Happy Thursday!

Enjoy your NCMS Morning Rounds.

  May 7, 2020

Summary: COVID-19 Update Call With State Officials

Last night in a call with NCMS members, State Health Director Elizabeth ‘Betsey’ Tilson, MD, MPH, and NC Medicaid Chief Medical Officer Shannon Dowler, MD, CMO shared the latest on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen, MD, MPH led off the conversation stating that thanks to the state’s “early and aggressive action” to implement social distancing and other restrictions, the state has ‘flattened the curve,’ and avoided overwhelming the state’s health system resources for the moment.

Secretary Cohen stressed that, even though the restrictions may be easing somewhat, we will be living a new and different style of life for the foreseeable future. Her department is working to educate the public about continued safety measures using the easy to remember ‘3 W’s — wash your hands, wear a mask and wait six feet apart.’ She also said NCDHHS will be working to reassure patients that it is safe and important that they continue to receive routine care, especially getting their children vaccinated.

In her remarks, Dr. Tilson spoke about testing and tracing, saying that lab capacity is high, now the challenge is to “get people’s noses swabbed.” She noted that testing sites are ramping up including several high volume testing sites at Walgreens and Walmart. Eventually, the state hopes to have 20 of these sites up and running across the state.

In addition to hiring tracers with the help of CCNC and NC AHEC, Dr. Tilson called on practices to become part of the surveillance network charged with tracking both symptomatic and asymptomatic cases, to help gather data on the spread of the virus.

Learn more and sign up.

Dr. Dowler outlined the work on all fronts in NC Medicaid to address the impact of the pandemic, but spent the majority of her presentation on telehealth. She said NC Medicaid is closely examining what telehealth elements, many of which have been implemented rapidly in response to COVID-19, should be retained after the pandemic has subsided. She noted that everything that is currently in place will continue until at least July 25. She also reassured those on the call that NC Medicaid would give practices at least a month’s notice before anything is ‘turned off.’

“We realize this is all incredibly disruptive to you and your patients,” she said.

Aaron McKethan, Ph.D, a senior policy fellow at Duke University Margolis Center for Health Policy, gave a high level overview of the COVID-19 modeling process he, and others, are working on for the state. He summed up by saying that we are starting May with lower viral spread thanks to the social distancing put in place and as a result hospital capacity is good in the immediate and near term. The new areas to watch are local hot spots and the shift in growth rates to rural areas of the state, he said.

“It’s very important we don’t become complacent,” he cautioned.

See the slides from all the presentations.

NCMS CPP Practices and Others Are Thankful

This week NCMS staff members continued distribution of masks donated by Centene and Carolina Complete Health (CCH) to our Community Practitioner Program (CPP) practices. These practices in rural and underserved areas of the state and were extremely grateful for the much needed personal protective equipment. Thank you to the generosity of NCMS partners Centene and CCH these practices can continue to serve their communities!

The Carousel Center in Wilmington and G&G Healthcare in Cerro Gordo were two appreciative recipients.

If you are looking to acquire PPE for your practice, the NCMS has arranged group purchasing through the Charleston County Medical Society in South Carolina as well as through North Carolina manufacturers. Learn more and place an order today at this webpage.

Centene and CCH also recently distributed $1,000 worth of Walmart gift cards to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) in the state. The centers may distribute the $35 gift cards to those in need of essential health care items available at Walmart.

A big thank you to CCH and Centene!

NC HIE/NC HealthConnex Update

The COVID-19 Recovery Act, which Governor Roy Cooper signed into law on Monday, extends the June 1, 2020 connection requirement to the state Health Information Exchange (NCHIE or NC HealthConnex) to Oct. 1, 2021.

In addition, all providers who have shown a good faith effort to connect to NC HealthConnex and have a valid Participation Agreement on file will also have the extended deadline of Oct. 1, 2021 and do not need to take further action. This extension will allow the large queue of health care providers who are in active onboarding to complete the connection process. Connecting to NC HealthConnex can take up 12 months, depending on your EHR software. The NC HealthConnex technical team will reach out when technical discussions are to begin with your practice.

Please email [email protected] with any questions. Visit the NC HealthConnex website for periodic updates.

In the News

Why Weren’t We Ready for the Coronavirus? The New Yorker, 5-4-20

Learning Opportunity

Join the National Academy of Medicine’s Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience TODAY, Thursday, May 7 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. for a webinar on Supporting Clinician Well-Being During COVID-19. This webinar will provide a timely discussion and platform for physicians, nurses, students and health system leaders to delve into the critical needs, priorities and emerging strategies to support the mental and emotional well-being of clinicians on the frontlines – both during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more and register.