Readers share their stories of how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting them

We asked for your experiences during the coronavirus public health emergency, and you've responded. Here are some of our readers' experiences so far.
By HIMSS News
04:22 PM

Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Last week, we asked our readers to share their stories of how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting them, both personally and professionally.

From the beginning of this global pandemic, the HIMSS Media information brands – Healthcare IT News, MobiHealthNews, and Healthcare Finance News – have been working to bring you important information and updates on the situation. But we felt that our readers, from healthcare providers to tech professionals, administrators, insurers, investors, entrepreneurs and others, could tell us what they're seeing on the front lines and in their daily lives.

We intend to update the responses, weekly. Please send us your stories to yourstories@himss.org. We ask that, if possible, to include your name, position, city and state/region, and country. Please let us know if you’d prefer your story to be shared without your name attached; if you do, we’ll honor that request. Comments may be edited for length and content.

Our HIMSS Media publications want to share your stories, in your words. We’re living in a strange, often scary, new world. Let’s learn from each other and get through it together.

Tech startup founder creates digital COVID-19 diary after contracting virus

Dominik Burziwoda, CEO
Perfood\MillionFriends
Lübeck area, Germany

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Dear all,

I’d love to share my COVID-19 story with you. I am founder CEO of the German digital therapeutics startup MillionFriends. We’re actually developing personalized low-glycemic diet therapeutics for a set of target diseases. 

I returned from skiing in Austria two weeks ago. Three days after my return, I wasn’t feeling well and decided to stay home. My skiing vacation was very relaxed and besides some casual dinners and the gondola, I was not really exposed to many people. 

At the time I developed fever, which was Wednesday 11th March, I was quite certain that I couldn’t have caught the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, as I didn’t want to infect people, I tried to get tested immediately. As Austria was not a risk-region for Germany at that time, the authorities refused my request and I stayed home for another two days. On Friday evening, Austria was reclassified as a risk-region, and on Saturday the 14th I went to get tested for SARS-CoV-2 immediately in the morning. 

In the evening I received a call that my results were positive and I should stay in quarantine and maintain a fever and symptom diary. I was already picturing the authority offices getting flooded with papers of symptom and fever diaries. 

Since I am founder CEO of a digital therapeutics startup, I knew that we had the technology to offer a digital solution for this. Our app is usually used in our personalized nutrition therapy program. We offer a personalized low-glycemic diet to fight diseases such as diabetes, but which is also offered as a weight-loss program in a wellness setting. Next to our food tracking function, we had a symptom-, medication- and activity-tracking tool included in our app. 

For six months, we had developed a feature for a digital guide that accompanies patients through the entire treatment program. However, this feature was still in beta. I asked our software engineers to figure out whether we could do an early launch and offer the symptom-and fever-tracking tool to all COVID-19 patients. After one week of work, we released the feature yesterday morning and immediately had hundreds of downloads. 

Patients can now track the symptoms, add their contact information and medical history, and share this via email and an xls-file with their physicians and health authorities. Patients can also give research consent, and universities and research institutions could use the data for developing therapies, finding cured patients and better understand[ing] the virus and the progression of disease.

I am feeling better, and you can see my fever development below. After 10 days, I am free of any symptoms and sincerely hope that we will be a bit of help in these challenging times. I wish everyone that captures the disease all the best.

Stay healthy,
Dominik

Liver transplant put on hold because of coronavirus 

Anonymous
Washington State

March 21, 2020

I'm a liver transplant candidate and have been listed at the University of Washington Medical Center since January 1st.  Due to the demand for livers in this area I have also been assessed by Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix, where it looked like I would be approved on Tuesday March 17th. 

I'm now being told that my listing there is on hold due to COVID-19 and that they are trying to determine best practices.   

Medically I have a MELD score of 27 which would put me at or near the top of the list in Phoenix, where the mean for transplant last year was 24. I'm ill, but not yet hospitalized. In Seattle I'm in the top tier of about 10 in my blood type group meaning that on average, it will take months to get a transplant here as I continue to deteriorate. The mean MELD score for transplant in Seattle is 30.   

COVID-19 and lack of communication on new best practices has put on hold the considerable investments we were planning to make to relocate to the Phoenix area.   

One concern is that if ventilators are needed for COVID-19 patients, they won't be available to keep livers functioning in deceased donors, especially in areas like Seattle. That could make my situation much worse if I'm not allowed to multi-list as allowed by UNOS (United Network of Organ Sharing).

Regards.

Update: March 26 

Things changed quickly in a fortuitous and unexpected manner. On Monday I visited the University of Washington Medical Center and I was tested for COVID-19, as there was a very small chance of being in line for a high-risk (i.e. active IV drug user) liver. By evening I was sent home as the liver was not even close to transplant quality.  

Then midday Tuesday, a low-risk liver became available with my blood type and the family wanted the deceased off life support ASAP. I would normally be back in the queue for not being high-risk, for a liver in Seattle, but I was the only one who was available and met the new COVID-19 test requirement. There was no time to test higher priority candidates.  

By Tuesday night I was on the operating table and my transplant was a success. Also, on right after the call from UWMC in Seattle, Banner called me to say I had been approved by their medical team. (A call from the press "may" have forced them to make a call.)

90% of clients need masks and test kits

Melissa Kremer, CEO
BridgeGap Health
Washington, D.C.

March 20, 2020 

To Whom It May Concern, 

I normally do not take the time to do this due to my hectic schedule, but thought it was important to share how we are collaborating and leveraging our resources, solutions and innovation to help those in need. 

We are a medical and pharmaceutical cost-containment organization that leverages technology in many areas to reduce risk, reduce total medical and pharmaceutical spend for organizations and enable expedited care delivery, while improving outcomes and delivering value-based, quality care. 

Recently we strategically aligned ourselves with a digital healthcare specialty bank. We did this as with all costs of insurance, medical and pharmaceutical, it’s “financial.’" So often people think of their insurance costs but do not take into account the costs they spend for medical care or their prescription drug costs, and leave it to their insurance companies or Third Party Administrators.

We as a company developed an ecosystem that offers a variety of programs, plans and solutions to help solve the pain points associated with the costs of insurance, medical and pharmaceutical,

The bank gives our clients, insurance agents and brokers additional tools to become a trusted advisor to their clients to look at their entire financial situation, rather than just a segment, and with our programs, products and benefit plans are able to effectively design the right program that delivers the cost containment and care delivery everyone deserves!

As such, the bank allows us to leverage all of our business, our suppliers and relationships to improve acquisition costs, becoming a “Group Purchasing Organization.” The constant throughout the United States is that individuals and organizations are in need, and desire transformation in healthcare and something new and different, which we bring.  

Yesterday I was on a call with one of our strategic partners and asked him if he had any globes, masks or test kits due to this COVID 19 virus going around. 

He replied, “No, we cannot get our hands on it, and I do not know of anyone who can. They are scarce.” In disbelief, and rather disappointed, as I wanted to have a resource and get my hands on a few for my friends and family, but went about my day. Early this afternoon I got a call from that same gentleman, and he said he was able to get his hands on FDA approved test kits and masks. Needless to say, I reached out to clients and several health systems I had relationships with to inform them that if they are in need, I may be able to help them. 

To my surprise, 90% of everyone I reached out to is in need of them. 

I had to share this story for a few reasons:

1) This is NOT our business, nor are we making money off doing this.

2) So often throughout my career many would NOT take the time to ask and certainly reach out to see if people are in need, but we at BridgeGap Health are all about solving pain points and transforming healthcare.

3) If more organizations would look to leverage their relationships and collaborate with one another, we could make a significant difference in the lives we serve. This took up six hours of my day and will take up four hours tomorrow, days next week and even more to meet these centers, collect a check or signed PO, and make sure delivery was made.  

Today further convinced me as a leader of the company that we are in fact doing the right thing and leading what will be true, valuable healthcare transformation. It is not about the money, but about the value we can bring and the positive impact we can make throughout healthcare! 

Hope you enjoyed the story.

Telehealth can ID at-risk patients before they walk through the door

Dr. Matt Lambert, ER doctor
CMO, Curation Health
Washington, D.C.

March 24, 2020

I work at four different health systems in the Mid-Atlantic region as part of the COVID-19 response. 

Due to drive-thru screening and patients heeding the message to only come to the ED if truly needed, volumes over this past weekend were actually lower than usual. However, given the projected numbers of people who will be impacted by COVID-19, there is still great cause for concern in relation to our ability to provide quality care for people as the number of illnesses rises swiftly in the next couple of days. It very much feels like the calm before the storm.

While critical care providers are focused on managing COVID-19 patients, our primary care colleagues can assist by staying focused on identifying, engaging and supporting at-risk populations before they even walk through the door. 

Proactively reaching out to the most vulnerable individuals via telehealth will allow for remote management of chronic conditions, real-time patient education, and prioritization of home delivery of food and medications. In addition, addressing and supporting the growing needs from many behavioral health patients that have been adversely impacted by the stress of the situation is important.

While the primary focus of health systems is to manage this wave of acute illness, managing the chronically ill will help control volumes seeking care for both acute and chronic needs. These are challenging times, but we are prepared to step up and fight the good fight together.

Healthcare worker returns to a 'very different world'

Tammy Boyd, VP of Business Development
Bardavon Health Outcomes
Overland Park, Kansas

March 23, 2020

A tale of two countries. Prior to recent events, I had scheduled a spring break vacation in the Bahamas with my family. My husband and I debated whether we should make the trip or not. I checked online to see how many active and confirmed cases were in the Bahamas. At the time, there were no reported cases. We went ahead with our trip and had a fabulous time. Granted, we were at a resort and not living in the actual community of native Bahamians.  

There was no sense of panic, food was abundant, and it seemed normal. We did notice the resort had very few guests and it felt as if we had it all to ourselves. I also noticed most Bahamians consume their news through newspapers and television and not electronically through cellular devices. I had read where there was distrust with the Prime Minister of the Bahamas withholding vital information to its citizens.

Once I was there and reading stories back in the United States, it became clear how dire things were becoming. My daughter had texted me the federal government was considering closing airports and not allowing international flights into the United States. By the end of our trip, the Bahamian government refused to allow a cruise ship to come into port to refuel and restock its supplies. It had been reported there were five confirmed passengers on board who had tested positive for the coronavirus. 

It was then reported the Bahamas had their first documented COVID-19 patient. The Bahamian government also announced it was discontinuing cruise ships into the port for 30 days.

When we arrived back into the United States and I went to the grocery store, I realized I had come back to a different world. Unprecedented times for sure. I was alarmed to see grocery store shelves completely baron. I was alarmed and felt the need to purchase what I could.

I was reassured by colleagues and the news there were no disruptions in the supply chain. It was hard to believe, and panic had started to sink in. I still managed to purchase almost $200 worth of items. There was no chicken, no ground beef. What was left was higher priced steaks and whole turkeys. The produce department was completely empty of everything. Dairy products gone.

I felt relieved today, as I went to the same grocery store, that there was a sense of normalcy, and even though shelves were sparse, I didn’t feel panicked.

Also, from the healthcare-related side.

I recently started with a new healthcare company a few months ago. The start of the new year started out incredibly strong, with new clients onboarding and expanding their commitment to work with us. The company had been onboarding new employees quickly because of all the exciting growth. The company pivoted quickly as it was announced people needed to adhere to the government mandating for people to work from home and literally shutting down most commerce. 

The company now has 80% of its workforce working from home. It rolled out a new telerehabilitation solution. Thankfully, our clients are in the retail sector and are still hiring employees. Our organization is robust and continues to monitor the situation on a daily, if not hourly basis. My CEO would be happy to talk with your reporters on our operations and how we are managing through this difficult, ongoing crisis.

Protective services investigators may be exposing themselves, other families

Anonymous
Texas

March 23, 2020

As a Texas Child Protective Services Investigator, we are the “essential personnel” that are in the field. However, we’re not considered first responders, and do not receive any first testing options, much less any testing at all.  

Investigators have been given the option to work from home, unless assigned a case. At that time, we are to initiate face-to-face contact with that family and interview everyone in the home, as well as inspect the home of the children who are under the age of five, regardless of infection. THEN we can go back home or to the office ... where our families, parents, children, elderly are all at. 

So, if we get multiple cases a day, and come in contact with an infected family, then go to the next uncontaminated house, we expose that family to the virus. I understand my mission is to protect the unprotected children in the area I serve, but I don’t think they’ve thought this through. I’m hoping that by speaking about this, it will gain the attention it needs. 

I’ve already spoken with Investigators from the Houston area, who have already gone to houses escorted by law enforcement, and the clients informed them they were quarantined and positive for COVID-19. Law enforcement left the Child Protective investigator at the scene. That same investigator interviewed the mom and kids, then proceeded to go to the office with their peers. It’s unknown if any other families were exposed after that encounter.  

Child Protective Services Investigators are also first responders that go door-to-door to investigate child abuse cases as mandated by law, with no protection, no back up. This is just the beginning. 

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