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COVID-19 April 2022: Omicron BA.2, staff shortages + more

The following article is an update on the following topics: new Omicron BA.2 variant does not appear to be more severe, healthcare staff shortages, telemedicine uptick and Mayo Clinic's website resource for monitoring the coronavirus.

New Omicron BA.2 variant 'does not appear to be more severe'

As of March 20, U.S. health experts say highly contagious Omicron BA.2 variant could soon lead to yet another uptick in U.S. coronavirus cases.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical advisor, said BA.2 is approximately 50% to 60% more transmissible than omicron, but "does not appear to be more severe."

"The variant is estimated to account for about 25% or 30% of new cases in the U.S," Dr. Fauci said.

WHO's COVID-19 Technical Lead Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said, as of March 16, that the Omicron BA.2 variant is transmitting at a very intense level around the world. She warned, "BA.2 is more transmissible, and this is the most transmissible variant we have seen of the SARS-COV2 virus to date."

Dr. Kerkhove reported that "in the last 30 days of more than 400,000 sequences sampled, 99.9% are Omicron, and 75% correspond to the BA.2 variant."

Dr. Kerkhove's assessment seems to agree in most, if not all, ways with Dr. Fauci, especially when adding, “We do not see an increase in severity with BA.2. However, with huge numbers of cases you will see increase hospitalisations [sic] and we have seen this in country after country.”

Healthcare staff shortages

According to a Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) stat poll, 44% of medical practices report that medical assistants are the most difficult role to recruit right now (April 5, 2022). A recent Mercer report noted a disparity of medical assistants leaving their healthcare jobs versus joining the workforce. It is estimated that 6 million of these workers will leave their healthcare jobs and only 1.9 million will join the workforce. 

MGMA found that recruiting billing staff has been a huge burden for practices, and that because of staff shortages, practices have experienced an increase of difficulties processing claims and working A/R in a timely fashion. 

One respondent even told MGMA: "Getting qualified billing personnel has caused major issues in reimbursement." 

MGMA also reported that overtime costs have increased for administrative staff, with managers often stepping in to complete lower-level tasks due to higher competition for frontline clerical roles. 

Overall, MGMA found that 40% of medical practices did not hit their revenue goals in 2021, with many citing staff shortages as major setbacks in their ability to work claims. 

Our claims and estimates solutions will be able to lessen the load for your team and reduce your needed team size. See more at the bottom of this page for more info.

Telemedicine uptick

It's not a surprise that the use of telemedicine has increased since the beginning of the pandemic. In fact, only 42.17% of physicians used telemedicine before March 2020, versus 89.85% of physicians using telemedicine during or after March 2020.

To learn more about the uptick, read our ebook

Monitor COVID-19 impact/vaccination

To check on United States statistics about the number of cases and vaccinations, visit Mayo Clinic's website here

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Rivet offers software solutions that integrate with your EHR for up-front patient cost estimates (that comply with the No Surprises Act), as well as denied claim and underpaid claim solutions. To see a demo and discuss billing pain points, request a Rivet demo with a Rivet business development representative.