The Briefing provides an at-a-glance view of some important developments in the information universe surrounding COVID-19. The views presented here are solely those of ECRI Horizon Scanning and have not been vetted by other stakeholders.

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Some patients have developed new health care habits since the pandemic began in 2020. For example, some people have delayed routine screening and treatment (see Topics to Watch for new systems intended to reengage patients and help stressed care providers).

Others have developed new health conditions that might be connected, in some way, to the pandemic. For example, eating disorders increased among teenagers and young adults. Emergency department inpatient admissions for eating disorders had been rising just 0.7 percent per month prior to the pandemic. Then, between February 2020 and April 2021, admission rose by 7.2 percent per month—a staggering increase highlighting a crucial need for prevention and care.

Care delivery also changed significantly during the pandemic. In particular, pharmacists in the United States provided unprecedented levels of care. From the start of the pandemic through September 2022, community-based pharmacists and their teams gave more than 270 million COVID-19 vaccinations, tested patients 42 million times, delivered more than 100,000 monoclonal antibody treatments and aided hospital care for 5.4 million COVID-19 patients. The leveraging of pharmacists to provide direct patient care, authorized by the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, might have helped keep as many as 8 million patients out of the hospital and saved more than 1 million lives and $450 billion in health care costs.

Intelligent Automation to Streamline and Boost Patient Engagement

At a Glance

  • Many adults delayed obtaining health care during the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce their risk of infection. However, as a result, population health outcomes have worsened overall. Although routine clinic visits decreased, hospitalizations surged due to SARS-CoV-2, leading to burnout among health care staff and causing many to leave their professions.
  • Intelligent automation (IA) refers to technologies that combine artificial intelligence, business process management, and robotic process automation to streamline resource-intensive tasks and increase operational efficiencies.
  • Use of IA to regularize appointment scheduling and reminders might improve patient engagement and health outcomes by prompting and facilitating routine care.
  • Use of IA for administrative tasks might also relieve some burden on staff, potentially improving their work environment and well-being, increasing staff retention, and increasing time for patient care.
  • Across industries, IA has been estimated to cut business process costs by 25% to 40%.

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation to Treat Post-COVID Conditions

At a Glance

  • Preclinical evidence suggests that loss of synaptic connections between neurons might contribute to long-term cognitive impairment occurring after COVID-19 infection, one of the most commonly reported post-COVID conditions (PCC, also known as long COVID).
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a noninvasive brain stimulation technique that uses a wearable device to deliver low-intensity electrical currents to the scalp to modulate brain activity. Research suggests the technique may increase synaptic connections and improve communication between neurons.
  • Clinical studies suggest that tDCS might be an effective treatment for several neurological conditions (e.g., multiple sclerosis, stroke, Parkinson disease) whose symptoms overlap with PCC, such as depression, cognitive impairment, fatigue, and pain.
  • Multiple groups, within the United States and internationally, are investigating the efficacy of tDCS for treating cognitive symptoms associated with PCC, with primary completion dates expected between November 2022 and July 2023. Some hospitals have already begun administering tDCS off-label in PCC recovery programs.
  • We were unable to find information regarding the potential cost of tDCS to treat PCC. However, the cost of tDCS to treat pain is about $168 per session.

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Commentary in this COVID-19 Scan reflects preliminary views of ECRI Horizon Scanning and internal ECRI stakeholders.
The information contained in this document has not been vetted by other stakeholders.

We welcome your comments on this Scan. Send them by email to [email protected].

Posted: December 5, 2022

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