Posts by madisol

Even as Communities Open Up, Keep Your Distance

Posted on May 27, 2020 in Safety, Scroll Images

It may have felt re-energizing to see and hear many Americans gathering at beaches, pools, parks and other public places this past Memorial Day weekend, but health experts caution others to not let their guard down.

“As communities across Northern California start to reopen, we need to remember that COVID-19 hasn’t stopped being infectious,” said Conrad Vial, M.D., chief clinical officer for Sutter Health. “We can’t undermine the physical distancing measures that have been implemented and the impact they have had on slowing the spread of the virus.”

Protecting Yourself, Loved Ones and Friends

Now more than ever, Northern Californians need to remain vigilant about their safety and their health. Bill Isenberg, M.D., Ph.D., Sutter Health’s chief quality and safety officer, shares these important reminders:

• Limit gatherings of any kind. Now is still not the time for parties or potlucks, but virtual gatherings continue to be a viable option.

• Be mindful of your physical space. Always practice physical distancing and stay at least six feet away from others.

• Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

• Wear a face covering or mask when inside public buildings and businesses.

Preventative Services Get Back on Track

Posted on May 12, 2020 in Scroll Images

Providers and patients reconnect for healthcare support during COVID-19

As California begins cautious steps to resume day-to-day life in the state amid the ongoing concerns of COVID-19, essential services like healthcare are signaling changes of their own.

After weeks of planning, the Sutter Health network has begun expanding clinical services for preventative care and those with medically necessary, time-sensitive procedures and appointment needs in the locations supported by local guidance and public health orders.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us a lot and reinforces that our health is precious. We need to do everything we can to protect it,” said Theresa Frei, CEO of Sutter Valley Medical Foundation. “As we begin our phased approach to reopening, we encourage people to take advantage of the summer months to focus on preventative services to promote their best health now.”

Medically necessary, time-sensitive procedures for many people include mammograms, colonoscopies and skin exams. These services complement other ongoing offerings including vaccinations and well-baby visits. Sutter’s expanded clinical services will also help patients with chronic or complex diagnoses like diabetes or high blood-pressure resume needed care that can’t always be managed from afar. Preventative care helps keep chronic health issues from becoming something emergent or acute.

Sutter Health has taken careful steps to make clinics safe and patients feel welcome upon returning to network care centers. Sutter has adopted universal masking for staff and patients, set up temperature check stations for staff, increased frequency of cleanings and moved furniture to promote physical distancing in waiting rooms. Patients with worrisome symptoms are seen in special clinics to where there are added safety measures for staff and patients.

Digital documentation and check-in options are also available for Sutter patients, which helps cut down on wait-times and get patients into exam rooms more quickly. EZ-Arrival lets patients provide and verify check-in information in the safety of their homes. Hello Patient uses GPS to detect when patients have arrived at a Sutter facility. Patients simply tap on the arrival button on their mobile device to indicate they are ready to be seen. Both services are available to patients who are signed up for Sutter’s online patient portal, My Health Online.

“This safety-first approach helps us support patient needs while allowing us to continually monitor personal protective equipment and testing capability to ensure we can provide care safely and remain prepared for a surge should the number of COVID-19 patients begin to increase again,” said Conrad Vial, M.D., chief clinical officer for Sutter Health. “We are confident that we can broaden our clinical services and still maintain surge readiness.”

Video visits remain an option for patients who have routine care needs. Urgent care clinics and hospital emergency departments across Sutter Health’s integrated network also are open and provide care beyond the pandemic. Clinical teams are trained and equipped to care for patients while protecting them along with staff.

“We know that patients who have medical problems that are not well-controlled, such as diabetes or hypertension, are more likely to fare poorly with any other infection including COVID-19. Regular attention to our well-being is one of the best investments we can make in ourselves,” said Lizz Vilardo, M.D., CEO of Sutter Bay Medical Foundation. “We are here to support our communities so they can safely and confidently reengage with their healthcare providers.”

Healthcare Acts in Creative Ways to Help Impacted Staff

Posted on Apr 30, 2020 in People, Scroll Images

COVID-19 continues to raise questions about the future and what the next phase or new “normal” may look like. Those working in healthcare are not immune to these issues, but employers and employees are responding in creative and compassionate ways to help impacted workers feel supported in a time with many unknowns.

Regroup. Then Retrain.

Hospitals and healthcare systems in California continue their preparations for a potential surge of COVID-19 patients. Those preparations have caused a shift in clinical operations and changes in workflows—even as systems are discussing resuming some procedures and services through a phased, safety-first approach.

Where does this leave employees today?

At Sutter Health, operating room personnel, surgery center staff and others have been given the opportunity for reassignment and redeployment to different areas of its integrated network depending on where they may be needed. And hundreds of them have raised their hands to volunteer.

Joey Benton

‘Motivational Surge’

Meet Joey Benton. She’s been a surgical nurse for the past 20 years currently based at Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital (SSRRH). She completed a cross-training online course to learn the ins and outs of medical charting for medical-surgical units. Since wading into the labor pool, she has been shadowing and supporting those unit nurses caring for patients. She’s been assisting by programming IV pumps, giving medications or conducting advanced wound care. She even takes shifts as a temperature checker at the hospital entrance, a measure Sutter has put in place to protect the health and safety of patients and staff.

Benton said the experience has been beneficial in more ways than one.

“It increases my motivation to learn more, to be more proactive and jump into situations where I may not be as comfortable. I feel a huge motivational surge,” she said. “Sutter is really investing in us. It doesn’t stop at nurses, either. It includes nursing assistants to EVS. If Sutter is willing to train us and support us, that’s everything we can ask for.”

Seventy-five percent of the Sutter nurses who volunteered for redeployment have been retrained to support key areas like medical-surgical units and intensive care units. Training is hosted at Sutter Health University in Sacramento by registered nurses who are trained clinical education specialists.

Groups of 10 worked together in the simulation education lab. The teams put in lots of good practice—and not just with the equipment. They respected appropriate social distancing, wore masks and followed hand hygiene and proper equipment cleaning protocols.

By the Numbers

• There are more than a 1,000 nurses throughout the network who have been retrained on our electronic health record or on how to support our COVID-19 hotline.

• Additionally, there are more than 1,300 doctors and advanced practice clinicians who have been retrained to support video visits for patients with primary care needs.

• While retraining is ongoing, the Technology Training Team that supported this work was able to do the bulk of it in less than two weeks.

Hundreds of Sutter Health employees have donated their own PTO hours into a leave sharing program and money into a philanthropic disaster relief fund – options aimed at helping their fellow employees facing financial hardship.

“Sutter Health values our entire workforce. While circumstances have changed within our network, we’ve seen an incredible response from employees raising their hands to be retrained, as well as helping each other by donating money and PTO hours,” said Jill Ragsdale, chief people and culture officer for Sutter Health. “If we are unable to redeploy staff who are willing to work, we have a wage and benefit continuation program in place to continue to support them.”

Did You Know?

Sutter Health is supporting staff in other ways, too. Sutter is collaborating with the likes of the newly launched Airbnb Work, Outdoorsy and Aimbridge Hospitality to help front line health care workers and doctors find temporary lodging around hospitals where they may be relocated to support.

What Does a PPE Push Look Like?

Posted on Apr 29, 2020 in Safety, Scroll Images

Chris Bell, a part of Sutter’s Supply Chain team, moves at a quick pace within the warehouse to add to the next shipment of PPE for delivery to Sutter network hospitals.

Hospitals and care centers across the U.S. count on important pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies for staff to help keep themselves and patients safe and protected. But how does it ultimately end up in the hands of those who need it–especially as questions about access and availability still exist?

See hard-working team members from Sutter Health’s Supply Chain in action at their warehouse in Sacramento, and during deliveries to California Pacific Medical Center Van Ness Campus in San Francisco, Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame and Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento.

Overall PPE demand has risen since Sutter’s launch of universal masking to help prevent viral spread, as well as our support other medical clinics in the community—sharing much-needed supplies when possible.

Sutter Health has evaluated more than 550 new suppliers of PPE during the last month. Due to the diligent and focused efforts of Sutter’s supply chain team, the integrated healthcare network has had some successes in the past few weeks, including:

  • Purchasing an additional 245,000 N95s above our standard delivery levels
  • Ordering 14 million surgical and procedure masks
  • Obtaining 2 million-plus isolation gowns
  • Coordinating with a linen vendor to secure 12,000 reusable gowns
  • Ordering more than 300,000 face shields
  • Receiving more than 200,000 donated gowns, face shields and masks, including N95s, surgical and procedure masks

Standing Tall Against the Surge

Posted on Apr 15, 2020 in Scroll Images

California Governor Gavin Newsom recently unveiled a guide outlining when and how California may lift various coronavirus restrictions based on a set of six criteria, including hospitals’ ability to handle any potential COVID-19 patient surges. However, Newsom cautioned against moving too fast, saying “we can’t get ahead of ourselves.”

While social distancing guidelines and sheltering in place orders appear to be helping flatten the curve in California, we don’t know whether recently reported holiday gatherings for Passover or Easter that were outside these guidelines, may cause spikes in COVID-19 cases.

Integrated healthcare networks—like Sutter Health—have built-in support mechanisms that will help the network respond and take care of patients.

“We chose healthcare because we want to make a difference in the lives of others,” said Conrad Vial, M.D., chief clinical officer for Sutter Health. “We have the privilege of doing this every day but it is even more apparent during this extraordinary time in our history. Everyone in our network is prepared to serve patients and our communities.”

Integrated networks like Sutter Health allow teams to shift quickly so hardest-hit areas can receive the necessary resources like personal protective equipment, ventilators and beds. Sutter’s surge planning efforts will allow the network to expand its critical care capacity by two to three times. This is thanks in part to having the access to the best-available statistical models and the benefit of lessons learned in areas experiencing high rates of COVID-19 including Italy, New York, Singapore and South Korea. For example, Sutter’s surge plan doubles its current ICU capacity through that the use of operating rooms, post-anesthesia care units and other spaces. While all 24 hospitals are capable of taking care of COVID-19 patients, it will also focus the first phase of critical care capacity at its six largest facilities: Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, Memorial Medical Center in Modesto, Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame as well Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento and Sutter Roseville Medical Center.

Sutter’s electronic intensive care unit (eICU) allows for monitoring a large number of critical care patients from a single location. The expansive telemonitoring program ensures intensive care unit patients in large cities and small towns have 24/7 access to a team of doctors and nurses specially trained in the care of ICU patients. From two central hubs, in Sacramento and San Francisco, these doctors and nurses help to monitor patients in intensive care units hundreds of miles away, using live interactive video, remote diagnostic tools and other specialized technologies to assess critical changes in a patient’s condition.

Supported by a comprehensive electronic health record, clinicians within the Sutter network can access vital information to care for 3 million patients. Similar to its ability during recent wildfires, Sutter can fill prescriptions, reschedule appointments and keep vital chemotherapy infusions on track, to ensure continuity of care for all our patients, even in the middle of a patient surge.

Additionally, to prepare for a surge of COVID-19 positive patients Sutter has:

• Postponed elective surgeries that can be safely postponed to free up supplies, staff and space;
• Increased supplies of PPE and essential equipment like ventilators;
• Set up surge tents to treat respiratory patients away from the general population;
• Created a COVID-19-specific advice line—1-866-961-2889— to triage patients before they’re seen in person;
• Increased video visit capacity to prevent sick patients from infecting other patients and staff;
• Established drive-through testing for patients who have a doctor’s order and meet criteria for testing;
• Utilized Sutter’s internal labor staffing pool, retraining employees and bringing in more advanced practice clinicians and travel nurses to support staffing needs; and
• Supported remote radiology so Sutter radiologists may interpret studies from home, increasing timeliness and access to imaging services. This can be especially helpful as critically ill patients may require chest CT scans.

“Our Sutter teams have devoted countless hours toward the rapidly changing environment this pandemic has created and we will continue to respond effectively and compassionately,” said Dr. Vial. “While we can’t predict the exact path of COVID-19, our commitment to staff and patients never changes.”