For all the challenges that COVID-19 has presented, the pandemic also has created significant learning opportunities. Every day, provider organizations are innovating, forging and expanding partnerships, finding better ways to better communicate internally and externally and identifying ways to optimize supply chain management.
Marc Harrison, M.D., president and CEO of Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare, has taken stock of lessons his health system has learned during these trying times. Here are a few of the key points he recently shared in the Harvard Business Review.
Leverage Telehealth More Aggressively
Intermountain began pursuing telehealth in 2012 on two platforms. In March 2020, the health system conducted 7,000 virtual patient visits. A month later, that number jumped to 63,000 and has remained high as patients continue to embrace the value of virtual care. Harrison’s takeaway: Patients aren’t going to return to the way things were before the pandemic and are likely to continue opting for telehealth services for nonurgent care.
With that in mind, Intermountain is leveraging its new digital front door to better meet patients’ needs. Its My Health+ app allows consumers to book appointments, check their symptoms, launch online visits, access their health history, pay bills, manage prescriptions, get reminders about preventive care and estimate their health care costs. The app includes a COVID-19 symptom checker that has been accessed more than 230,000 by consumers.
Increasing the number of employees who work at home by tenfold during the pandemic has brought tangible benefits to the health system and its employees, lessening the chances that they could contract the virus. At the beginning of this year, only 1,000 of the organization’s 41,000 employees worked at home. Now, more than 10,000 are working remotely. An internal survey showed that 89% of employees enjoy working from home, 78% want to continue working remotely once the pandemic subsides, and a large majority say they’re equally or more productive than they were before.
Intermountain’s supply chain team also came up with a new disinfection protocol to extend the life of N95 respirators and preserve the system’s limited supply.
Intermountain has worked with state and local governments and collaborated with one of its traditional competitors, University of Utah Health, to provide testing, supplies, care, research and support. It’s also a member of the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition, which unites health care organizations, tech firms, nonprofits, academia and startups to help combat the virus.
Intermountain also has agreements with 15 rural hospitals in Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming and Utah to provide telehealth consults with their physicians. In the first half of this year, Intermountain has conducted more than 2,500 consults with these partners, a 51% increase over the same period in 2019.