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As COVID-19 Changes the Healthcare Ecosystem, Protenus Helps Customers Adapt to Evolving Needs

As COVID-19 Changes the Healthcare Ecosystem, Protenus Helps Customers Adapt to Evolving Needs

When I came to Protenus four years ago, I was intrigued by the opportunity to contribute to transforming healthcare processes through advanced technology. I never imagined that Protenus might one day play a part in supporting our partner healthcare organizations during a global pandemic. Since March, our customer success and professional services teams have been inspired by the heroic actions our customers have taken to serve their patients and communities. For our part, that has meant doing what we do best: Responding to our customers' evolving needs first by listening with purpose, and then by acting on what we can do to help and offering solutions we can control. 

One of the first things customers told us about were concerns about rapidly increasing patient census, and how to continue to protect privacy for this growing population. Working closely with our product team, we prioritized developing and releasing privacy enhancements for patients labeled as “VIPs” -- those who were diagnosed with COVID-19. We anticipated that our customers would have many new patients--and even their own employees--diagnosed with COVID, and those medical records would be a prime target for snooping. We also prioritized a feature for bulk uploading large lists of COVID patients so their medical records could be labeled as VIPs for Protenus analytics. 

The Protenus product team has also prioritized its work to help areas most affected by the spread of COVID: Next up will be bulk modifications to these VIP lists. Throughout the rest of 2020, we will carry through the theme of streamlined workflows for large VIP patient lists in our development roadmap.

Responding to changes in customers’ employee roles 

Our adjustments to the roadmap haven’t stopped with feature enhancements. Early on, we tuned in to some of the feedback we were getting from customers about their workforce members being reassigned to new, temporary roles to support COVID tracking. This change presented one of the hardest obstacles for our Artificial Intelligence (AI) to address, as it is based on profiling normal behavior and flagging when an access deviates from the norm. With all these new role assignments, many employees were deviating from their normal behaviors--but this was not actually suspicious. 

"Based on data from our customers' COVID patient registries in Protenus, we were able to identify adjustments to our suspicion score to more reliably flag inappropriate access to these patient records," said Dr. Ellen Ambrose, Director of Data Science. 


Responding to changes in staffing levels

We also heard about the pandemic’s effects on staffing in compliance offices, as many team members were temporarily reassigned to clinical functions or furloughed. This meant the Protenus team needed to offer specific guidance on how to continue to meet HIPAA regulations, in part by adjusting the Protenus platform. Although some HIPAA regulations were temporarily relaxed, especially in terms of telehealth and certain notifications, they are still applicable and enforceable.

We wanted to set our customers up for success in enforcing the HIPAA regulations with adjusted workflows and temporary narrowing of scope based on risk. Our Professional Services Team released guidance on our customer Help Center detailing how to make use of the Protenus platform to adjust case volumes in low-risk categories so more focus could be placed on high-risk categories, such as coworker and VIP snooping. We also included guidance on using Protenus technology solutions, such as on-the-spot email education for lower-risk categories, such as family member and self-access during the pandemic. 

That is the beauty of a case-based approach rooted in AI that scores every access. Customers can easily tune the analytics to their current needs and adjust any time. For customers that opted for Professional Services from Protenus, we adopted an approach we now call “Dynamic Case Management.” The Professional Services representative is able to go into Protenus and slowly bring more cases into the system if thresholds are met early in the week, and shut off the flow of cases once a cap has been reached. 

PANDAS 2020: A little fun goes a long way

Finally, we had to decide what to do about some of the fun activities we love sharing with our customers. Above all was PANDAS Live 2020, our annual user group event hosted in Baltimore. The thought of canceling crossed our minds, but we heard loud and clear from our customers that PANDAS was considered a respite and a glimpse of normalcy in trying times. We love getting together with everyone, so we knew we had to move forward with a virtual option this year. 

Having never done that before, we buckled down with our events team to figure it out how to successfully execute the two-day event. You can read more about the outcome in our CEO Nick Culbertson’s blog, “If You Stream It, Will They Come?” Spoiler alert: 300+ of our partners joined us! We decided that keeping rhythm with our regular community events would be the best way to support peer mentoring, thought leadership, and sharing lessons learned amidst the pandemic. 

Inspired by our customers, we will carry on

We eased up on additional customer asks that we traditionally pursue during the course of normal business operations. We always respect our customers’ time, even more now, knowing what their organizations face, an approach that has extended to our Sales team in their outreach to prospects. Partnering with our product team, we have given our customers some much-needed space over the last few months while still doing customer-centered design. Check out how we accomplished this in our VP Product James Schaffer’s blog, Conducting Customer Research for Healthcare Product Development During the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

At Protenus, our work to support our healthcare heroes and essential staff isn’t over. In fact, we are only beginning to understand the long-term effects that COVID-19 will have on our partners, as they continue to respond to surges across the country. We have more work to do for the remainder of 2020, and likely into 2021, to be the best partners we can be. 

We thank every organization we have had the honor to support for their tireless and selfless work to prevent and treat COVID-19. We know that this journey is far from over, and we will continue to support you. We are energized, humbled, and inspired every day by their dedication to patient care and their communities. 

To learn more about how Protenus can help your organization adapt to the evolving needs of your compliance program, email

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