Even after the lockdowns, restrictions, and social distancing subside, COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on the American health care system, and it can already be seen.
The U.S. government recently made a $2.1 billion investment in infection control and prevention, the largest in American history.
The money, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will “strengthen and equip state, local, and territorial public health departments and other partner organizations with the resources needed to better fight infections in U.S. health care facilities, including COVID-19 and other known and emerging infectious diseases.”
According to a press release by the CDC, Director Rochelle Walensky said, “This funding will dramatically improve the safety and quality of the health care delivered in the United States during the pandemic and in the future. Funding will provide significant resources to our public health departments and health care systems and opportunities to develop innovative strategies to protect every segment of the U.S. population, especially those disproportionately affected by the pandemic, at a time that they are hit hard.”
Money from the government’s $2.1 billion investment will start getting distributed this month as it helps organize strike teams that are deployed to help hospitals in need, increase lab capacity so hospitals can test new viruses more quickly, and educate staff on best practices. A major one learned because of the pandemic is time-of-stay.
“You know, we’ve learned so much I don’t think we’ll ever go back to the way we were,” said Hollie Seeley, chief operating officer at Rose Medical Center in Denver. “Here, we do a lot of deliveries and we saw women, instead of coming in and staying two to three days, they would be out [of the hospital] within 24 hours. So that definitely increased our ability to focus resources on someone else.”
Even without funding, the growth hospitals have gone through during the pandemic has been pronounced as different systems have learned best practices and then shared those with other hospitals in the region, as well as nationwide.
“I’ve been in health care for 30 years. I’ve seen a lot. I’ve never been as proud of health care as I am now seeing how we all worked together for the greater good,” said Seeley. “We were sharing not only clinical information to help patient outcomes, but we were sharing resources, equipment, ventilators, etc.”
At Rose Medical Center, doctors were able to use those tips to save lives. During the first three months of the pandemic, 25% of COVID-19 patients admitted to the HealthOne hospital system, which Rose Medical Center is part of, were dying. By June 2020, the mortality rate dropped to 12.5%, and today that number stands at less than 5%.
The vaccine has played a large role, yes, but the collaboration that did not exist prior to the pandemic has played an even larger one in health care systems nationwide, says Seeley.
“There were often multiple people calling single hospitals at a time, hopefully to accept patients, whereas now there is one number people can call and bigger hospital systems are automatically accepting patients to make sure there is no delay,” she said.