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10 Ways Premier Members Led Innovation Amid the Pandemic

It is not hyperbole to say that the last nine months have been incredibly challenging for everyone.

This is especially true for our country’s healthcare providers who have persevered through these hardships putting the personal safety of themselves (and often their family and loved ones) at risk to deliver on the mission of caring for our communities. New Yorkers’ celebratory response to those tired and weary caregivers at shift change is a heartwarming example of the overwhelming support these heroes continue to deserve.

At Premier, our members have partnered with us to find truly innovative solutions to the biggest problems facing healthcare and our nation during the pandemic. Together, our actions are ensuring we emerge from the pandemic stronger and more unified.

Here are 10 ways that we partnered with our members to lead healthcare innovation and progress in 2020.

  1. Expanding domestic manufacturing. At the onset of the pandemic there was only one critical goal: source needed supplies and diversify production so that shortages become a thing of the past. Premier has long encouraged the sourcing of supplies and raw materials from multiple regions as well as domestic partners, as seen in our drug shortage program, ProvideGx. This year, we went a step further: Premier and our members acquired a minority stake in Prestige Ameritech, the nation’s largest domestic producer of face masks, and created new capacity for all of our members. We then created a joint venture with DeRoyal Industries to expand domestic production of isolation gowns at a facility in Tennessee.
  2. Using revolutionary technology to identify COVID-19 cases at the earliest possible moment. Syndromic surveillance is a cutting-edge technology that can track disease symptoms and enable a community to predict hospital utilization, geographic surges and associated resources – an essential capability to inform educated responses. That’s why shortly after the pandemic hit, Premier rolled out a COVID-19 early detection app, which leverages electronic health records from 200,000 healthcare providers across more than 400 hospitals nationally to provide early warning capability, forecast surges and help providers plan strategic, coordinated responses. Geisinger Health System began using it in July, with several other Premier members planning to follow. We are also working with coalitions of providers in states to deploy syndromic surveillance technology.
  3. Accelerating value-driven care. Participants in alternative payment models (APMs) were better positioned to respond to COVID-19, according to a Premier member survey this spring. Why? Thanks to years of leveraging the power of collaboration and data with peers on a national scale, they’d already stood up patient-centric solutions to prevent the spread, including care management support, triage call centers and data to manage and predict cases. It’s little surprise, then, that in an October survey 40 percent of provider CFOs said COVID-19 has inspired them to accelerate movement toward APMs.
  4. Rapidly optimizing telehealth. Premier data indicates that ambulatory virtual visits in the third quarter of 2020 were up 30x year over year, meaning telehealth is clearly here to stay. According to Premier's survey, 92 percent of APM participants leveraged telehealth to respond to the pandemic, as opposed to 82 percent not in APMs, and our members have actively optimized their telehealth strategies this year to increase access and convenience, as well as patient and provider satisfaction. They’re also using telehealth to respond proactively to patient needs; as mental health needs rise during the pandemic, Premier data shows that 50 percent of ambulatory behavioral health visits were conducted virtually in Q3 2020 – the most of any outpatient service line.
  5. Diversifying their supply chain channels. Our members’ feedback on the need for an e-Commerce healthcare platform shaped the formation of stockd, which launched in 2019 in a pre-COVID world. At the time, our members told us that they sought a transparent buying platform with protections, fair pricing, vetted products and reputable items – and I am proud to say stockd has maintained these standards throughout the pandemic. We anticipate e-Commerce for healthcare supplies will only become a larger element of providers’ supply chain strategies going forward, particularly for non-acute providers as well as adjacent industries such as schools and construction.
  6. Enhancing insights available at the point of care. During the first wave, Premier worked with our members to quickly upgraded our clinical surveillance technology to include COVID-19-specific alerts and patient flags for tracking and analytics. As a result, hundreds of infection preventionists across the country have been able to tap into COVID-19 clinical content at the point of care to isolate suspected or positive cases, prevent the spread and deliver the right care at the right time.
  7. Using data to help save at-risk populations. As early as April, 43 percent of providers in APMs were using population health data to manage and predict cases (versus 20 percent of providers not in APMs), and 29 percent were utilizing claims data to understand care delivered outside the acute setting (versus 13 percent of others), according to a Premier survey. This critical data enabled the delivery of prescriptions, social checks on seniors living in isolation and management of chronic conditions. Check out how Charleston Area Medical Center in West Virginia turned to ACO claims data to identify and save at-risk patients.
  8. Predicting COVID-19 census to model required supply levels. By this summer, our members were using predictive technology to visualize their facilities’ COVID-19-positive census in near real time and identify upcoming hotspots. This sophisticated technology – which includes COVID-19 trends and forecasts for each county and the individual hospitals within it – has offered critical intelligence to plan for both surges and routine care, and anticipate demand for key supplies so providers can take steps to avoid shortages within their facilities.
  9. Connecting with legitimate new suppliers, quickly. The gray market of unauthorized, third-party sellers hawking N95s, gloves and other scare suppliers flourished early on. In response, Premier vetted hundreds of gray market solicitations that we and our members received and set up an expedited process that brought new suppliers to contract in 14 days or fewer for categories with product allocations and shortages. Through it, we have signed more than 100 new contracts with manufacturers so far and evaluated supplies from more than 2,500 brokers.
  10. Contributing essential research to COVID-19 outcomes and vaccines. Our members’ aggregated, de-identified data is going to save lives: more than 10 life science companies, including vaccine developers, have licensed Premier’s COVID-19 data and/or are leveraging Premier’s research team for COVID-19 research. Already, this data enabled the Premier Applied Sciences team to publish a research letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association, finding that – contrary to initial reports – young adults in the U.S. are susceptible to falling seriously ill from COVID-19, with 2.7 percent of cases resulting in death. This robust data continues to inform worldwide clinical and social responses to COVID-19.

This pandemic has forced us all to innovate, but we must never lose sight of that face that, amid the ups and downs of 2020, the most meaningful moments came as our members shared personal stories about how the entire Premier team was able to offer a moment of solace amid the chaos.

As a supply chain director at Western Reserve Hospital shared:

“You have no idea what [these masks] means to us! Every day ends in disappointment and worry. I thought it would be another commute home in tears, but you have placed a smile on my face this afternoon.”

This year, the role of Premier was redefined from years past.

The reflection we have all had to consider is: are our members able to take care of patients appropriately in the surges, the waves and the crests of COVID-19? We are still guided by that challenge today

With multiple COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon, 2021 is shaping up to be a different year than 2020. Our promise is to stand behind our members every step of the way. We will continue to do everything we can so that our providers can do everything they must.

Be sure to check out our chronicle of Premier’s response to the pandemic and stay up to date on our latest insights in our newsroom.

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