Now is the time for health systems to play a significant leadership role in diagnosing, containing and treating COVID-19 patients and in treatment protocol development and vaccine testing. At the same time, COVID-19 has the potential to exacerbate access challenges and economic headwinds facing most academic and community health systems by potentially crowding out non-COVID-19 patients and discouraging them from utilizing necessary services and capabilities of health systems. This situation should provide the impetus for all health systems to significantly expand virtual health capabilities so that patients can be monitored and treated at affiliated hospitals, at nursing homes and at home, where possible, to avoid core tertiary hospitals being deluged with these patients.
COVID-19 has shifted health systems’ expansion of telehealth from an “optional” or longer-term play to an immediate and crucial priority. Telemedicine strategies will provide health systems leaders with the tools to help contain COVID-19 exposure in healthcare settings and expand capacity for non-COVID-19 patients to ensure they are not crowded out.