Welcome to the WBD News Flash, your weekly highlight of HR benefits and healthcare news. Weekly, we will provide you with the top trending industry news stories in healthcare, human resources, legislation, benefits technology and administration, and more. Make the WBD News Flash your go to reference for current events!

AI Screening for COVID-19

Google’s sister company Verily has created a chatbot tool to help patients discover resources for COVID-19. Responding to current strain on hospital resources across the country, Verily is providing hospitals with an automated approach to front-line patient care.

This free tool, called COVID-19 Pathfinder, includes templates for AI tech, like chat and voice bots. Hospitals can utilize their website chatbots or voice bots to ask patients questions, screen them for symptoms, and provide answers about care and resources – all without tapping into the human resources needed elsewhere at the hospital.

Verily shared information on Pathfinder in a blog post, stating that “all Pathfinder content is sourced from public guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO), as well as other public health authorities, and curated and updated by Verily.”

Hospitals already using Pathfinder on their websites include San Joaquin General Hospital, Western Wisconsin Health, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Morehouse Healthcare of Atlanta, GA, according to industry site FierceHealthcare.

Australian Healthcare System Rolls Out Remote COVID-19 Health Monitoring

Using a cloud-based monitoring system, the Australian province of Victoria is home to a unique trial in the global fight against COVID-19: remote monitoring of suspected patients. Doctors and nurses will be able to track patients’ symptoms and watch for escalating issues without admitting them to hospital. This practice could reduce the number of hospitalizations needed, saving beds for the most critical cases.

Monitoring is via an application, called Pandemic, which was built for a platform by Siemens called teamplay myCare Companion. The platform is designed for the monitoring of patients with chronic conditions such as heart failure. HealthcareIT News reports that Bendigo Health physicians will have a dashboard of daily updates on health using monitoring devices including thermometers and pulse oximeters. A secure network will relay information to the hospital team.

As Australia has ramped up telehealth offerings, this use of remote monitoring to reduce contagion and hospitalization is the nation’s latest effort to use technology to better treat those with COVID-19.

Telehealth Expansions Open Door to Online Opioid Treatment

Patients struggling with addiction may find it easier to receive help and treatment – thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. A regulation requiring in-person visits before receiving prescription drugs to treat withdrawal symptoms was suspended in the Trump administration’s March declaration of national emergency. Thanks to this suspension, addiction treatment can expand its reach with telehealth.

While some medical professionals fear this could lead to prescription fraud, others are pleased with the expansion. Dr. Alyson Smith, an addiction medical specialist, tells Kaiser Health: “While that is a small risk, we have to compare it to the huge benefit of expanding treatment that will save lives.”

Healthcare providers such as West Virginia’s Highmark, a Blue Cross and Blue Shield company, are hopeful that expanding telehealth for opioid addiction will help their members in rural areas where doctors are in short supply. Across the spectrum, telehealth has rapidly become a front-line resource in the fight against COVID-19.