3 Digital Strategies for Children’s Hospitals During the COVID-19 Crisis

James Cao, Manager, Children's Hospitals Strategic Initiative, AVIA

Kids. They’re not like adults. This adage is no different when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. Data in the U.S. is limited, but an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) study using data from Shanghai researchers showed over 90% of cases diagnosed in children were asymptomatic, mild, or moderate. This paints a different picture than what is taking place in adult care, where emergency departments are inundated, critical care beds are at capacity, and providers are working around the clock.

Still, children’s hospitals and pediatric service lines are not immune to challenges during this pandemic. The AAP study showed that COVID-19 poses a greater risk to younger children and children with pre-existing conditions, with symptoms including fever, fatigue, cough, congestion, possible nausea or diarrhea, pneumonia, and/or lung problems. Existing challenges in pediatric care, such as large geographical catchment areas, provider shortages, and dwindling operating margins, are amplified by the pandemic and further exacerbated with new challenges: Children can be vectors for virus transmission due to their low virulence and infection rate, high-margin elective surgeries are being delayed or canceled, and concerned parents and guardians are in need of answers as they adapt to the new normal of nationwide school closings and working from home.

Children’s hospitals and pediatric service lines can leverage digital to address challenges unique to pediatric use cases. Here are three use cases children’s hospitals can employ in response to COVID-19:

1. AI-enabled virtual triage: The combination of COVID-19’s infection rate and its low severity and asymptomatic nature in children has caused many primary care and community clinics to close, as well as children’s hospitals to limit facility access and appointments. AI-enabled virtual triage allows parents who lack access to primary care and community clinics to check symptoms and be directed to appropriate care from home.

2. Remote monitoring: Children with pre-existing conditions are most vulnerable to COVID-19, and they’re also most in need of routine clinical appointments for chronic care management. Limited access to appointments, combined with the potential for long commutes to care sites, is stressful for patients, parents, and care teams alike. A remote monitoring solution, whether an app or Bluetooth-enabled device, will collect and analyze vitals data, monitor patients’ conditions, and engage parents in care management while keeping parents and patients at home.

3. Care plan automation: Parents are arguably the most engaged consumers of healthcare. Although parents are hungry for information, data about COVID-19 is evolving daily and is difficult to track. This creates challenges for parents who care for children whose COVID-19 symptoms are difficult to diagnose, especially for children with complex conditions. Automated surveillance tools reduce the burden on clinicians to keep track of at-risk patients and providers through secure text messaging, interactive voice response, or patient portals. Digital approaches are supporting public health and population health initiatives to monitor workflows for healthcare workers and patients while delivering proactive educational workflows for the general public. Children’s hospitals can augment care plans to digitally engage with parents and communicate infection prevention reminders about hand-washing protocols, social distancing best practices, and parental resources. Providers can also digitally engage with parents of infected children to provide care management at home.

Want to learn more about how to quickly activate digital responses to COVID-19? Log into the AVIA COVID-19 Digital Hub here.

Sign up for the AVIA COVID-19 Weekly Bulletin here.

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Want to learn more about how to quickly activate digital responses to COVID-19? Log into the AVIA COVID-19 Digital Hub here.

For More Resources on COVID-19
Sign up for the AVIA COVID-19 Weekly Bulletin here.