbelievably challenging and unsettling time. The level of partnership and collaboration is unlike anything I have witnessed. While it is likely that in the weeks and months ahead we will face new and evolving challenges, I hope and believe that we will emerge from this crisis stronger as a health system and a community.