In the fight against COVID-19, healthcare innovation has been unprecedented. New technology, protocols, and laws have changed the way healthcare functions. However, physician compensation remains complex, burdensome, and often contentious. Physician compensation has always invited compliance risks, operational bottlenecks, and administrative burdens, but now, innovative hospitals are simplifying the process with automation.
The pandemic overloaded hospitals with increased patient volume, and after almost two years of battling COVID-19, health care worker burnout is at an all-time high. As a result of burnout, the healthcare industry is suffering from worker shortages, especially among nurses. Nursing shortages are straining hospital profitability, care delivery, and efficiency. Competition for labor will likely continue even after the pandemic. The healthcare labor shortage has attracted significant interest from venture capital. Venture capitalists are pouring millions into new healthcare worker staffing platforms. This week, a proposed measure was filed with the California attorney general’s office that could be on the ballot for the state’s voters this fall. The proposal seeks to classify certain healthcare workers as independent contractors, so that workers can find work online or through apps. The proposal to include health care in the gig economy presents the question of whether nurse staffing platforms will be the next Uber.
Many believe that a hospital emergency department is potentially the worst place for an individual experiencing a mental health crisis. Emergency departments are often loud, bright, and bustling with hospital employees, emergency responders, patients, and visitors. These conditions are stressful and can further trigger additional symptoms for individuals facing a psychiatric crisis. Moreover, many individuals experiencing a mental health crisis do not require inpatient care at a psychiatric hospital. Rather, there is a growing trend to promote community-based care through Crisis Stabilization Center Models. Crisis stabilization centers or units provide an alternative to traditional emergency department and psychiatric hospitalization care by providing continuous care for a short period of time in a safe environment for those with an acute psychiatric crisis.
An earlier blog post explored the challenges of employees returning to work, including questions about the legality of COVID-19 vaccine mandates. In response to the uptick in cases towards the end of the summer and into the fall, many large employers implemented vaccine mandates. As vaccine mandates have increased, so have the lawsuits contesting them. As of October 14, 2021, there have been at least thirty-nine federal cases contesting vaccine requirements imposed by either employers or governments and approximately fifty-seven total decisions, including federal and state cases. In most cases, courts are denying requests for temporary injunctions against the mandates or dismissing the cases.
The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed many aspects of healthcare delivery. Most notably, the pandemic increased the demand for digital health services. Telemedicine saw ten years’ worth of expansion in one year, but it was not the only digital health service that exploded as a result of the pandemic. Telehealth has evolved from merely meeting with a provider via a video conference to include more sophisticated technologies. Remote Patient Monitoring (“RPM”) allows for providers to collect patient data without the patient having to go to a healthcare facility for monitoring. RPM can improve the quality of healthcare delivery by more closely monitoring a patient while also reducing patient volumes within a healthcare setting. In addition, because RPM allows patients to get more care at home, it can largely reduce costs to the patient and the payor while increasing access. Despite the many benefits associated with RPM, there are considerable risks and compliance issues.
Despite the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, many Americans are still returning to the office. Kastle Systems, a large security services provider, reported that an average of 32.1 percent of employees across ten big cities were returning to work as of August 11, 2021. On August 23, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) granted full approval to Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine. Polls have shown that the FDA approval will lead to an increase in vaccinations. While many people are not going back to the office, most Americans do have plans to return to work. As a result, employers are working to create return-to-work plans, while employees are left wondering about the extent of their rights. The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) covers employers with 15 or more employees, including government employers, agencies, and labor organizations. The ADA imposes restrictions on the amount and type of medical information that an employer may obtain from an employee or applicant in order to prevent discrimination on the basis of a disability. The ADA has been dissected to better understand the regulations that govern the return to the workplace.