The first case of COVID-19 was confirmed at Penn Medicine in early March. Since then, the Center for Health Care Innovation at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health has partnered with clinical and executive partners from across the health system on numerous efforts to combat the pandemic.
Designing (and redesigning) new care models
The COVID-19 pandemic presents immediate challenges for creative problem solving and innovation. In addition to launching new projects, we have ramped up staffing and support for projects in our portfolio that are especially relevant in light of the new normal - interventions that leverage telemedicine, remotely monitor patients to keep them safe at home, or move care into the home altogether.
COVID-19 chatbot & patient triage tool
Penn Medicine LGH was able to adopt a public-facing chatbot that the Center for Health Care Innovation in Philadelphia designed in partnership with Google. The bot provides appropriate and timely responses to questions about COVID-19 and also risk-stratifies patients so that they can be connected to the right level of care at Penn Medicine. Content for the chatbot comes from the COVID-19 FAQ, an interactive app constructed by Krisda Chaiyachati, built out and continuously updated by students at the Perelman School of Medicine, and validated by experts from infectious disease, occupational medicine, women’s health, operations, and oncology. The chatbot and patient triage tool will make it faster and easier for patients to get answers while simultaneously reducing call center volume – offloading work from frontline clinicians and shortening wait times for patients.
Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, like all health care organizations, faced an immediate shortage of necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) for its staff and patients. CHCI-LGH worked with Brian Burgess, Chief Strategy Officer, and Teke Drummond, Executive Director, Corporate Partnerships, to develop processes for sourcing and delivering donated PPE from corporate partners, with over 30,000 surgical masks and 10,000 gloves given to the system. The CHCI-LGH team then created a process that enabled a local manufacturer to repurpose their work in order to make reusable protective gowns, providing LG Health with 2,000 sorely needed gowns.
COVID Watch enabled patients who are confirmed or likely to have COVID-19 but not sick enough to need hospitalization to be monitored at home. Penn Medicine clinicians enrolled patients in the program directly from the electronic medical record. From there, Way to Health utilized twice-daily automated texts to remotely monitor patients, with protocols for escalation to telemedicine or hands-on care when necessary.
Penn Medicine OnDemand
In 2018, we launched Penn Medicine OnDemand, a fully scaled virtual care telemedicine practice operated by the Penn Medicine Center for Connected Care. Initially we offered virtual care services to Lancaster General Health employees and over the course of 18 months, expanded the service to include Eliance employer groups and a self-pay service for the general public. OnDemand is now one of the primary tools our health system is using to keep patients and providers safe amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. At the outset, our visits increased from 30-40 per month to over 400 per month. To meet the growing demand in the Lancaster area, we engaged local Urgent Care and Primary Care providers. Since March, we went from no local providers to more than 50 providers. Individuals who feel sick can use OnDemand to obtain a virtual evaluation for common illnesses such as sore throat, pink eye, UTIs, rashes, etc.. The OnDemand team is also providing support for patients with urgent COVID-19 symptoms through partnerships with Penn Medicine’s COVID-19 Hotline, pre-appointment symptom screening programs, and COVID Watch.
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