Shared Perspectives from Across the Continuum
Nashville Medical News reached out to several influencers across various healthcare sectors to ask for perspectives on public health in the aftermath of the recent tornadoes and current crisis of COVID-19. We also asked for their thoughts on changes or transformations we might see going forward.
Katina Beard, MSPH, CEO, Matthew Walker Community Health Center
"The North Nashville community had not had time to recover from the tornado when we had to take cover for COVID-19. As an organization, we had to shift our attention from supporting our community to bracing for the pandemic. At this point I believe our entire community is suffering.
MWCHC is not testing for COVID-19 for fear that it will quickly reduce our limited personal protective equipment (PPE) and reduce our service to non-COVID related healthcare needs. At this time, I see our role as keeping our services available to reduce the burden on the emergency departments for non-emergency related visits.
Going forward, I believe the entire community will take a deeper look at how we respond to emergency disaster. Especially Nashville, how do we respond to multiple disasters simultaneously? We have all been shook from our slumber of complacency. We have already seen a small increase in patients wanting flu and pneumonia vaccines ... so yes, I believe when the flu shot signs go up this year, people will make an appointment.
I also think we will find a stronger sense of community. I believe COVID-19 has been a great equalizer in many ways, and we will not look at each other the same anymore."
Becky Stoll, LCSW, Vice President of Crisis & Disaster Management, Centerstone
"With such a focus on the phrase 'social isolation,' we need to make sure everyone remembers this is really 'physical isolation.' Especially during this unprecedented time, we all need to make sure we make an extra effort to stay socially connected in the ways in which we can. Make phone calls, send texts, video chat or take part in online activities like workout sessions or other activities. At Centerstone, we've adapted our operations to conduct behavioral healthcare via telehealth and are using video for group therapy as well, like suicide prevention support sessions, psychosocial recovery and peer support services."
Tina Gerardi, MS, RN, Executive Director, Tennessee Nurses Association
"Nurses have faced this pandemic the same way they approach every crisis, putting the needs of their patients foremost in their minds. Nurses are reminded daily of their social contract with their patients and community to care for them at their time of vulnerability and use scientific and evidence-based criteria for determining their own risk and their ability to safely care for their patients.
Nurses have led and participated with teams of healthcare providers to identify, treat and send home to self-quarantine patients across the state. They have worked tirelessly, while also caring for their own families as they practice social distancing and home sheltering. Removing barriers to practice such as mandated collaboration with a physician via Executive Order by the Governor helped free up Advanced Practice Registered Nurses and physicians to care for patients rather than spend time on unnecessary chart reviews.
Unfortunately, nurses and other healthcare practitioners were put in the moral dilemma of being asked to care for patients without the needed personal protective equipment or to use equipment they know the evidence shows is not effective to appropriately protect themselves and prevent spread of the COVID-19 virus. Nurses and other healthcare professionals shared that they are being asked to reuse and ration disposable masks and gloves. A shortage of ventilators, crucial for treating serious COVID-19 cases, has also become critical, as has a lack of test kits to comply with the World Health Organization's recommendations to test as many people as possible. Even through these challenges, nurses remain on the front lines treating their patients with scientific evidence, quality care and compassion.
While nurses and the healthcare community are ready, willing and able to care for individuals and our communities, individuals have a significant role to play in their personal health and the health of their communities. Prevention is key to our future health - we need to work together to prevent illness and disease and deliver the best possible care to those in need. This care goes beyond the bricks and mortar of our healthcare institutions and into the homes, neighborhoods, and communities where we work, play and live. By working together, we can make a difference in health outcomes in Tennessee and nurses are ready, willing, and able to help lead this charge."
Robin Williams, MD
Robin Williams, MD, 2020 President of the Nashville Academy of Medicine
"This crisis is like none we have ever seen. In less than a week's time, the number of COVID-19 positive cases more than doubled in Tennessee. The physicians of Nashville are committed to doing whatever is necessary to slow the progression of this disease. We are committed to keeping our patients and families safe. The best tool we have currently is social distancing. We need to encourage our patients who do not require urgent care to stay home.
What can NAM do? We can keep our physicians informed and linked to sources that provide the most up-to-date and accurate information. We can also encourage our members to be ready to step in as needed. We are so grateful for those physicians and healthcare workers on the front lines. Eventually, they are going to need relief. Many of us have already placed our names on a list to be called when needed. For those on the front lines, we want you to stay safe. Remember to use appropriate techniques to don and remove your protective equipment. Remember not to touch your face. Above all else, remember to wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.
Is there a silver lining? We will get through this, but it will take time. We will have to become innovative about how we see patients. Telemedicine will continue to play a greater role. Thankfully, the CMS and other payers have approved Medicare coverage and payments for virtual services during this unprecedented time."
Telehealth & Technology
Jason Considine, General Manager, Patient Experience, Experian Health
"At Experian Health we've really focused on two things: making sure our products are stable and available and finding ways to triage the COVID-19 crisis via innovation collaboration.
For example, we've helped clients set up online screening for individuals seeking COVID-19 testing/treatment and enabled mobile testing units to manage scheduling. The disruption to normal admissions and testing expectations have presented many challenges, and it's amazing to watch our teams leap to action with customers to come up with solutions.
The shelter-at-home orders and social distancing have placed telehealth and mobile capabilities in the spotlight and have required quick implementation, sometimes from no services to full services. Those that were already using our digital and mobile solutions responded to the changing needs quickly, with a few adjustments.
These capabilities have often been positioned as a part of the 'healthcare consumerism' movement, and as more of a consumer convenience. However, the argument for this functionality has taken on a significantly greater relevance and sense of urgency in this crisis. It's very likely the expectations for digital capabilities - from both the consumer and the healthcare provider - will carry over to become the 'new normal' when this is behind us."