Why Just Flatten the Curve When We Can Raise the Line?

Date: June 15, 2020

raise the line

Social distancing, good hand hygiene, drive-through testing and telehealth visits: Yes, there are many ways we can all help flatten the curve to fight this COVID-19 pandemic.

But what if we could do more? What if, in addition to flattening the curve, we could also raise the line? 

That’s the question everyone needs to be asking.

The “line” in question is the number of critical patients hospitals have the ability to treat at any one time. No doubt that overstretched care teams are already working at breakneck speeds to meet the needs of their communities. Moreover, they are providing care without the data that should be available to them.

So, how can we help them? How can we help solve for the problems we are experiencing today, while creating a more efficient, patient-centric system for tomorrow?

By adding beds. Unlocking patient data. Protecting healthcare workers. And adding providers.

Sound out of reach? Actually, it’s all within our grasp when the power of technology is leveraged to create a new standard of care that healthcare workers have demanded for a while.

Here are some numbers to consider:

  • In the event of an additional — even moderate — coronavirus outbreak, about 200,000 Americans will need intensive care, not including those with critical-care needs who are suffering for reasons other than COVID-19.
  • But all told, the American healthcare system only has about 45,000 ICU beds available.
  • The devices hooked to a patient in critical care —which may include cardiac monitors, ventilators and many more — can produce up to 800,000 data points per hour, per patient.
  • But today, this important information is locked down by each device’s manufacturer — with no interconnectivity and no way to acquire it, integrate it or deliver it back to clinicians in an accessible, HIPAA-compliant, shareable manner. Very little of it is able to be used by the providers – and patients – who need it most. And the critical patient data from COVID patients? Almost all of it has been dumped.
  • On a typical day, critical care specialists are in short supply. According to the Society of Critical Care Medicine, 48% of acute care hospitals do not have critical care intensivists on staff.
  • Today, the 28,000 specialists we have in the U.S. are simply not enough to provide all the care that is needed for complex COVID patients.

The issue is easy to see in the numbers. But where is the answer? It, too, lies in the data.

Unlocking data from the bedside, getting more eyes on patients, and protecting healthcare workers from exposure is critical to getting through this pandemic, and through other waves of this virus (and others) yet to come. It’s also about gathering, storing and analyzing the data we do have on these never-before-seen patients to learn the most we can quickly about the disease process and effective treatments. And finally, it’s about so much more than a pandemic: Our brave healthcare heroes fight battles for critically ill patients every day. Let’s arm these clinicians with all of the knowledge needed — the complete set of data from the bedside, both real-time and retrospective for an entire length of stay –to help them make the life-or-death decisions they’re forced to make.

While we don’t yet know everything about COVID-19, we do know that this virus moves quickly. So, we have to be faster, know more and do more – with data. Flattening the curve is great. But with data, we can raise the line.

Click here to read about how raising the line today puts us ahead of the curve for the next wave of COVID-19, and for the next pandemic or disaster we will experience while we establish a new standard of care for tomorrow.

heather hitchcock

Heather Hitchcock is the Chief Commercialization Officer of Medical Informatics Corp

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