Photo by Kelly Sikkema | Unsplash
Like many other health care executives in the US this past March, Anthony Petrick, MD, had to oversee the suspension of non-emergency surgeries and procedures to focus on treating COVID-19 patients. Now, facing the monumental challenge of restarting non-COVID care, Petrick, the Chief Quality Officer for Inpatient Services at the Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, is using a data-driven approach to carefully determine how, when, and what kind of care to resume:
“There’s no one-size-fits-all [plan] for the country,” he says, “and Pennsylvania is the same way.”
Nearly 600 health care professionals around the world heard Petrick describe Geisinger’s stepwise approach to safely restarting more of their services and operations during IHI’s latest Virtual Learning Hour, COVID-19 and Reopening Health Care.
The organization has been using differences in the prevalence of COVID-19 throughout Pennsylvania to direct their planning. For example, the state mandated that they hold off on resuming elective surgeries until the data indicated sustained reductions in the rate of new COVID-19 cases for at least 14 days. (As of the end of May, Geisinger had waited and watched a downward trend of cases for about four to five weeks without yet restarting non-emergency surgeries.) Since parts of their health system border New York and New Jersey — states that had some of the highest COVID-19 rates in the US — as well as rural areas that reported very few cases, planning to resume elective surgeries has been complicated. It has required customization and consultation with others outside their health system. In addition to local data, Geisinger is following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and multiple medical societies.
“We have to be ready for both zero new cases and a similar or more significant outbreak,” he said.
Geisinger developed their own set of guiding principles for dealing with COVID-19:
Petrick repeatedly emphasized the importance of ongoing, open communication as their organization’s response to COVID-19 evolves. For Geisinger, this has included health system town halls that connected the CEO with the entire staff. They have also relied on their social media channels to communicate with the public.
Petrick also encouraged his fellow health care professionals to make this moment a chance to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic and make improvements that go beyond the current public health crisis. “We’re never going to have another opportunity like this to do things better,” he said.
Now, Petrick urged, is the time to develop a repository to catalog what went wrong in their coronavirus preparation and response and what they learned to do more effectively or efficiently that may be worth continuing.
“Every system has to look at their opportunities [for improvement],” said Petrick.
To learn about Geisinger’s other recommendations (including their tiered approach to restarting surgeries), watch and listen to the full Virtual Learning Hour. Learn more about IHI’s special series of weekly COVID-19 Virtual Learning Hours.
(Having difficulty hearing this excerpt? Watch on YouTube.)
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Virtual Learning Hour — COVID-19: The Other Side of the Curve
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More COVID-19 Guidance and Resource