Spotlight On: John Lawrence, President, Mid-Atlantic Territory at Aetna, a CVS Health Company

Spotlight On: John Lawrence, President, Mid-Atlantic Territory at Aetna, a CVS Health Company

By: Max Crampton Thomas

2 min read June 2020 —  Founded in 1853, Aetna is one of the nation’s leading diversified healthcare benefits companies, serving an estimated 46.7 million people. President of the Mid-Atlantic Territory John Lawrence spoke with Invest: about the company’s role in the battle against COVID-19.

How is Aetna assisting individuals, employers and providers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic? 

As part of CVS Health, we have a presence in communities across the country and interact with one in three Americans every year. When facing a health crisis like COVID-19, we’re uniquely positioned to understand where the needs are and how to address them. To support our members, we’ve waived the cost-sharing for testing and in-patient treatment of COVID-19, offering no-cost telemedicine visits until June 4, waived charges for CVS Pharmacy home delivery of medications; and waived cost-sharing for all primary care visits for Aetna Medicare members. 

Similarly, for plan sponsors, we’ve introduced an Employee Communications Toolkit that they can use to communicate the support available to their employees; offered a Special Enrollment Period Opportunity for insured plans; and developed a cost modeling calculator to help self-funded customers estimate the cost impacts of COVID-19. For providers, we’ve taken numerous actions to help reduce the administrative burden. 

 

What role will Aetna play as the state looks to slowly reopen its economy? 

Dramatically increasing the frequency and efficiency of testing to help slow the spread of the virus is critical for responsibly reopening the economy when experts tell us it’s safe. We operate large-scale COVID-19 rapid test sites in five states, which were opened in a matter of weeks through partnerships with the Department of Health and Human Services and governors in Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan and Rhode Island. Most of the parking lot sites can accommodate up to 1,000 tests per day using the Abbot ID NOW COVID-19 test which provides immediate results. Since May, we’ve been offering self-swab tests at select CVS Pharmacy locations in parking lots or at drive-thru windows.

 

What accommodations to your network of primary care doctors and specialists did you have to make to handle the influx of patients due to the COVID-19 outbreak? 

 

For primary care doctors and specialists in our network the issue was twofold: staying in touch with their patients and doing so in a way that kept them and their patients safe. Telemedicine was the obvious answer, and we assisted our physicians in adopting or expanding their ability to offer telemedicine services. To further encourage the use of telemedicine, we waived co-payments for all virtual encounters. This included services for members in high-deductible plans, anticipating the guidance subsequently received from the Treasury Department. We also added additional payment codes and rates to reimburse our network doctors at the same rate for in-person and virtual visits.

 

Recognizing that some of our community of healthcare providers and clinicians are facing financial and administrative strain throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we took a series of additional actions to allow them to focus on delivering high-quality patient care. These actions include a commitment to prompt and accurate claim payments; helping hospitals prioritize COVID-19 patients; enabling greater capacity with healthcare providers; ensuring full provider reimbursements for waived member cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing and treatment; and providing behavioral health support. 

 

What are your initiatives to address urgent health and safety needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in communities across Philadelphia? 

 

The less visible but escalating mental and emotional crisis is the “second curve” of the pandemic, and CVS Health is proactively addressing this urgent crisis through the launch of a mental well-being program. So many people are dealing with the physical effects and the mental trauma, stress, fear, anxiety and isolation as a result of the pandemic. On May 4, CVS Health launched a nationwide effort and committed $1 million in charitable support to help address those realities and we’re connecting people with no cost mental well-being resources and counseling services. In the first phase of the program, we’re particularly focused on healthcare workers, essential workers and seniors. 

 

When facing a health crisis like COVID-19, we’re always working to understand where the needs are and how to best address them. We are continuing to reinforce the importance of social distancing and proper hand-washing measures especially as local communities return to business as usual. Through all of our COVID-related efforts, our goal is to help slow the spread of the virus and save lives. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

 

https://www.aetna.com/

Spotlight On: Tony Jenkins, Market President – Central Florida, Florida Blue

Spotlight On: Tony Jenkins, Market President – Central Florida, Florida Blue

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read April 2020 — Florida Blue is part of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, providing insurance products to individuals and businesses. Market President – Central Florida Tony Jenkins told Invest: about the company’s actions to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, assistance for policyholders and its experience holding virtual job fairs during the pandemic.

What accommodations to your network of primary care doctors and specialists did you have to make to handle the influx of patients due to the COVID-19 outbreak? 

Our network of providers has quickly adapted to offer more virtual care options to their patients during the COVID-19 health crisis. This allows individuals to chat with their doctor in the safety of their own home. 

 

Florida Blue has taken several measures to increase virtual care options for our members. We added free access to Teladoc for our Medicare Advantage members, and we’ve waived the Teladoc copay for all Affordable Care Act members and most employer group plan members. Teladoc provides 24/7 bilingual virtual care via phone, video or mobile app. 

 

We also are allowing our primary care doctors and specialists, including behavioral health providers, to treat patients virtually at their normal office visit rates during the crisis. We’re even allowing those with our Florida Blue Dental plans to seek emergency virtual care from a dentist at no cost. 

 

Sanitas Medical Centers, which exclusively serves Florida Blue members, has designated select facilities as sites for patients with respiratory issues while other sites are treating other health concerns to reduce the chance of exposure of patients who need to seek care for non-respiratory issues. Sanitas is also providing free bilingual virtual care to its current patients via its mySanitas Chat website and mobile app. 

 

Our GuideWell Emergency Doctors, which provide high-acuity urgent care, are also offering virtual visits via phone or video. They will even come out to your car and administer testing in their parking lot, so you do not have to enter the clinic. 

 

What kind of out-of-pocket cost waivers have you implemented as a result of the coronavirus?

In addition to waiving copays for Teladoc sessions during the crisis, we waived cost-sharing through June 1 for any members who must undergo treatment for COVID-19 for our Affordable Care Act, Medicare Advantage and other individual plans (excluding Medicare Part D drug plans), as well as all fully insured employer group health plans. We also are waiving cost-sharing for medical testing for COVID-19. 

 

Tell us about your initial investment of $2 million to address urgent health and safety needs in communities across Florida. What is the vision for this initiative?

Florida Blue made an initial investment of $2 million to address food security for seniors and children, support hourly workers, behavioral health needs and other crisis priorities in local communities. $500,000 was set aside specifically to support Central Florida communities. 

 

With those funds, we’ve provided 300,000 meals to Second Harvest Food Bank, donated $75,000 to senior organizations across the region offering Meals on Wheels and other in-home support to seniors, and funded free childcare at the two area YMCAs for the children of healthcare workers, first responders and other essential frontline workers. We also worked with four Central Florida school districts to ensure children will continue to receive free meals while they are taking classes from home, in addition to supporting crisis relief funds for our local United Way chapters, which are aiding our neighbors in need. 

 

How is the company dealing with the transition to remote work?

Our IT team did a phenomenal job ramping up quickly so we could transition more than 95 percent of our workforce across the nation to work remotely. We have only a few hundred individuals who are working on site in an office or medical clinic because they serve essential roles that cannot be performed elsewhere. We’ve taken extra precautions to address their health and safety. 

 

We asked a lot of our employees with this transition and they showed unbelievable resilience as some had to adapt to working from home for the first time or sharing a makeshift workstation with their spouse or child. 

 

Despite all the added obstacles, our team has truly stepped up and is delivering on our mission to help people and communities achieve better health. They continue to be innovative and adaptable to ensure we’re keeping our members at the center of everything we do.  

 

You recently held a virtual job fair. What was that experience like? 

We are currently hosting virtual job fairs for roughly 300 Member Care Specialist roles here in Orlando and across the state. These roles have a unique teacher-like schedule where employees get three months of paid leave with full benefits during the summer months. Training for these roles will get underway in mid-June. 

 

We have transitioned all our recruiting and hiring to virtual meetings and interviews right now. We have several other positions open in several fields, including IT, analytics, sales, Medicare, training and more. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.floridablue.com/

Spotlight On: Saad Ehtisham, President, Novant Health Greater Charlotte Market & Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read April 2020 —Novant Health is an integrated nonprofit organization with 15 medical centers and more than 1,600 physicians in almost 700 locations. President of Novant Health Greater Charlotte Market and Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center Saad Ehtisham told Invest: about the group’s approach to the COVID-19 pandemic and how it is minimizing risk to patients and healthcare staff.

What accommodations is Novant Health making to handle the influx of patients due to the COVID-19 outbreak? 

Novant Health excels at being change-ready and resilient in the ever-changing world of healthcare. From the onset of COVID-19, we began assessing our readiness. Our emergency management and clinical teams have been hard at work, building on our existing plans to make sure we’re ready to manage any and all scenarios that could come with an influx of COVID-19 cases in our communities. 

At Novant Health, we made the decision to cancel elective and non-time-sensitive procedures to minimize risk to patients and our team members, conserve PPE (personal protective equipment) and be mindful of future capacity needs. We’ve also made investments to greatly increase our bed capacity across the system. As part of our commitment to patient safety, we diversify and routinely monitor our supply chain in order to be prepared and meet the needs of our patients and team members. In anticipation of a surge, our supply chain and emerging infectious diseases teams doubled down.

Outside of managing our acute care capacity, we’ve prepared for an influx of patients who need screening, testing and treatment in our ambulatory clinics, as well. Novant Health proactively stood up screening centers, respiratory assessment centers and mobile health units across our markets. This ensures we are able to test and treat, as clinically necessary, people outside of our hospitals and ensure beds are available for those who need higher levels of care.

We’re confident that we are prepared and well-equipped to safely care for our community.

How can the community best assist local healthcare providers in this time of need?

The best thing the community can do for us right now is stay home, if and when they can, and practice physical and social distancing. This will help us further flatten the curve to ensure we won’t experience a surge of patients all at once or a resurgence if we ease up on social distancing. 

If someone thinks they may have symptoms of the coronavirus or have been exposed, it’s best to first take our online assessment, call their healthcare provider, or call our 24/7 helpline 877-9NOVANT for advice on care and how to be treated. This will help us ensure only those who meet guidelines for further evaluation and testing are routed to the most appropriate venue of care, which in turn reduces risk of exposure to our team members, the community and helps us conserve valuable resources.

We each have a responsibility to do what we can to care for ourselves, our families and our neighbors. Continue to wash your hands, stay informed, stay calm, and stay home. 

What would your message be to the local community that is sheltering in place and waiting for a return to normalcy?

First and foremost: Thank you. From the #ThankYouNH posts to the purple ribbons tied around your mailboxes – we see you and we thank you. We understand this is a time of stress and uncertainty for many in our communities. This new normal is not easy, with social and economic impacts being felt deeply by many. Yet, staying-at-home, if and when you can, and practicing physical distancing is quite literally saving lives. It’s helping to ensure that those who do get sick, and not just with the coronavirus, will be able to get the care they need. So when you’re getting a little stir crazy, just try to remember why it is we’re doing what we’re doing, together, and I encourage all of us to hang in there. 

If at the end of this we look back and see that the number of cases and deaths are lower than the models predicted, that’s a good thing. It means the policies put in place and the actions taken by our communities worked to beat the coronavirus. This was not for nothing.

Where can the community go to find more resources to support your efforts or learn more about what you are doing?

At Novant Health, we are humbled by the outpouring of support from our community in our fight against the coronavirus outbreak. So many people – from all over – are reaching out to see how they can contribute and, truly, no contribution is too small. To support our efforts, visit novanthealth.org/giving. 

For up-to-date information and resources, visit novanthealth.org/coronavirus. I also encourage everyone to visit healthyheadlines.org where you’ll find truly remarkable stories about our team members who are fighting this virus on the frontlines. You can also join the conversation by following @NovantHealth on your social channels.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.novanthealth.org/

 

 

South Jersey and Philadelphia transition into online learning

South Jersey and Philadelphia transition into online learning

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read April 2020 —Jefferson Health is a multistate, nonprofit health system, including teaching hospitals, centered in Philadelphia. CEO Dr. Stephen Klasko details how earlier actions helped its hospitals get ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of preparation. Klasko also outlines the actions he would like to see from the state and federal governments to deal with the fallout from the pandemic.

What accommodations have you made to handle the influx of patients due to the COVID-19 outbreak? 

No one was totally ready for this pandemic, but Jefferson Health – all 14 hospitals – had a head start in preparing because of two initiatives. More than 10 years ago, Jefferson infectious disease doctor Edward Jasper started leading pandemic drills, and he stockpiled a supply of PPEs (personal protective equipment). In fact, we even sent PPEs to New York City in the early days of the crisis. Second, in 2014, we invested heavily in telehealth, launching JeffConnect, which immediately connects patients by video-call to an emergency department physician. As a result, we didn’t have to rebuild our system when calls went from 50 a day to more than 3,000 a day. Telehealth handled the first wave of the crisis, allowing us to support COVID-19 patients at home, as well as help thousands of people who were sick but not with COVID-19.

How are you working to ensure that patients and healthcare professionals alike are maintaining a safe environment?

Jefferson Health moved very quickly to a “universal masking” policy, requiring all staff to wear masks at work, even if their patients were COVID-negative. We were one of the first hospital systems to adopt universal masking, exactly to ensure we protect our own staff. We were in close contact with our colleagues in Italy, who told us that proper protection for staff dramatically cuts transmission within a hospital. 

Because we were prepared, we are able to allow a loved one to attend our patients during end of life situations, even for COVID-positive patients. We even allow a loved one to attend labor and delivery for a birth. This requires a full procedure of having a nurse escort to attend the loved one. We did this because of the long-term psychological trauma of unresolved grief when families are unable to say goodbye in person. 

How can the community best assist the local healthcare providers in this time of need?

The first answer is the critical one: Do not spread the illness. Our frontline staff are working horrendous hours attempting to save the lives of vulnerable patients. They are isolating themselves from their own children and families in order not to spread the virus. Do not increase their already heavy workload by getting sick yourself. 

But there are also vulnerable populations who need our help. The virus is disproportionately hitting places of congregate living – that includes retirement homes and communities. It is disproportionately hitting people who are poor. And the consequences of staying home are hitting people with medical needs all across society, from uninsured women who cannot get prenatal care, to older people on dialysis. In each case, there is specific advice, which may just be to give money to help not-for-profits that are providing assistance to the poor. 

What is your message to the local community that is sheltering in place and waiting for a return to normalcy?

Many of us are concerned that people with urgent medical issues are delaying treatment plans, not collecting medications, not seeking help. Please tell your family and friends: Do not delay getting help for cardiac and stroke issues. Do not delay taking medications. Stay on your cancer treatment regimen, and if you have the opportunity to join an advanced protocol or clinical trial, you should do that. Very important: Use telehealth to get mental health support if you need it. It may take more work today than it did last year, but please get the help you need. 

Do you feel you are receiving enough state and federal support and what more is needed? 

I believe Congress should immediately convene a COVID Commission along the lines of the 9/11 Commission – it is that serious. We need immediate changes to policy to enhance innovation to fight the immediate threat, but we also need to review the financial implications of this fight for hospitals, and we need to figure out how to ensure the next pandemic doesn’t create a health and economic crisis of this magnitude. On my list of things we need: Immediate access to the internet for all citizens, not just those who can afford a data plan. We need the federal government to lead preparation for surge capacity for intensive care, responding to any crisis. We need to prepare to offer health insurance after massive layoffs. And we need to evaluate the ethics of how we pay for healthcare to ensure equity for disadvantaged communities. 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.jeffersonhealth.org/index.html

https://www.jefferson.edu/

Spotlight On: Gregory Sorensen, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Tower Health

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read April 2020 — Tower Health is a regional, integrated healthcare provider/payer system that oversees six acute care hospitals and other entities serving 2.5 million people. Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Gregory Sorensen told Invest: what Tower is doing to handle the influx of COVID-19 patients, the community’s role in fighting the virus and his message to the community.

What accommodations is your hospital making to handle the influx of patients due to the COVID-19 outbreak? 

We monitor our bed capacity hourly. The elimination of elective surgeries and the general decline in routine demand for care has reduced normal bed demand and is freeing up beds for possible use by COVID-19 patients. We will also coordinate bed capacity among Tower hospitals.

How is your hospital working to ensure that patients and healthcare professionals alike are maintaining a safe environment?

Safety for our employees and patients is our top priority. Like other healthcare providers, Tower Health is working very hard to manage and conserve our supplies of masks, eye protection, disinfecting wipes, gowns, and other materials related to controlling the spread of COVID-19. Our normal production sources and distribution channels have been interrupted, just as they have for every hospital in the country. While our inventories are not at normal levels, with careful management we believe we can meet current needs. We are working to acquire additional supply. We are implementing a number of strategies, including sharing supplies across Tower Health facilities; gathering supplies from shuttered outpatient clinical areas and getting them to the hospitals; and identifying alternative sources for supplies. 

How can the community best assist local healthcare providers in this time of need?

We have been gratified by the many offers from area businesses, organizations, and individuals to donate supplies and we are accepting contributions of specific items. More information is available on our web site.

What would your message be to the local community that is sheltering in place and waiting for a return to normalcy?

We encourage all members of the public to adhere to the guidance of the governor and the PA Department of Health on sheltering at home, practicing social distancing and practicing infection prevention. These steps will reduce the spread of COVID-19, which protects the community and helps ensure the safety of our healthcare team and the patients relying on us for care. Our team at Tower Health is committed and prepared to care for our communities through this pandemic. The public can contribute meaningfully to this effort by remaining at home to prevent the spread of the virus.  

Do you feel you are receiving enough state and federal support for items you are in need of? What can these entities be doing better? 

Our public health officials at the local, state and federal levels are working hard to keep the public safe during an unprecedented situation. We support their efforts and are grateful for their dedication, perseverance and leadership. 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.towerhealth.org/

Taking the lead: Atrium Health mobilizes to combat COVID-19

Taking the lead: Atrium Health mobilizes to combat COVID-19

By: Felipe Rivas

Executive Vice President and Chief Physician Executive Scott Rissmiller details Atrium Health’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak

Charlotte, often described as the crown jewel for economic activity in North Carolina, has been greatly impacted by COVID-19. Located in Mecklenburg County, the city known for its bustling business district and active nightlife, has embraced the various shelter-in-place measures ordered by state and local governments. Atrium Health, the county’s largest employer, is a not-for-profit that operates hospitals, free-standing emergency departments and urgent care centers. The health system has taken the lead in handling the impact of the coronavirus by anticipating the impact of the pandemic and making the needed adjustments to treat the residents of Mecklenburg County and beyond. Executive Vice President and Chief Physician Executive Scott Rissmiller details Atrium Health’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, including its innovative use of “virtual hospitals.”

What accommodations is Atrium Health making to handle the influx of patients due to the COVID-19 outbreak? 

While these are unprecedented times, we have had pandemics before and we prepare for them continuously. When we first saw that COVID-19 would become an issue in the United States, we immediately began mobilizing our teams to get us ready with extra supplies, develop alternate staffing plans and make accommodations for needed space. 

One of the more innovative ways we’re doing that is the Atrium Health COVID-19 Virtual Hospital. Patients whose condition allows for it can be given some mobile monitoring equipment, which allows them to remain in the comfort of their own home. We can still keep tabs on all of their vitals and have frequent touch points with them, just as we would if they were in the hospital itself. This goes a long way toward preventing additional spread, conserving personal protective equipment and freeing up additional bed space. 

We stopped doing non-essential surgeries a few weeks ago, which has also enabled us to reallocate staffing and free up additional space. All in all, we’ve identified ways to expand our patient capacity by roughly 50 percent, as we anticipate a surge of patients in April and May, which is why the stay at home directives are so important for people to observe. 

How can the community best assist the local healthcare providers in this time of need?

At Atrium Health, we have received such an outpouring of support during this pandemic. People are lining up to help make masks; they’re developing new innovations to solve problems, like using 3D printers to create face shields or repurposing a brewery to make hand sanitizer. It’s truly inspiring. We need more blood donations. Food donations are appreciated. There are many ideas about how people can be part of the community-wide effort to combat COVID-19 on our website.

Probably the biggest thing that every man, woman and child can do for us is to stay home; follow the stay at home directives. What we don’t want to see is the hospital systems in our area becoming overwhelmed with patients. The “flatten the curve” principles are absolutely what’s needed to keep the numbers of patients more manageable. This also gives us more time to see if there are medicines or vaccines that are found to be effective, and it’s possible that summertime weather may also be able to help slow down the spread. We don’t know that yet, but we believe it’s in everyone’s best interests to limit the spread now to give us the best chance to get things back under control and return to whatever normal may look like going forward. 

What would your message be to the local community that is sheltering in place and waiting for a return to normalcy?

First and foremost – do it. Please. The shelter in place has to apply to everyone for it to work. You may not get sick, or maybe get a mild case, but the person you infect may not be so lucky. That’s true even if you’ve touched something and then open the door at the grocery store. The grandmother who comes in right after you may pick up the virus from what you last touched. This virus spreads very easily, so avoid going out in public unless it’s absolutely necessary and, as simplistic as it sounds, wash your hands often. It works. 

Finally, if you are in medical distress, call 9-1-1. But if you are feeling ill, try a virtual visit before going to the hospital. It avoids you spreading what you have and helps prevent you from catching something else. If you have any type of respiratory illness and need to be seen in person at a clinic, urgent care or the emergency room, please call ahead so the healthcare workers can be ready to best assist you and limit your exposure to others. 

 

 

Spotlight On:  Babette Hankey, President & CEO, Aspire Health Partners

Spotlight On: Babette Hankey, President & CEO, Aspire Health Partners

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read April 2020 — Aspire Health Partners is Florida’s largest behavioral health nonprofit. Here, President and CEO Babette Hankey discusses the organization’s surge planning and its efforts to ensure the safety of its workforce in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak that has gripped the world. 

What accommodations is your system making to handle the influx of patients due to the COVID-19 outbreak? 

We have established Surge Plans for all of our campuses, and have made sure that every campus, team member, and individual unit is trained, prepared and equipped to absorb any surge of patients we may experience. We have isolation capacity on every unit and have identified additional units that can be used if necessary. We are also partnering with others within the community for contingency planning. 

 

How is Aspire Health working to ensure that patients and healthcare professionals alike are maintaining a safe environment?

The health, well-being and safety of our patients and team members are of paramount importance. We have established a single point of access for each of our facilities. We are screening everyone that enters, and only patients receiving services and staff providing those services are allowed access to our facilities. Additionally, we have initiated tele-health, tele-medicine, tele-group and tele-visit services throughout our system of care wherever appropriate to maintain social and physical distancing. We have established enhanced Infection Control processes and have established daily updates that are communicated to all staff.   Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is provided to our staff when warranted and as new information is released from the WHO, the CDC and the DOH protocols are updated as necessary.   

 

How can the community best assist the local healthcare providers in this time of need?

Obviously, stay at home, practice standard precautions, and don’t go out (self-quarantine) if you are sick or have any symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu. It is important that we all stay connected for maintaining positive mental health.  Call your family, friends and neighbors and check on them. Make the connection, even if it can’t be physical. Let them know you care. Listen to them. If you begin to experience problems, physical or emotional, reach out to your healthcare provider or to a company like Aspire that has trained professionals 24/7 to assist with anxiety, depression and other feelings of despair. Aspire has a dedicated COVID-19 line for people to call: 407.875-3700 and push 2. Together, we will get through this.

 

What would your message be to the local community that is sheltering in place and waiting for a return to normalcy?

First and most importantly, I encourage all those who can to please stay home and adhere to the stay at home orders issued by our governor. If we all adhere to that, we can flatten the curve.  Secondly, stay informed, but don’t obsess on the news coverage. Take care of yourself, your family and your neighbors, both physically and emotionally. Take time to de-stress by walking, exercising and spending time with your family, while ensuring that all CDC guidelines of social distancing are being followed. We are all in this together and we will get through this together. We will be a stronger community in the end.

 

Do you feel you are receiving enough state and federal support for items you are in need of? What can the state and federal governments be doing better in this regard?

The state and federal government are doing their best to assist. We understand that this is something we have never seen before and are learning together in these unprecedented times.  While resources are limited, all levels of government have demonstrated a high level of commitment to ensuring that all available resources are tapped and committed to this effort. Our greatest challenge, which is nationwide, is having adequate PPE for our front-line healthcare workers. Our community is responding by making masks for our team members, for which we are forever grateful. As we see increased cases and have to quarantine our staff and patients, we are looking at ways to have a healthy workforce so that we can continue to meet the needs of some of our most vulnerable citizens at a time when they need us the most. 

 

It is imperative that we fight this as a united front and recognize the efforts that are being made throughout our nation as we navigate through these uncharted times. It is important that our leaders acknowledge the public’s heightened level of anxiety, provide reassurance and consistent messaging.  Prioritizing getting supplies, getting people well, back to their daily lives and back to work is our common goal and working together, as communities, states and a nation we will achieve this. The efforts at hand are about saving lives and coming together for a healthy and stronger community and nation.  

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://aspirehealthpartners.com/

Spotlight On: Reginald Blaber, Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer, Virtua Health

Spotlight On: Reginald Blaber, Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer, Virtua Health

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read April 2020 — Virtua Health is an award-winning nonprofit health system that provides a complete spectrum of advanced and accessible healthcare services. Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer Reginald Blaber discusses the efforts at Virtua’s hospitals to fight the COVID-19 outbreak, including the formation of a dedicated team to battle the pandemic.

 

What accommodations are your hospitals making to handle the influx of patients due to the COVID-19 outbreak? 

Virtua Health has formed a team representing all divisions of our workforce that is dedicated to preparing for and responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. As a comprehensive healthcare system with more than 280 locations, Virtua has considerable flexibility in our ability to re-allocate resources. 

 

Virtua’s ICU footprint is likely to grow in the weeks ahead. We have close to 1,500 licensed beds among our five hospitals, and we are examining various configurations to ensure we can meet the need as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow. 

 

Virtua has also created temporary respiratory triage centers to support three of its emergency departments (ED). These centers are not specifically for testing for COVID-19, but help triage people who present to the ED with symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough, sore throat or fever. Two of these centers are in tents outside Virtua Memorial and Virtua Voorhees hospitals. The auditorium inside Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital has been repurposed for this function, as well. Additional triage centers may be established at other Virtua sites, as needed. 

How is your system working to ensure that patients and healthcare professionals alike are maintaining a safe environment?

Virtua’s many classes and programs have migrated to online formats. This includes bariatric support, prenatal education and our cancer survivorship series. We believe it is vital to keep connected with our community, even if we can’t be in the same room. 

 

Of course, many hospital departments and services must carry on regardless of the virus. Virtua maintains its commitment to support all people who turn to us for care. As an example, we will still deliver dozens of babies every week, but we have established new protocols to help ensure those families have a safe, personalized and positive experience.

 

Given the widespread transmission of COVID-19 in our community and the many unknowns about this new virus, we have begun providing a face mask for all Virtua colleagues – clinical and nonclinical – working in our hospitals, patient care settings and physician offices. This includes our home-care providers. We hope that by making face masks available to every employee, we can alleviate some of the anxiety among both our staff and patients. 

 

Virtua’s supply chain team has worked tirelessly with both our traditional vendors and new connections to ensure sufficient supplies of masks and other PPE. Virtua has also received donated supplies from area businesses, which is greatly appreciated. We recognize that the supplies of masks and other PPE remain finite, and we are committed to being good stewards of these vital resources.

How can the community best assist the local healthcare providers in this time of need?

The best thing people can do for local healthcare providers is to help slow the spread of the virus. Therefore, we implore everyone to follow all the recommended precautions, including staying home and social distancing, abiding by travel restrictions, and keeping at least six feet or more from those you encounter. Also, make sure to wash your hands frequently, especially when returning home from outside, or use hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable. 

 

Virtua Health also asks the people of South Jersey to identify ways they can support the healthcare workers in their lives, such as assisting with chores or meal preparation. However, please be sure to remain physically distant (at least six feet apart) when providing such assistance. For instance, you could prepare a meal in your own home, and then leave it on the healthcare worker’s front porch. 

What would your message be to the local community that is sheltering in place and waiting for a return to normalcy?  

We would tell our community to remain calm and to know that by staying home, they help to improve the overall outcome of this crisis. In a time when the world beyond the front door feels out of control, it’s important to take things day by day and focus on the things you can control.

Do you feel you are receiving enough state and federal support for items you are in need of? What can the state and federal governments be doing better in this regard? 

Collaboration is essential during this national crisis, and Virtua Health is an active participant in the conversations happening on local, regional and state levels. No one could rightly say they were completely prepared for this outbreak, but as a health system, we maintain long-standing plans for 

disasters and emergencies, including pandemics. Our employees have trained for these scenarios, and they have demonstrated that they are prepared to guide our community through difficult and complicated times. They are often thought of as heroes, and I can’t think of a better word to describe them.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

www.virtua.org/

Spotlight On: Dixieanne James, President & COO, Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia

Spotlight On: Dixieanne James, President & COO, Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read April 2020 — Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia is part of the Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, a nonprofit organization operating in the state of Pennsylvania. President and COO Dixieanne James discussed Einstein’s actions during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the network’s effort to ensure a safe environment and what the community can do to help during this time of crisis.

 

What accommodations is Einstein making to handle the influx of patients due to the COVID-19 outbreak?

Einstein activated our Incident Command Center very early in this outbreak and worked quickly to develop protocols around patient care, procurement of personal protective equipment and employee health among many others. During our work related to COVID-19, we have designated COVID-19-specific care units; developed detailed surge plans that include identifying and converting procedural areas into inpatient acute capacity, including short procedure units (SPU), post-anesthesia recovery area (PACU, Cath lab, endoscopy), cross training and redeploying staffing, including nursing, physicians and clinical technicians, and emergency department rapid assessment plans with additional surge tent capacity; installation of several additional negative pressure rooms; advanced renting and purchasing of additional equipment, including beds, monitors and ventilators; expanding to the extent possible PPE inventory (gloves, gowns, masks); and investing in new equipment and infrastructure to perform in-hospital COVID-19 l testing capacities.

How is the network working to ensure that patients and healthcare professionals alike are maintaining a safe environment?

We have established several policies to help ensure the safest environment possible for our staff and patients. These include: no visitor policy; all employee facemask policy with continually evolving guidelines; daily temperature screening for all visitors and staff; employee and patient COVID-19 testing in our practices; ongoing and real-time adjustment to practice/care recommendations based on guidance and safety updates from CDC and DOH; and additional cleaning, disinfecting and wipe downs in high traffic areas. 

How can the community best assist local healthcare providers in this time of need?

First, we ask that everyone stay home and stay healthy. Social distancing is critically important to help bend the curve.  We also encourage everyone to donate PPE when possible and look for opportunities to give blood through the Red Cross.

What is your message to the local community that is sheltering in place and waiting for things to return to normalcy?

We all have a big part to play.  The community’s part is to continue to stay home while our caregivers work each day to provide care to those in need. If we all do our part, we’ll get through this together and normalcy will return. We are incredibly resilient but it’s important that we wait until we can safely return things to normal. 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.einstein.edu/