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From Bench to Bedside: Research at Sutter Helps Deliver COVID-19 Therapeutic Breakthroughs

Posted on Nov 30, 2020 in Access to Care, Integrated Network, Research, Research & Clinical Trials, Scroll Images

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists worldwide, Sutter Health is engaged in research to support development and innovations surrounding new ways of detecting, treating and preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus in our communities.

“Through our organization’s portfolio of clinical trials and research studies, Sutter is contributing new knowledge to help advance science aimed at safeguarding the health of our patients and communities,” says Leon Clark, MBA, Vice President, Chief Research and Health Equity Officer at Sutter. “Our researchers are at the forefront of fighting this emerging disease, and are collaborating with leading experts from public and private organizations across the U.S.”

Here’s how today’s research becomes tomorrow’s potential clinical practice through research at Sutter:

Studying potential therapies to treat people with COVID-19:

  • Seven Sutter acute care hospitals enrolled patients into clinical trials sponsored by Gilead Sciences to test the antiviral drug remdesivir. First developed in 2009 and used during the Ebola outbreak in 2014, remdesivir was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in October 2020 for the treatment of hospitalized patients with COVID-19. A total of 48 patients from across the Sutter network were enrolled in these studies.
  • Sutter and Vitalant collaborated to offer an investigational treatment involving convalescent plasma—blood plasma collected from people who have recovered from COVID-19—in hospitalized patients with severe cases of the disease. Rich in protective antibodies, convalescent plasma may lessen the duration and intensity of COVID-19. Plasma from one donor can treat as many as four patients with severe disease.

Studying potential therapies and vaccines to prevent COVID-19:

  • Offering patients access to a Phase 3, international clinical trial testing an investigational COVID-19 vaccine: ABSMC is participating in a study of a vaccine made by AstraZeneca. The clinical trial aims to enroll approximately 500 adults aged 18-55 years and will test the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine candidate, known as AZD1222, compared with placebo. Eligible study participants are encouraged to contact study coordinator Ankita Bhalla or phone (510)-295-7090.
  • Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center (ABSMC) will enroll approximately 30 study participants to a clinical trial testing a monoclonal antibody against COVID-19. Monoclonal antibodies—synthetic versions of the immune system’s own weapons against viruses—are being tested as a means of preventing COVID-19 in studies worldwide. The study at ABSMC will determine the safety and effectiveness of an antibody made by Regeneron, to prevent COVID-19 in people who have been in close contact with infected individuals.

Addressing the impact of the pandemic on mental health and wellness: As COVID-19 ushers in uncertainty that may evoke anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns for today’s youth, researchers are exploring potential new avenues for identifying such mental health concerns. Researchers are collaborating on a new study conducted within Sutter’s network that may offer a new option through the use of new tools for the early screening of depression and suicide risk.

Advancing health equity, and developing solutions to achieve optimal health outcomes for all patients across Sutter’s integrated network: Sutter’s Advancing Health Equity team undertook a thorough data analysis of Sutter’s not-for-profit system’s COVID-19 patients to study how the illness affects people disproportionately based on race and ethnicity.

In collaboration with the University of California at San Francisco and other healthcare sites across the U.S., health equity researchers at Sutter are seeking to uncover how social determinants of health (such as financial challenges, environmental and physical conditions, and social factors) may impact patients’ access to COVID-19 tests and treatments. The study aims to understand how various policies and response strategies may affect individuals and the spread of the virus.
To learn about the spread of COVID-19 during pregnancy, and if infection rates differ by race, ethnicity and other factors, Sutter launched the Maternal CARE study.

Developing new tests for early detection of COVID-19: Researchers at PAMF’s Research Institute co-led the study of the first all-in-one molecular test to diagnose COVID-19 infection. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted Emergency Use Authorization for the test earlier this month.

Studying “biomarkers” that may help identify and predict patients at risk of severe COVID-19: Sutter researchers are testing whether proteins and other identifiable biomarkers in routine blood samples may aid in the early identification of high-risk patients hospitalized for COVID-19.
Collecting data on how the virus spreads and what the curve of infections may be in the coming months: Sutter has created data registries and is compiling statistical information that is being used to discover predictive models of COVID-19 and its spread.

Curious to learn more about Sutter research? Visit us at sutterhealth.org/research

Celebrating Safely This Thanksgiving

Posted on Nov 25, 2020 in Integrated Network, Scroll Images

A Message from Sutter Health President & CEO Sarah Krevans and Sutter Health Chief Quality & Safety Officer William Isenberg, M.D., Ph.D.

Sutter Health President and CEO Sarah Krevans

While the holidays may look and feel different this year, we are thankful that across Sutter Health we have come together with strength and resilience to persevere through these unprecedented times. We appreciate the compassion and excellence of our staff as we serve and comfort those who turn to us for medical care and guidance.

With COVID-19 surging in most parts of the country, and 94 percent of California now in our state’s most restrictive tier, we join our state’s public health officials and encourage people to stay home and avoid traveling outside of their local region to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus. While breaking with family traditions may be hard, we encourage you to make these holidays a season to remember in new and different ways. State officials are also offering tips and ideas on how to celebrate safely.

Sutter Health Chief Quality & Safety Officer William Isenberg, M.D., Ph.D.

Safety is Sutter Health’s top priority, and, as we have done all year, we are closely monitoring the steep increase in COVID-19 infections. We’re also working closely with state officials to coordinate our response. At this time, our hospitals have capacity to care for patients with COVID-19 and for those who do not. We also have adequate supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for our teams. Additionally, we have joined with approximately 100 other hospitals and health systems across the U.S. in the new “Mask Up” campaign, which encourages people to wear facemasks—one of the best tools we have for slowing the spread of COVID-19.

May you and your loved ones stay safe and well. Happy Thanksgiving.

How to Reduce Stress with Gratitude

Posted on Nov 24, 2020 in Mental Health & Addiction Care, Scroll Images

A blog by Marianne Svendsen, LMFT with Sutter Health’s Employee Assistance Program

You may be feeling exhausted or burned out due to the impacts of COVID-19, the climate of social unrest, wildfires, the elections and upcoming holidays. These stressors may also cause you to feel sad or worried. Taken one by one, these events are almost unbearable but taken all together; it can feel very overwhelming.

The world may seem unsteady now, but we can steady ourselves by focusing on things for which we are grateful. If your coping skills have worn down, identifying what you’re thankful for can boost your well-being and strengthen your endurance during this stressful time.

Please take a minute to stop and reflect on what’s in front and available to us and appreciate it. This single moment can have a drastic impact on our well-being. There is evidence to suggest that there are psychological and physical health-related benefits when we practice gratitude. Benefits include improved sleep, increased energy levels and a strengthened immune system to ward off illness.

Pause to notice the beauty in small details. The sound of the birds that are chirping outside your window, the swirl of colors in the eyes of the one you love, the smell of pumpkin as you bake or the warmth of a blanket that a friend gave to you, these can help you cope with stress. You can spend one minute each morning and each evening to do this. You can also do this during other parts of your day, such as, while you wash your hands, in between commercials, while you’re on hold during a phone call or waiting for a video conference to begin.

If you have difficulty identifying something you are grateful for, here are some questions to help spur reflection and find gratitude:

  • What are some ways you’ve changed for the better?
  • What are the moments in your life that taught you big life lessons?
  • What miracles have you witnessed or experienced?
  • What are all the things you can do with your eyes closed?
  • What things make you laugh?
  • What are the reasons you are amazing?
  • What are the things that you cannot live without?
  • What significant issues have you survived in your life?
  • What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?
  • What nice things have you done for someone?

For immediate assistance, please call the the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Giving Thanks: Sutter Health Shows Gratitude for Communities with Support of Food Banks

Posted on Nov 23, 2020 in Community Health, Scroll Images

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline healthcare workers within Sutter Health’s network have received an outpouring of support from community members in the regions they serve. Individuals and organizations have donated equipment, bought meals for physicians and staff, sent cards of gratitude and well wishes, and organized hero walks for our essential workers.

Sutter Health clinicians and staff have been deeply touched by these meaningful tributes and remain grateful to serve such tightly knit communities.

As the season of gratitude quickly approaches, Sutter clinicians, staff and volunteers are proud to be able to give back and continue the organization’s annual support of food banks, food kitchens and pantries. This year, Sutter Health is contributing to 31 food banks and other similar organizations across Northern California, Oregon and Hawaii. Due to the hardship of the pandemic, food banks are experiencing a significant increase in demand as more families rely on their services. Media reports state that the percentage of those without access to adequate food during the pandemic has doubled.

Bridging the Gap

As a not-for-profit organization, Sutter Health’s mission is to help improve the health of the communities it serves, inside and outside the walls of its clinical care sites. The health of individuals and families are often directly tied to specific social determinants like being able to access fresh, nutritious groceries or gain better access to stable housing.

Due to the terrible economic effects of the pandemic, helping families put fresh, wholesome food on their table is more important than ever and we applaud the community partners who are working hard to meet this pressing need.

Sutter’s annual investment to support food banks aligns with priority areas identified in Sutter Health’s tri-annual Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). A key focus area of many communities’ CHNA is active living, healthy eating and reducing food insecurity. One way we help keep communities healthy is by annually supporting local food banks across Northern California to help improve access to nutrition for underserved communities.

As an example of this work, at the beginning of this year, Sutter Health started a pilot program to redirect excess, unserved food from hospital kitchens and cafeterias to local nonprofits. The program, which now involves 14 Sutter hospitals, has reduced food waste from our facilities and provided consistent food delivery to 17 nonprofits, totaling more than 35,000 meals to date.

Sutter has also supported the Yolo Food Bank’s outstanding efforts to provide access to food for Yolo County residents. During the pandemic, Sutter Health Park – home of the Sacramento River Cats – became home to Yolo Food Bank’s drive-through distribution of free, fresh food to people in need. Volunteers from Sutter Davis Hospital have been proud to help sort, package and place food in vehicles during some of the weekly distributions.

Over the summer, the staff and clinicians at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley and Oakland organized a virtual food drive with the Alameda County Community Food Bank to show their community some love. The drive fostered healthy competition between different departments of the hospitals and raised $13,400 to help provide much-needed food to people struggling with hunger.

These are just some of the ways Sutter Health can bridge the gap and step in to support underserved communities in need. In 2019, Sutter Health invested $830 million in community benefit, which includes supporting health education, community clinics, traditional charity care and unreimbursed Medi-Cal costs. For more information about Sutter’s investment into Northern California communities, visit Sutter Health’s Community Benefit page www.sutterhealth.org/community-benefit.

Healthcare Heroes Encourage Everyone to #MaskUp

Posted on Nov 19, 2020 in Community Health, Scroll Images

One hundred of the nation’s leading health care systems, including Sutter Health, have come together with an urgent plea for all Americans: mask up.

“By wearing a mask, we’re telling everyone we see or come near how much we care about them and their health. In these days of COVID when we can’t give hugs, we can still express our love and concern by masking,” said William Isenberg, M.D., Sutter Health’s chief quality and safety officer.

The current number of COVID-19 cases across the nation are climbing at a rapid rate. Recently, like other areas in California, Sutter’s network has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases as well.

Healthcare systems have answered the call since the start of the pandemic. Sutter Health, for example, activated and deployed a coordinated response across its integrated network that has helped protect patients, employees and communities. However, there is growing concern that increasing cases will place only more strain on healthcare staff and facilities in the U.S. The Mask Up campaign emphasizes how wearing a face mask limits the spread of the COVID-19 virus, as recent studies have shown, with the intention to better manage this health emergency. In an effort to reach a broader audience, the Mask Up public service effort will also include messages on digital platforms, social media, online information, links to vital health resources and more.

The message reads:

“As the top nationally-ranked hospitals, we know it’s tough that we all need to do our part and keep wearing masks. But, here’s what we also know: The science has not changed. Masks slow the spread of COVID-19. So, please join us as we all embrace this simple ask: Wear. Care. Share with #MaskUp. Together, wearing is caring. And together, we are saving lives.”

For further information about masking guidelines – how to choose a mask and how to properly wear a mask – visit the CDC website.

In addition to masking, the CDC suggests that everyone minimize the number of non-household contacts, maintain a physical distance of at least six feet and limit the amount of time around others, especially while indoors and in poorly ventilated areas. These healthy habits can be especially helpful as the holiday season quickly approaches.

All-in-One Tests for COVID-19 to Be Offered First to Sutter Patients

Posted on Nov 18, 2020 in Access to Care, Research & Clinical Trials, Scroll Images

Sutter Health, which co-led the study of the first all-in-one molecular test to diagnose COVID-19 infection, is gearing up to offer the test to qualified patients in the next two months after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted Emergency Use Authorization today.

The single-use, user-friendly COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit can produce a positive or negative result within 30 minutes. Lucira’s test kit is differentiated by its simple “swab, stir and detect” design, and all patients in clinical trials were able to perform the Lucira test in about 2 minutes.

Currently, Sutter performs approximately 1,500 COVID-19 tests daily in ambulatory settings (seven-day average). Turnaround times for these lab-based diagnostic tests average 24-48 hours.

The Lucira test is expected to be available for providers in the Sutter Health network to prescribe within the coming months across the 24 California counties where the health system operates. During this time, Sutter will work on the operations necessary for accurate patient evaluation, prescribing and reporting of results. Sutter Health and South Florida’s Cleveland Clinic will be the first U.S. health systems to offer the self-tests.

John Chou, M.D.

“With the introduction of entirely at-home test kits, like the Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit, the role of the healthcare provider will become more important, not less,” said John Chou, M.D., medical director for anesthesiology, diagnostics and pharmacy at the Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group and a principal investigator on the Lucira Health Community Testing Study submitted to the FDA. “Providers within the Sutter Health network will evaluate patients to determine if they meet FDA guidelines for a test, prescribe the test, review the results with patients, arrange for any follow-up care.”

Since the start of the pandemic, Sutter Health activated and deployed a coordinated response across its integrated network to help protect patients, employees and communities. In that time, the network has worked hard to make health services safe and easily accessible. As COVID-19 cases increase, the demand for testing supplies heightens and potentially creates scarcity concerns for healthcare organizations and extends turnaround times. The need to develop more diverse testing options is critical, and creating greater access and supporting research that examines these options becomes all the more important. The Lucira test kit study is just one example.

Sutter’s Palo Alto Medical Foundation launched the study of the Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit in July. Study investigators from Sutter Health will submit detailed study results and analysis to peer-reviewed journals for publication.

”Being able to quickly determine if a person is infected or not has been a global problem,” said Dr. Chou. “We believe this highly mobile test can make a big difference by providing lab-quality results expeditiously and conveniently. Early, accurate detection is vital to delivering appropriate care and controlling the pandemic.”

Research is an integral component of Sutter Health’s mission to improving the wellness of patients and communities throughout Northern California. Many clinicians within Sutter Health’s network are also researchers who publish findings, develop novel protocols, and pioneer new tests and treatments at a rate more commonly found at major universities. All of this activity fosters improved patient care, and enables Sutter Health to recruit and retain clinician-scientists of the highest caliber. For more on Sutter’s research and current clinical trials, go to www.sutterhealth.org/research.