People

Volunteers “HELP” Elderly Patients Through Virtual Visits During COVID-19

Posted on Apr 22, 2020 in Affiliates, California Pacific Medical Center, People, Scroll Images

SAN FRANCISCO – National Volunteer Week (April 19-25) is an opportunity to recognize the impact of volunteer service and the power of volunteers to tackle society’s greatest challenges, to build stronger communities and be a force that transforms the world.

California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC), part of Sutter Health’s not-for-profit integrated network of care, has more than 850 volunteers that help provide companionship and emotional support to patients and their families in the emergency department and elsewhere, guiding people around facilities, explaining procedures, helping patients eat, playing music, performing clerical duties and so much more.

To help reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, CPMC volunteers are currently sheltering in place but that hasn’t stopped them from participating in the hospital’s Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP). This unique program allows volunteers to engage elderly patients to help prevent episodes of delirium and increase their functional independence.

Instead of meeting patients at the bedside, CPMC volunteers are conducting phone and virtual visits to help keep their patients mobile and alert, with the goal of them getting well faster and going home sooner.

“When we knew our HELP volunteers couldn’t continue to visit our patients at the hospital, we immediately looked at digital alternatives and whether our volunteers could still make a meaningful connection through a virtual visit,” said Clara Rubin-Smith McKie, CPMC Volunteer Coordinator/Elder Life Specialist. “The answer was yes, and we’re excited that our volunteers have committed themselves to engaging patients remotely.”

HELP Volunteers are now using their mobile phones and tablets to communicate with patients. They engage and stimulate patients through activities such as guiding them through range of motion and breathing exercises to reduce stress and encouraging them to walk.

“The HELP program at CPMC has helped reduce falls for older patients by 22 percent and readmission by 25 percent,” says Wendy Zachary, M.D., CPMC hospitalist and HELP physician-champion. “It’s vital during the COVID-19 pandemic that we continue to help support these fragile patients and I applaud our volunteers for their dedication during this difficult time.”

Wendy Zachary, M.D., CPMC hospitalist and HELP physician-champion.

Patients Appreciate the Conversations

Melissa Ann Im, a HELP Volunteer had a lovely conversation last week and passed along the following comment from a patient:

“I’m not a great fan of the human race… but the people who work at the hospitals are the kindest people on the planet… working all their days to alleviating pain and saving lives. They do it because it is what they want to do. They are the most caring and professional people… I am in awe.”

“I appreciate you volunteers so much. You don’t have to do this, but you do… if you could see me right now, I have a big smile on my face.”

Building relationships are the key. HELP volunteers are taught about using a healing touch to establish a trusting relationship with the patient. Amidst the current stress of the pandemic, for many volunteers, it’s the highlight of their week.

“I’m so grateful to our volunteers for continuing to do this great work during this extremely challenging time,” says Frances Huang, CPMC Volunteer Coordinator/Elder Life Specialist. “The significant improvement in the level of care our patients receive from the HELP program is immense and I’m glad that our volunteers continue to bring smiles to so many faces.”

COVID-19 Heightens our Love for Mother Earth, and One Another

Posted on Apr 22, 2020 in Community Benefit, Innovation, People, Quality, Safety, Scroll Images, Transformation, Uncategorized

A message from Stephen H. Lockhart, M.D., Ph.D., Sutter Health Chief Medical Officer and Executive Sponsor of Sutter Health’s Environmental Stewardship Program

With fewer cars on the road and less traffic in the skies, some news outlets have reported a climate benefit. While none of us wanted this short-term positive effect at such high health and economic costs, we are getting a peek at an environment with less human interference — a brief glimpse at what could be possible if we took steps to reduce waste and advance alternative energy solutions in the years ahead.

As champions of health, we know that nature holds a special place in our lives, supporting our mental and physical wellbeing. It’s never been more important to take a walk outside, take a deep breath, enjoy the sunshine and wave at our neighbors — all while staying 6 feet apart, of course. Nature lifts our spirits and helps restore our hope.

Please join our Sutter team in celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Mobilizing to care for our planet over the long term is one more way we’re showing our love for our communities and one another.

Here are a few ways you and your family can get involved with Sutter’s sustainability efforts:

1. Plant a garden. Digging your hands in the soil is good for your health. Welcome spring by planting native plants, fruits and vegetables. Take it a step further by starting a compost pile. Composting food waste reduces the amount of waste you send to a landfill, and once it fully decomposes, you’re left with a fertilizer for your garden. Check out some simple tips on composting from the EPA.

2. Donate clothing. While spring cleaning, consider donating unwanted items rather than throwing them away. Each year, nearly 40,000 gallons of water are used in the production and transport of new clothes bought by the average American household.

3. Watch creativity grow. Promote your kids’ love for our planet by encouraging them to create art from natural or recycled materials.

4. Conserve water. Install a low-flow shower head to reduce water use. In one year, a family of four can save up to 18,200 gallons of water.

5. Carry a reusable water bottle. Lessen your environmental impact by replacing your single-use plastic bottles with a stainless-steel water bottle or travel mug.

6. Calculate your carbon footprint. Simply reducing the amount of time we spend running errands, driving to work and to other activities plays a significant role in reducing our carbon footprint. Check out the EPA’s Carbon Footprint Calculator.

7. Learn about sustainability efforts at Sutter Health. Did you know that Sutter completed five solar-power projects; launched a pilot program to reduce the amount of harmful anesthetic gasses released into the atmosphere during surgeries; and increased plant-based meals by 20% in our 24 hospital cafeterias? You can find out more here.

A Higher IQ for Cancer Care at Sutter

Posted on Apr 20, 2020 in California Pacific Medical Center, Innovation, People, Quality, Research, Transformation

Machine learning for cancer research

To learn how Sutter cancer researchers are applying machine learning to cancer care, we interviewed John Chan, M.D., a gynecologic oncologist at Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) and Palo Alto Medical Foundation, and the Denise & Prentis Cobb Hale Endowed Chair in Gynecologic Oncology Research.

John Chan, M.D.

How might artificial intelligence (AI) be used to improve cancer care?
AI builds smart machines capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence like learning, reasoning and problem-solving skills. We already see AI playing a key role in our daily routines and our interactions with media, transportation and communications.

With a surge of new knowledge in this area, researchers are applying AI and machine learning to innovate healthcare with improved diagnoses and treatment. As machine learning algorithms are exposed to more data—in some cases gleaned from the electronic heath record (EHR)—they can detect hidden patterns within data that can be used to perform a task without sophisticated programming.

Given the large number of Americans diagnosed with cancer and the huge volume of data generated during cancer treatment, there is a growing interest in using AI and machine learning to improve cancer care.

How are you applying AI and machine learning to your gynecologic oncology practice at Sutter?
Through a collaboration with the University of North Carolina and The Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, we’re using machine learning to classify cancer patients into high- or low-risk groups, and to personalize sub-groups of uterine cancer patients who may or may not benefit from chemotherapy. Our research resulted in a clinical calculator that was described in Gynecologic Oncology.

The findings suggest a clinical calculator can help predict benefit and risk of chemotherapy treatment in patients with uterine cancer. And now we’re expanding the machine learning tool to study advanced-stage cancers and gynecologic diseases like ovarian cancer.

We plan to share the clinical calculator with providers across Sutter and with peer institutions that care for gynecologic cancer patients who live in more remote communities, or who are otherwise unable to travel to larger cancer centers. That way, more cancer patients may benefit from the research underlying this new AI-based tool. This could help increase access to safer and more effective cancer treatments, and reduce healthcare costs.

What are the potential benefits of using AI and machine learning to guide oncology treatment decisions?
Machine learning can “free think” creatively because it’s not confined by pre-existing human biases that may be present in routine clinical practice. This and other AI approaches like deep learning can help us determine levels of risk and benefit associated with various cancer treatments.

For example, an older patient with ovarian cancer may be at increased risk of treatment-related complications compared with younger patients. AI can identify risk profiles to help guide treatment decisions based on data from similar sub-groups of cancer patients.

In clinical oncology, AI has increasingly been applied to harness the power of the EHR. Specifically, AI-based natural language processing techniques may help predict the development of diseases across large healthcare systems.

At Sutter, our integrated network enables access to EHR and outcomes data from a highly diverse patient base. Machine learning can find associations and calculate risk scores to better predict treatments that will provide optimal benefit and reduced risk of treatment-related complications or adverse effects. This approach may become a new decision tool that we can add to our clinical toolkit and share with collaborators across Sutter.

Cancer care and research at Sutter: High “CQ” using machine learning:

Other Sutter physicians, researchers, and innovators across the system are applying AI to cancer care and elsewhere. Here’s how:

  • Earlier this year, Sutter partnered with Bay Area startup Ferrum Health to develop machine learning algorithms for early detection of lung cancer at radiology clinics in Sacramento. Ferrum’s AI platform read 10,000 CT scans and reports. Within 90 days, it flagged 83 cases in which it detected a mass of tissue on the scan that was not mentioned in the report.
  • Albert Chan, M.D., M.S., Sutter Health chief of digital patient experience, is leading digital transformation efforts across Sutter. He oversees a unified digital patient engagement and virtual care strategy, including leadership of Sutter’s patient portal My Health Online, telemedicine and artificial intelligence-powered solutions.
  • Through a collaboration with Stanford Medicine, Sutter Health systems researchers will launch the Oncoshare Project using a “big data” approach to improve breast cancer care. Oncoshare enables researchers to generate high-resolution maps of breast cancer treatment, and identify care pathways that yield the best outcomes for patients.

Learn more about Sutter research and clinical trials.

In Need of a Break: Art in Action

Posted on Apr 15, 2020 in Carousel, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, People, Scroll Images, Sutter Maternity and Surgery Center, Santa Cruz, Uncategorized, We're Awesome, Year of the Nurse

SANTA Cruz, CalifTawnya Gilbert, R.N., C.C.R.N. is normally the picture of positivity: upbeat and energetic. But one day in late March, after a shift and a week that all felt especially long and challenging, she felt down. Like all of us Gilbert was concerned about the spread of coronavirus, but unlike most of us, she faced the challenge daily, working as a nurse for Sutter in Santa Cruz County.

“It’s moments like that when I usually go to our staff breakroom and just take a minute to get back in touch with myself, my heart,” said Gilbert, who is also a yoga instructor. “I can usually use the quiet room to recharge and clear my head, but this time was different.”

That’s when she had an idea

“I looked around – at the magazines, the picture window, our little bulletin board – and realized that there wasn’t any art.” Though not an artist herself, Gilbert has always admired the generous amount of art on the walls of Sutter Maternity and Surgery Center. She even helped choose the art in the hospital’s post-anesthesia care unit where she has worked for the past six years.

“I just knew that if we could get some art in the breakroom, and especially if it depicted how healthcare workers are fighting this pandemic, it would inspire staff and lift their spirits.”

The “Surviving COVID” art project began

Gilbert wrote to all the artists she knew, and several she was introduced to, and asked for art that was funny, profound, or uplifting. She encouraged themes of beating coronavirus and thanking healthcare workers, and soon she had 14 original pieces to display in the breakroom at the hospital. The art was an instant hit with staff, and the project has since spread to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) medical buildings in Watsonville and Santa Cruz, the emergency room of neighboring Dominican Hospital and the halls of nearby Watsonville Community Hospital.

Babs Kingsley, M.A., R.N., manager of emergency services at Dominican Hospital said “the staff are incredibly grateful for the donated artwork and sentiment from the community that it represents. The art is providing staff with motivation and strength, and the collaboration between healthcare networks reminds us that we are not fighting this battle alone. Many thanks to Tawnya for helping us turn an uncertain time into one of collaboration and pride.”

Art is an antidote to fear

“Art comforts and connects us; when a doctor, nurse or housekeeper views these images I hope they see an entire community of artists who are supporting them and helping them process emotions that are hard to put into words,” said Gilbert.

Creativity and positivity abound in the works collected to-date. “Glove Conquers All,” for example, is a take on the raised fist, a symbol of solidarity that is used to express unity and strength. In this original work by Andi Mellon, the fist is encased in a glove and surrounded by Gladiolas which symbolize bravery.

Another piece that features gloves is “Creation” by artist Michael Lane. The work imagines an update of the classic “Creation of Adam” for our modern moment. “With all the precautions required for coronavirus, I thought it would be interesting to add a twist on safety to this iconic piece,” said Lane.

“The Brave Nurse” depicts the importance of sheltering-in-place and the bravery of a nurse who protects her community from COVID-19, represented as attacking balls with sharp teeth and angry eyes. Seamlessly blending literal and figurative references, artist Lily K. has been able to include several key elements of the pandemic in one uplifting scene.

Calling all artists

Little more than a week after her idea-inspiring low point, Gilbert feels energized by the entirely volunteer-led and donation-dependent project.

“Today I worked 10 hours, ate dinner, read to my daughter, spoke to two artists about sharing their art and applied for a grant. I’m going to bed, rest well Santa Cruz,” she wrote to friends and family.

Gilbert has been overwhelmed by the response from the community, in the form of art and framing supplies, and she encourages anyone who wants to help to email her at: lokilove28@gmail.com

How a Pandemic Launched a NorCal Healthcare System

Posted on Apr 14, 2020 in Carousel, Community Benefit, Expanding Access, Innovation, People, Quality, Scroll Images, Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, Transformation, Uncategorized

Spanish Flu
A nurse takes a patient’s pulse in the influenza ward at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 1, 1918. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

The pandemic started slowly in Sacramento. For weeks, residents of the city believed what was going around was just the usual flu that arrived every fall. But in just two months, thousands in the city had been infected and about 500 Sacramentans were dead.

That happened a century ago. Because of the inadequacy of the existing Sacramento hospitals to care for the numerous victims of the Spanish flu in 1918, local doctors and civic leaders banded together to build a new, more modern hospital to meet the growing city’s needs.

Sutter Health was born.

Begun as a single Sutter Hospital kitty-corner to Sutter’s Fort, Sutter Health now has a presence in 22 counties across Northern California, featuring thousands of doctors and allied clinical providers and more than 50,000 employees. As an integrated health system, Sutter is uniquely qualified and capable to care for residents during a health crisis such as COVID-19.

“A group of hospitals and doctor’s offices are able to band together, share resources, skills and knowledge, and institute best practices to care more effectively and efficiently for our patients and the communities we serve,” said Dave Cheney, the interim president and CEO of Sutter Valley Area Hospitals and the CEO of Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento. “We have systems in place that we test all the time to ensure we are prepared for many crises, including a pandemic like COVID-19.”

Groudbreaking
Just a few years after the devastating Spanish flu, Sacramento physicians, nurses and civic leaders gathered to break ground in 1922 for the first Sutter Hospital.

Physicians Fill a Need in Sacramento

The deadly influenza commonly called Spanish flu killed about 50 million worldwide. From August 1918 to July 1919, 20 million Americans became sick and more than 500,000 died, 13,340 of them in California. In Sacramento, slow action by the city public health office delayed care and, within a couple of weeks, sick residents flooded the hospitals. The city library was even converted into a makeshift hospital. A Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento history recounts: 

“The influenza epidemic of 1918 gave convincing evidence to Sacramento doctors that the city’s two major hospitals were woefully inadequate to provide the health care services vital to the rapidly growing community. The flu epidemic had sorely taxed these facilities and highlighted the need for a modern, fireproof hospital. Recognizing the critical need for hospital care for their patients, 17 local physicians came together with civic leaders to create a new hospital.”

The group incorporated as Sutter Hospital Association in 1921, naming it after its neighbor, Sutter’s Fort, which cared for Gold Rush pioneers as Sacramento’s first hospital. The first Sutter Hospital was built two years later and opened in December 1923 as “the most modern hospital to be found in the state,” according to The Sacramento Bee. It was the first private, non-sectarian hospital in the city, and the first to offer private rooms.

The hospital became not-for-profit in 1935 and changed its name to Sutter General Hospital. It opened Sutter Maternity Hospital in 1937 two miles away and it soon expanded its services and was renamed Sutter Memorial Hospital. In the 1980s, the old Sutter General Hospital was replaced by a modern facility across the street from Sutter’s Fort, and in 2015 all adult and pediatric services were combined under one roof when the Anderson Lucchetti Women’s and Children’s Center opened essentially in the same location as the original Sutter Hospital.

First Sutter Hospital
The first Sutter Hospital opened in December 1923 as California’s “most modern hospital.” Now, Sutter Health is an integrated healthcare system that includes 24 hospitals in Northern California.

A Health Network Grows

The 1980s and 1990s saw tremendous growth for Sutter. Struggling community hospitals in Roseville, Auburn, Jackson, Davis, Modesto and other nearby cities merged with what was then known as Sutter Community Hospitals. Then came the deal that more than doubled the healthcare system. In 1996, Sutter Community Hospitals merged with a group of Bay Area hospitals and physician groups known as California Healthcare System. These included such large, well-respected, historic hospitals as California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and Alta Bates in the East Bay. This new system became, simply, Sutter Health.

Now as a model of healthcare integration, Sutter Health provides a user-friendly system centered around patient care — a system that offers greater access to quality healthcare while holding the line on costs. This connectivity allows Sutter teams to provide innovative, high-quality and life-saving care to more than 3 million Californians. Sutter’s integrated care model allows care teams and care locations to use the power of the network to share ideas, technologies and best practices, ultimately providing better care and a user-friendly experience, achieving healthier patient outcomes and reducing costs.

Our Heroes Wear Scrubs
Grateful community members are thanking Sutter Health front-line workers throughout Northern California.

An Integrated Network Fights COVID-19

Today, Sutter Health’s hospitals and physician groups don’t operate in a vacuum. Each hospital is supported by a larger system that can share knowledge and send materials, equipment and even manpower to where they are needed most. The system is called the Sutter Health Emergency Management System, which is organized after the federal government’s National Incident Command System.

Here’s how it works: Part of the Sutter Health Emergency Management System is a team throughout the network that works on gathering and purchasing the necessary supplies and equipment needed during this pandemic, including N95 masks and ventilators. Another team monitors bed space to ensure that each hospital can care for a COVID-19 patient surge. Clinical team members across the network are working together to address any issues that may unfold and to share best practices as they treat coronavirus patients.

That’s the power of a not-for-profit, integrated healthcare network.

“We are leveraging the strength of our united teams to increase our capacity and knowledge, and to provide the necessary equipment,” Cheney said. “We are preparing all of our network hospitals in the event we see a surge in patients due to COVID-19. Thanks to the integrated system that has been more than 100 years in the making, we are prepared for a pandemic of this magnitude now more than ever.”

To Our Healthcare Superheroes

Posted on Apr 9, 2020 in People, Scroll Images

As millions across the nation shelter at home to help minimize the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, a group of individuals continues to step onto the front lines: our healthcare teams. Doctors, nurses, clinicians, hospital workers, pharmacists, transporters, EMTs—and everyone else who supports patient care sites—continue to treat and serve the very ill.

It’s not easy to fully express the enormous gratitude and appreciation we feel for these healthcare heroes. But recently, hundreds of Sutter employees tried, all sharing words of encouragement and thanks for their teammates on the front lines. Here is a sampling of their messages:

Words cannot adequately express our appreciation. From those who give direct patient care to all those who support patient care behind the scenes, you are all remarkable human beings. We can’t fight this fight without you. (Liz M.)

Thank you to all the brave men and women on the front lines giving it your all every day to care for our patients! We know the sacrifices you are making, putting your own lives on the line to provide world-class care to every patient. There are not enough words to tell you how much we appreciate each and every one of you! We are all in this TOGETHER! (Michelle M.)

To our courageous, selfless teams on the frontlines—the doctors and nurses, lab techs, housekeeping crews, nutritional services employees, pharmacy employees, security staff and so many more—thank you for all you do. (Anita C.)