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COVID-19 and the Flu: Time to Arm Yourself with a Flu Shot

Posted on Sep 17, 2020 in Safety, Scroll Images, Uncategorized, Wellness

This fall, we could face a flu season like no other. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s possible to become sick with the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. You don’t want to risk being infected with both because as reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, people infected with COVID-19 and flu may be more likely to be hospitalized with severe and sometimes deadly disease.

Getting a flu shot this season may also help conserve potentially scarce health care resources like personal protective equipment (PPE), and reduce the burden on healthcare systems as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For these reasons, it’s more important than ever to get the flu vaccine this year,” says Bill Isenberg, M.D., Sutter Health’s chief quality and safety officer. “As we await a vaccine for COVID-19, we very strongly encourage people to get flu shots to boost their immunity and protect themselves and the people they love from the flu.”

“Even without the added threat of COVID-19, getting a flu shot is one of the most important things you can do to help lower your risk for getting sick with the flu, avoid suffering through days or weeks of illness and help prevent spreading the infection to those around you, at home, at work and in the community,” says Sutter Health’s medical director of Pharmacy and Infection Control, Jeffrey Silvers, M.D.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year more than 200,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized for flu, and typically around 50,000 die from it. A flu shot is important even if you’re staying home more—or working from home—because you still face potential exposure to the influenza virus, which you can then spread to others.

When should you get the flu vaccine?

“Timing is important,” says Dr. Silvers. “The CDC recommends people get vaccinated for influenza before the flu begins spreading in the community, since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop and begin to provide protection.”

In the U.S., flu typically begins circulating in October. That means the ideal time to get vaccinated for flu is late September through early October.

“Vaccination is still beneficial as long as flu viruses are circulating. If you haven’t been vaccinated by Halloween or even Thanksgiving, it can still be protective to get vaccinated through December or later,” says Dr. Isenberg. “The influenza season usually peaks in January or February, but sometimes the virus is still circulating in the community as late as May.”


How can you get a flu shot?

  • The process to get a flu shot will be different this year because of COVID-19.
  • Vaccination at your Sutter-affiliated doctor’s office is by appointment only.
  • Existing patients can schedule appointments through the patient portal My Health Online or by phone beginning September 17.
  • Sutter Walk-in Care accepts walk-ins and scheduled appointments for flu shots, whether you are an established Sutter patient or not.


Who should get this year’s flu shot?

  • For nearly everybody, getting an annual flu shot remains the first and most important step to help prevent the spread of the flu—you don’t want to get the flu and COVID-19.
  • Getting the flu shot is especially important for people in high-risk groups: pregnant women, elderly, children under five and those with other health conditions.
  • The CDC recommends everyone six months and older get a flu shot every year.
  • The CDC recommends a flu shot for all women who are pregnant during flu season. (Pregnant women should not receive the nasal spray vaccine.)

Make sure kids are up to date on vaccinations

Dr. Isenberg says it’s also a good idea, before flu season is in full swing, to make sure children are up to date on their vaccinations including chickenpox, Diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (DTaP), Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and Polio.

“Now is an ideal time to visit your child’s pediatrician, before the annual flu kicks in and pediatricians’ offices are inundated with sick children,” says Dr. Isenberg.

To find a Sutter primary care physician, click here.

Is it safe to go to the doctor’s office or Sutter Walk-In-Care?

Sutter Walk-In Care centers and Sutter-affiliated doctor’s offices have taken several steps to help minimize spread as the pandemic continues. These measures include mandatory masking for patients and visitors, performing extra cleaning and disinfecting, and screening employees before each shift.

Protect yourself and your family. Get a flu shot.

Project Connects Clinics Serving Most Vulnerable with Health Systems, Specialists

Posted on Sep 16, 2020 in Community Benefit, Expanding Access, Health Equity, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

Pandemic underscores value of seamless connection. More than 2 million patient records shared with participating providers.

Coordination between health care providers can be crucial for patients’ health – and it’s even more important while caring for them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A newly completed electronic health record system is enabling primary care providers from Community Health Center Network (CHCN) health centers to better coordinate patient care, improve health equity, and manage population health for the vulnerable groups they care for in the East Bay. The project electronically connects the eight community health centers of the CHCN with local health systems and specialists.

The new system – powered by OCHIN Epic Electronic Health Record (EHR) and funded through generous grants from Sutter Health and Kaiser Permanente– allows CHCN health centers to reliably and confidentially share patients’ electronic health records (EHR) with participating providers.

With more seamless collaboration between health centers, primary care providers, hospitals, and specialists in Alameda County, more than 270,000 patient records are now digitally accessible. Through this state-of-the-art EHR technology this is helping provide high-quality health care for the area’s most vulnerable residents.

“This new integrated system ensures that patients will have a seamless experience, while receiving the best possible coordination of their care,” said Ralph Silber, CEO of CHCN. “We’re already seeing the positive impact and transformative potential of the OCHIN Epic EHR, as it’s deployed across our network.”

First implemented at Axis Community Health, OCHIN Epic EHR is now available at all eight of CHCN’s community health centers with the last health center, La Clínica, launched in April.

“We were really pleased to be able to complete this deployment for CHCN, despite the pandemic, by offering full support for a virtual go-live at La Clínica,” said OCHIN CEO Abby Sears. “Now more than ever, we need to ensure frontline providers and public health authorities are able to exchange real-time health information and can respond quickly to the needs of their communities.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, health centers had to quickly adapt to caring for patients virtually. OCHIN Epic allowed CHCN health centers to quickly begin telehealth and video appointments so patients could continue receiving high-quality health care.

“OCHIN Epic is a powerful system,” said Sue Compton, CEO of Axis Community Health in Pleasanton, Calif. “We’re just beginning to explore its full capabilities, but the portal already offers more engaging features for our patients and more robust charting features for our providers, including both medical and Integrated Behavioral Health providers. It has strengthened our capacity to meet the complex needs of the patients we serve.”

The OCHIN Epic EHR also provides CHCN health centers with tools for data reporting and population health management, and offers a patient portal called My Chart, which facilitates patient communication.

To date, over 2 million patient records have been shared between CHCN health centers’ OCHIN Epic EHR and hospital/specialist EHRs. With full implementation, the system supports over 500 primary care, dental, and behavioral care providers who serve over 270,000 patients across CHCN’s network of care.

“Sutter Health is a longstanding partner of CHCN and its member clinics. We are delighted to expand our partnership through this vital initiative to improve care coordination between health care providers and to deliver comprehensive, quality health care for underserved communities of the East Bay,” said Emily Webb, vice president Bay Area External Affairs for Sutter Health. “Being connected through technology will support improvements in care for vulnerable patients at an especially critical time when the need is so great in our communities.”

“As a nonprofit organization with a mission to improve community health, Kaiser Permanente is pleased to support this important work,” said Kevin Hart, senior vice president, Strategic Development and Technology, Kaiser Permanente Northern California. “We are investing and partnering in our communities to improve health care quality and access; helping build out the EHR among our safety net partners is key to this.”

The OCHIN Epic EHR is available at CHCN’s community health centers including: Asian Health Services, Axis Community Health, Bay Area Community Health, La Clínica, LifeLong Medical Care, Native American Health Center, Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center, and West Oakland Health.

“I Should Have Known”—Identifying Suicide’s Warning Signs

Posted on Sep 14, 2020 in Carousel, Mental Health, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

A message from John Boyd, PsyD, Sutter Health’s CEO of Mental Health Services, during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

When I learned the news that I had lost someone to suicide, my first thought was, “I should have known.”

As a long-time mental health advocate and practitioner, I knew my response was the most common thought to cross the minds of those touched by suicide. I knew that family and friends repeatedly consider what difference it may have made had they known and intervened. I knew my years of education and training did not make me immune from this sense of responsibility and guilt.

It can often take a community to detect the warning signs that surface as pieces of a puzzle, appearing at different times and before different people. That people considering suicide are often afraid to speak up due to the stigma surrounding the mental health and addiction issues that most often lead to suicide. And while mental health issues are the most common reason for death by suicide, there are more hidden and less known reasons—financial problems, traumatic stress, relationship issues, the loss of family acceptance, academic failure and bullying.

This is why it’s so important that all of us learn as much as we can about the warning signs that lead to this irreversible outcome. National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month gives us all the opportunity to learn and share more.

We can all relate to struggling with despair and hardship. And there are specific signs that point to it all becoming too much for someone to bear—things like hopelessness about the future, sleep problems, withdrawal from friends or social activities, changes in personality or appearance, dangerous or self-harmful behavior, making preparations to put personal business in order, or threatening or talking about suicide. Mental health challenges are the leading factor, with 30% to 70% of suicide victims suffering from major depression or bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder, according to Mental Health America. The organization also notes that those with substance abuse disorders are six times more likely to complete suicide than those without.

Strikingly, this is an issue particularly common among healthcare workers who spend their days caring for others. Research cited by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) estimates that one doctor commits suicide each day. Physicians’ suicide risk is higher than any other profession due to higher rates of anxiety, depression and burnout. Yet, due to long-held stigmas, it is often more difficult for healthcare providers to reach out for support, notes the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Studies show that this risk is only increasing as providers care for themselves, their families and their patients during a global pandemic. At Sutter Health, we make our physicians’ and employees’ mental wellbeing a top priority, creating awareness, providing resources and reducing the stigma surrounding speaking up and asking for help.

Coming Together for Human Health

In what ways do we—as a community—address these alarming facts? It starts with understanding that mental health is human health. We are all human, deserving of compassion and grace. It starts by each and every one of us talking openly, sharing our experiences and listening to others to break through the stigma associated with mental health and addiction challenges.

In sharing our stories and experiences, we can reduce stigma. In opening our hearts and minds, we can heighten awareness. Most importantly, in coming together with care and compassion for one another, we can work together to recognize when someone needs us most.

Crisis Lifelines

If you or someone you know is in distress, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or you can connect with a trained crisis counselor through the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741.

Pre-dawn Cheers and Applause Buoy Spirits of Weary Firefighters

Posted on Sep 4, 2020 in Carousel, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, People, Scroll Images, Sutter Maternity and Surgery Center, Santa Cruz, Uncategorized

The town of Aptos is typically quieter than neighboring Santa Cruz, but last Tuesday that tranquility was broken by shouts of gratitude and applause for firefighters battling the CZU Lightning Complex fires – all organized by Sutter’s Lisa Haux.

“We made so much noise they could hear us across the highway,” Haux said.

Nella, age 8 and Clara, age 5 of Santa Cruz show
off the banner they made for the firefighter tribute.

The pre-dawn event that drew more than 100 community members was spurred by equal parts sincerity and serendipity, said Haux, a compliance officer with Sutter Health. “As part of the Sutter family, I’ve seen the salutes that our frontline healthcare workers have received from first responders – including fire, police, sheriff and ambulance units – thanking our nurses and doctors for their bravery and dedication to duty in the face of COVID-19. Those tributes were so meaningful to us, I thought we could do the same for the firefighters.”  

A small town has no secrets, and Haux learned which hotel was housing most of the out-of-town firefighters and that the end of their shift varied day to day, depending on firefighting conditions. “So I decided to organize a surprise early morning send-off, to lift their spirits at the start of their shift,” she said.

Haux quickly realized that firefighters – like healthcare workers – start work early. To catch the firefighters before they headed to base camp, the community needed to gather in the hotel parking lot, with their signs and balloons, by 5:45 a.m. “I honestly expected maybe 20 people would show up, given how early it was, so I was blown away by the response.”

The crowd was five times larger than Haux’s expectation and even drew reporters from the Santa Cruz Sentinel and KTVU. “When we started it was still dark outside, but we held our banners high as the sun slowly rose. It was awe-inspiring to see the turnout and see how heartfelt the appreciation was from our community to these brave professionals, risking themselves for strangers.”

Crews from across California filled the two dozen fire trucks that pulled out that morning, flashing their lights and waving back in thanks.

Stephen Gray, chief administrative officer for Sutter Maternity & Surgery Center of Santa Cruz and operations executive of Palo Alto Medical Foundation Santa Cruz said that wildfire season is something we know all too well in Northern California.

“Several parts of our network, including our employees who live and serve in these communities, have been personally impacted,” Gray said. “We’re so happy to express our appreciation for the efforts of the firefighters to keep us safe, which helps us continue our mission of serving others.” 

A week later Haux still delights in how her community showed their spirit, saying, “Fire is a horrible way to bring out comradery, but it does show that people really do want to help each other, and we are all in this together.”

21 Sutter Hospitals and Medical Foundations Earn Recognition as Leaders in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality

Posted on Sep 3, 2020 in Quality, Safety, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Twenty-one affiliates within Sutter Health’s integrated, not-for-profit network earned recognition as an “LGBTQ Health Care Equality Leader” by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC), the educational arm of the country’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization. The designation was awarded in the 13th edition of HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index (HEI).

The HEI recognizes facilities that meet key criteria, including foundational elements of LGBTQ patient-centered care, LGBTQ patient services and support, employee benefits and policies, and LGBTQ patient and community engagement.

“We are dedicated to providing compassionate, high-quality care that is free from discrimination and affirming of gender identity and sexual orientation. We are equally committed to sustaining a supportive work environment where our employees and clinicians can reach their full potential,” said Jill Ragsdale, Sutter Health senior vice president and chief people & culture officer. “This honor is meaningful for our teams because it shows how we are living our values each day. We are proud to care for patients in one of the most diverse regions in the U.S. It is our mission to respect and serve all.”

The 21 Sutter Health affiliates earning a spot on the 2020 HEI Index include:

The 21 Sutter Health network affiliates recognized join a select group of healthcare facilities nationwide named as Leaders in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality. A record 765 healthcare facilities actively participated in the HEI 2020 survey. In addition, the HRC Foundation proactively researched key policies at more than 1,000 non-participating hospitals.

“From the previously unimaginable impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to the horrific incidents of racial violence targeting the Black community, the events of the past year have brought about so much pain and uncertainty. Yet, even during this moment of profound unrest, we are seeing more of our humanity and resilience come to life. For me, nowhere is that more true than through the tireless dedication of our health care providers and the intrepid support and administrative staff members by their sides that show up every day to ensure this life-saving work continues,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “The health care facilities participating in the HRC Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) are not only on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are also making it clear from their participation in the HEI that they stand on the side of fairness and are committed to providing inclusive care to their LGBTQ patients. In addition, many have made strong statements on racial justice and equity and are engaging in efforts to address racial inequities in their institutions and their communities. We commend all of the HEI participants for their commitment to providing inclusive care for all.”

For more information about the HEI, or to download a free copy of the report, visit www.hrc.org/hei.

Stay on Top of Your Heart Health During COVID-19, Part II

Posted on Aug 27, 2020 in California Pacific Medical Center, Scroll Images, Uncategorized, Wellness

In another post, we provided information on how to read your blood pressure and what medical conditions may result from having prolonged high blood pressure. In this article, we offer tips from Michael X. Pham, M.D., M.P.H., chief of cardiology with Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco on how to reduce—or maintain—your blood pressure.

Better Diet, Better Heart Health

To lower one’s risk of high blood pressure, Dr. Pham encourages people to limit their sodium and eat a heart-healthy diet. Canned foods, condiments, deli meats, salad dressings and sauces are some of the biggest sodium culprits. Instead, make meals using garlic, lemon juice, herbs, spices or seasonings with no salt added. Do not add salt to prepackaged or frozen meals, as they are already loaded with sodium.

What goes on our plates at mealtime also offers insight into how healthfully we’re eating. “Mentally divide your plate into four quadrants. Two quarters (or half) should be fruits and veggies. One quarter should be proteins (lean fish, chicken or beans), and the remaining quarter should be a whole grain or starchy vegetable (brown rice, sweet potato),” says Dr. Pham.

Dr. Pham says that staying hydrated with water is good. People should avoid sugary drinks and alcohol as much as possible.

Get Those Steps In

Exercise is also key in maintaining a healthy heart. For this reason, it’s important to walk outside every day—but check air quality levels first.

Dr. Pham recommends a goal of 7,000-10,000 steps daily. “If you can’t get in a big walk all at once, break it into shorter walks throughout the day.” With increased community spread of COVID-19, he recommends walking early in the morning or early in the evening when there are fewer people out, and, if possible, be conscious of physical distancing and wear a mask. For those who cannot go outside, take frequent standing breaks and do laps around your house or yard.”

Your Heart & COVID-19

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with moderate to severe hypertension may be at increased risk of COVID-19 complications.

“Hypertension makes it harder to fight off infections. Regular check-ups allow your provider to help manage your condition and provide a proactive plan if your blood pressure gets worse,” says Dr. Pham.

Know your numbers. An at-home blood pressure monitor, available at your local drugstore or online, can track your blood pressure readings in between checkups. Dr. Pham suggests bringing your at-home monitor to your next in-person appointment to help ensure its readings are accurate and reliable.

Award-Winning Cardiac Care

In August 2020, ten hospitals across Sutter’s not-for-profit integrated network of care received recognition by the American Stroke Association for providing a high level of stroke care as part of the 2019 Get With The Guidelines® awards.

Additionally, 20 hospitals in the Sutter system received recognition from the American Heart Association for consistently applying the American College of Cardiology guidelines when treating patients with heart failure. Read more about these recognitions here.

Options For Care

The heart is one of your body’s most essential organs. Don’t take it—or caring for it—for granted.

Sutter Health is committed to your health and safety. If you need care or to make an appointment today, Sutter’s care teams are ready to serve you in person or by video visit.

For more on Sutter’s heart disease prevention programs, visit here.