Will COVID Sideline the College Football Season?

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 18, 2020 (HealthDay News) — The odds are not good for college football conferences that have decided to press forward with their fall season despite the coronavirus pandemic, experts say.

The Big 10 and PAC 12 have decided not to play sports in the fall, but the SEC, the Big 12 and the ACC say they will proceed with college football while still keeping players safe from the coronavirus.

“I do predict, because we’ve already been seeing it in those sports that have been very diligent, that there will be transmission and they will have to stop their games,” said Dr. Colleen Kraft, an NCAA medical adviser and a professor of infectious diseases with Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. She was one of several experts who recently briefed the media on navigating college sports during the pandemic.

Ultimately, the nationwide debate over college football is occurring because the United States has failed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in an effective manner, said Dr. Brian Hainline, senior vice president and chief medical officer of the NCAA.

“When we started talking about return to sport in April, we were envisioning there would be a continued downward trajectory of COVID-19 new infections and deaths, that there would be a national surveillance system, national testing and national contact tracing that would allow us to really navigate this pandemic,” Hainline said. “That hasn’t happened, and it’s made it very challenging to make decisions as we approach fall sport.”

About 1% to 2% of NCAA athletes are already testing positive for COVID-19, Hainline noted.

Despite this, and despite increasing COVID-19 infections and deaths, some conferences have decided to “sort of dip your toe in and see what happens,” Kraft said.

Colleges are taking steps to protect players, including having them practice in small units and experimenting with innovations such as internal face masks that are part of the football helmet, Hainline said.

The problem is that no matter how stringent your university’s COVID-19 policies, your players will be sharing the field with another team at game time, Hainline said.

Continued

“The greatest risk when it comes to football is when you have one team competing against another team and you have to be certain both teams have been following very strict standards, so you’re not taking one team that’s been a relatively secure bubble and all of a sudden expose it to another that’s not,” Hainline said.

Campuses a hotbed for COVID spread

Also, no matter how hard school officials work to make sports an infection-free environment, players will still be spending a lot of time off the field in situations where they face infection they can then spread to their teammates, said Dr. Carlos del Rio, an NCAA health adviser and executive associate dean of Emory University School of Medicine.

“We can do all the planning we want to have safe sports, but what happens outside of sports is really where the problem is,” del Rio said. “It’s the fraternity party. It’s the other things that can happen.”

This month already has produced a number of examples of college students thumbing their noses at COVID-19.

University of Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne tweeted a photo Sunday showing dozens of tightly packed people, most without masks, waiting to get into a popular bar.

“Who wants college sports this fall?? Obviously not these people!!” said Byrne, whose team is in the SEC.

ACC member University of Louisville kicked three soccer players off its team and suspended three others after they hosted a COVID-19 party, according to news reports. The men’s and women’s soccer teams, field hockey team and volleyball team had to cancel their workouts after 29 COVID cases were reported.

Meanwhile, an entire sorority house at Oklahoma State University is under quarantine and isolation after 23 members of Pi Beta Phi tested positive for COVID.

“I would encourage schools that there be significant education for those athletes about how to minimize their risk of getting infected,” del Rio said. “Their risk of getting infected is going to be in the community, because there’s so much transmission in the community.”

Athletes infected with COVID-19 face serious and potentially career-threatening illness, Kraft and del Rio said.

Continued

For example, they are at increased risk of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart caused by a viral infection that can cause dangerous irregular heart rhythms.

“You can absolutely not train when you have a viral syndrome because there’s a risk of myocarditis. This has been around for a long time,” del Rio said.

Some warning-sign guidelines

The NCAA has set a five-item mandate under which schools must pull the plug on their athletic programs, Hainline said.

These include:

  • A lack of ability to isolate positive cases or quarantine high-risk cases of COVID-19 on campus.
  • Insufficient ability to test for COVID.
  • Campuswide or local community COVID rates that are deemed unsafe by local public health officials.
  • Inability to contact trace and prevent outbreaks.
  • A lack of capacity in local hospitals to deal with a surge in COVID cases.

“If the local [hospital] infrastructure of a particular school is really imploding and can’t accept any new cases, you can’t go forward with fall sports,” Hainline said.

Del Rio noted that in Georgia, 98% of the hospital beds and 97% of the ICUs are now filled.

“My advice is that we hold off and control this virus,” del Rio said. “That would be my priority number one as a nation.”

Colleges that press ahead with fall football have one other hard decision — what to do with the fans.

Schools like Texas A&M University and Florida State University have announced that football attendance likely will be limited to a quarter to a half of their stadium’s capacity, Bloomberg News reported.

WebMD News from HealthDay

Sources

SOURCES: Colleen Kraft, M.D., professor, infectious diseases, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta; Brian Hainline, M.D., senior vice president and chief medical officer, NCAA; Carlos del Rio, M.D., executive associate dean, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta; media briefing, Infectious Disease Society of America/NCAA; Aug. 13, 2020

Copyright © 2013-2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Top Questions from Pharma Marketers for Patient Leaders 2020: The COVID-19 Edition

“Unprecedented times.” Without further explanation, the reference is clear.

2020 isn’t halfway through and already we’re living in a different world than that of 2019. Marketing plans haven’t just been disrupted, they’ve been overturned, just as all of our lives have. What patients and their communities were concerned about a mere five months ago has radically shifted, leaving many brands unsure of how to best support them while navigating the rough waters of a new world.

To help address this, the WEGO Health team held an invitation-only virtual lunch and learn in April for our valued pharmaceutical partners to help uncover tangible tips for companies to improve the patient experience amidst a global pandemic. A selection of submitted questions was answered by a panel of four patient opinion leaders representing a wide range of acute, chronic, and rare conditions.

The panel covered a range of topics from involving patients at every opportunity and speaking in patient-friendly terms, to the desire for patient support programs, patient fears of drug shortages, and lack of information about the pandemic’s effect on their condition. In just 60 minutes, we had only scratched the surface of the patient experience conversation, leaving many

lingering questions from our industry partners unanswered.

We knew there would be value in conducting a quantitative follow-up survey to our Patient Leader Network ensuring all questions were addressed. The survey was a massive undertaking, fielding over 300 responses across 100 health conditions. As we dug deeper into the industry questions, we uncovered both practical and tactical advice from Patient Leaders.

More than manufacturing: Patients find the most value in financial support and disease management resources

When asking Patient Leaders what types of information and support resources they find most valuable, nearly 2 in 3 patients (63%) count financial support among the top three. With unemployment rates at their highest since the Great Depression, patients need help paying for medications now more than ever — and they also need to be made aware when programs like this already exist.

Coming in second and third, more than half of patients find high value in medication and disease management. Living within the walls of this industry, we know that many of these resources already exist, but we see pharma struggle to communicate their availability to patients. What is the ROI tied to an adherence or support program? From patients’ perspectives, it is a worthy investment and one that can drive engagement for your brand, as well.

Ignorance is not bliss: Patients are largely unaware that financial support services are available to them

Companies spend countless hours and resources developing financial support programs that more than 6 in 10 patients are “not at all” to only “somewhat” aware exist. Patient Leaders on the cutting edge of their conditions report that only 39% of patients within their condition communities are “aware” to “extremely aware” of these programs. As one of the top three most valuable resources, there’s a huge information gap between treatment manufacturers and patients here. How can you bridge that gap? If your company or brand has a financial support program for patients, ensure you also have a plan to market it. If not, consider the benefits of providing this for your consumers and the rapport it can build between your brand and patient communities.

When it comes to virtual solutions, get connected

The world has slowly but surely been shifting to a more virtual model, and COVID-19 has no doubt accelerated that shift. In light of the pandemic, there are a number of virtual solutions pharma can provide that patients are eager to embrace.

Nearly 3 in 4 patients would like to see pharma companies get involved in telehealth adoption. WEGO Health has seen big pharma companies forging partnerships with telehealth over the past several years, and COVID-19 is simply the accelerator that patients needed to inspire adoption.

Well over half of patients would like to see more detailed information around COVID-19 on pharmaceutical company websites. These are not the obligatory COVID-19 messages that patients are getting from retail brands and restaurants ad infinitum, but rather high-science and educational information surrounding the impact that the disease may have on their conditions and their medications. We know that science takes time, and information like this may not exist or may require in-depth, long-term research to ensure validity. But, even a simple message that it’s being addressed can make all the difference in the world.

It can be done, and in some cases, it has been done — and quite well at that. We’ve seen this type of unbiased, non-brand related content living on corporate websites and being shared on LinkedIn amongst industry colleagues, but there is a missed opportunity to share this information with the patients that can benefit from it the most. Information needs to be shared at scale, not suppressed within the organic news-feeds of our industry walls.

The other virtual solution we’ve seen taking shape prior to, and now accelerated by, COVID-19 is consumer educational webinars. Patient Leaders would like to participate in these events, not just for the knowledge it can bring them, but also for the knowledge they can, therefore, share with their communities. We know from patient behavioral intent research that when a healthcare influencer shares information about a condition or therapy, 9 out of 10 patients who follow them will ask an HCP about the information.

Half a glass

While digital spend is increasing in the pharmaceutical industry, how likely are patients to visit treatment websites on their own?

The answer could be either encouraging or discouraging, depending on whether you are a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty type of person. We prefer the glass-half-full approach, where just over half (52%) of Patient Leaders say they would be extremely likely or somewhat likely to visit a treatment website.

This provides a great opportunity for pharma to deliver an engaging and informative customer experience on-site and is a strong indicator that consumer digital marketing has never been more important. The opportunity for pharma to capture the other 48% exists in awareness and discovery platforms like social media, influencer marketing, search, and display.

The pharmaceutical report card

Our industry partners wanted to know — real talk — what grade Patient Leaders would give their companies on their efforts to be patient-centric.

Another “glass-half-full” or “glass-half-empty” answer in that 38% gave them a C – a passing grade, and while we are making progress, there’s plenty of opportunity for growth.

Only 7% of patients would give pharma an A grade. It’s a discouraging number that we all can agree we’d like to, and arguably need to, improve. When asked the open-ended question on what pharma could do to earn an A grade, Patient Leaders replied with a few resounding themes:

• Include patients at every opportunity (from research to marketing planning)
• Include ‘real’ patients across the board – patients want to hear from other patients. Authenticity goes a long way.
• Support for families and caregivers
• Communication of support programs
• Speak our language

Partner with patients as the experts they are

Lastly, our industry partners wanted to know how Patient Leaders would most prefer to partner with them. While answers varied, patients gravitated toward the opportunity to join an advisory board, be a part of the brand messaging/campaigns, and share information online via influencer marketing opportunities — all things that are achievable in the here and now.

The pharmaceutical industry has a unique opportunity in 2020 to earn the trust of patients by providing expert information, quality resources and support, and aligning with patients in a true partnership to advance beyond the status quo pre-COVID-19.

We encourage you to access the full report here and to speak to our team to learn more about how WEGO Health connects Patient Leaders with our pharmaceutical partners, providing patient insights, content creation, and digital marketing solutions to activate patients.

Heart Patients: Ask About Home-Based Cardiac Rehab

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter
FRIDAY, April 10, 2020 (HealthDay News) — For those with heart problems, home-based rehab can take the place of hospital-based cardiac rehabilitation during the current coronavirus pandemic, heart experts say.”Home-based cardiac rehab is a solution to help provide cardiac rehabilitation to patients with heart disease in a home setting, and to help them survive and thrive during this challenging period of time,” said Dr. Randal Thomas. He’s a preventive cardiologist and medical director of the Mayo Clinic’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, in Rochester, Minn.”Home-based cardiac rehabilitation is much more than just going for a walk at home,” Thomas said in a clinic news release. “It is a structured, standardized, evidence-based approach to apply all therapies — lifestyle, medication and otherwise — that are known to help people with heart disease do better, feel better and live longer.”Mayo Clinic has used home-based cardiac rehab with a small number of patients over the years, but the coronavirus pandemic has made it necessary to transition all cardiac rehab to home-based settings in a matter of weeks.

If you qualify for cardiac rehab, ask your care provider if at-home rehabilitation is an option for you as well.

According to Thomas, there are many reasons why home-based cardiac rehab is so important right now.

A big advantage of home rehab is that it keeps patients out of the hospital. Home rehab also ensures that patients get cardiac rehab wherever they live, while social distancing from others, especially other older patients with heart disease.

In-home rehab also promotes healthier eating, which is helpful as most restaurants are closed, Thomas said.

Rehab is also good for mental and emotional health. Taking charge of your health can have a positive effect.

At-home rehab can also help you quit smoking. Not smoking lowers the risk of developing COVID-19 because smoking makes it easier for the virus to get into body cells. Smoking also damages lung tissues, making them easier to infect, he explained.

Home-based rehab connects patients with medical professionals who can help them through recovery after a heart attack or surgery.

Through in-person assessments, phone calls, online messaging, wearable monitoring devices and other approaches, cardiac rehabilitation professionals help guide heart patients through the same components of care, just as in a hospital-based program, Thomas said.

WebMD News from HealthDay

Sources

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic,  news release,  April 2, 2020

Copyright © 2013-2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.