COVID-19: How Vituity Responded and Why it Matters
The late Thurgood Marshall once said, “The measure of a country’s greatness is its ability to retain compassion in time of crisis.” As I reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic and the way that healthcare workers across the country have responded, no other sentiment rings truer.
National shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), test kits, ventilators, and treatment space have pushed our healthcare system to the limits. Physical exhaustion from long hours, the emotional toll of caring for acutely ill patients, and the fear of exposure to self and family members have tested clinicians in ways they would never have dreamed of. And yet throughout this crisis, I continue to be inspired by the compassion on display, particularly across the organization that I feel privileged to lead.
With an operating model driven by physician leaders, Vituity is in a unique position to lead the management of this epidemic in hospitals across the nation in ways that keep our focus on patients and frontline clinicians. I am so proud to share just a few of the ways our clinicians have led during this crisis.
As the coronavirus patient surge became a reality for the United States, Vituity’s Chief Medical Officer, Gregg Miller, MD, jumped into action using internal communication platforms to share the latest medical updates, safety protocols, and best practices on the management of COVID-19 patients. In addition to delivering broad acute care education, Gregg also tasked our critical care doctors with training Vituity internists, emergency physicians, and family physicians to care for intubated or otherwise critical patients in the event of a surge.
By connecting our national network of clinicians through webinars and online forums, we were able to quickly learn about issues experienced from the practice sites that were hit hardest and share those learnings for the benefits of other practice locations throughout the country. This type of transparency comes naturally to the partnership, where innovations are shared so everyone can grow. We have also shared much of this guidance publicly.
As the nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) became evident, we deployed an internal team to source donations from local businesses. Nearly 100 members of our non-clinical team –from recruiters and project managers to executive assistants and practice administrators –created a system to identify practice locations with less than a one-week supply of critical PPE and get them the needed resources by reaching out to local businesses for donations. In the past two months, this team has facilitated the distribution of over 175,000 pieces of PPE.
In addition to physical protection, we also protect our clinicians financially. We created a Vituity Caring Fund to support providers who became ill and those placed under work restrictions due to potential coronavirus exposure. As shift-based workers on the frontline, our livelihoods are dependent on our ability to work. This fund has provided financial grants to Vituity physicians and advanced providers.
Like many health systems across the country, we have also experienced a steep decline in patient volumes. The physician leaders at local practices have been forced to make difficult decisions to reduce shifts based on volumes and financials, affecting our providers’ incomes. Again, Vituity has stepped up to provide support loans, payroll advances, and telehealth work opportunities to offset some of the financial impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic on the healthcare sector.
Partnering with hospital leaders, Vituity Medical Directors created surge plans for emergency departments, inpatient teams, intensive care units, counties, and entire health systems. From creating drive-through emergency department triage and adding capacity through tents to staffing entirely new hospitals, our clinicians have led the planning for every eventuality.
Supporting our local teams, we also put a plan in place that would allow us to surge clinicians to locations more heavily impacted by the pandemic–ensuring patients and hospitals have the clinical expertise needed on the ground. Vituity’s credentialing team quickly expedited paperwork, ensuring teams have the backup they need as soon as they’re needed.
Rapid Expansion of Telehealth
In just the first four weeks after the national emergency was declared, Vituity launched30 ED, inpatient, and ICU telehealth programs; created a national telehealth platform with 1,000+ ED physicians; and delivered 15,000+ safe and effective patient visits. By cultivating a culture that empowers front-line clinicians to champion new approaches to care delivery, we quickly expanded our telehealth capabilities to extend the reach of our clinicians during this challenging time. These processes decrease risks of exposure and help extend PPE supplies, while also ensuring patients get timely and effective care.
Serving and Learning at the Epicenter
Finally, one of the initiatives I am most proud of is the delegation of Vituity physicians who raised their hand to deploy to New York City. In response to a call from the office of California Governor Gavin Newsom, Vituity put together a team of over 40 physicians to deploy to New York City in under a week. Fourteen Vituity physicians are currently working in New York, and we expect to send additional clinicians if they are still needed. Key to this effort is not only the support we have provided to some of the hardest-hit hospitals in New York City, but also the learnings the team will bring back to Vituity and practice locations nationwide. From their insights, I have heard about 7-person proning teams, new evidence that delaying intubation may be beneficial, and some best practices for supporting teams faced with overwhelming numbers of patients. Our team will share their report with the California Governor’s Office, their fellow Vituity clinicians, and clinical teams across California and the country. These learnings will be invaluable as we all reflect and plan for an uncertain future.
At Vituity, it’s our culture of caring that is the essence of how we come together in times of joy and hardship. We take care of one another with uplifting support and camaraderie. Our team has been sharing some of these stories on social media with #VituityStrong. I encourage you to follow them and share your own stories of #healthcareheroes.
I want close by thanking all members of the Vituity family and the provider teams we have worked with across the country, from the clinical frontlines to the incredible management and support behind them. We truly are stronger together, thanks to all of you.