To begin, can you provide an overview of what steps your organization has taken to address the emerging COVID-19 crisis?
Baptist Health’s executive leadership team is meeting twice daily to coordinate efforts across the eight-hospital health system. In addition, other groups (both at the hospital and system level) are meeting daily to tackle issues related to infection control, supplies, equipment, processes and other hot-button issues. We are also working closely with our vendors to ensure we have enough equipment and supplies to safely care for our patients.
More generally, this has brought to light organizations critical incident management plans and we’d like to explore what those mean and how they are implemented.
Medical News: What’s your approach to critical incident management? Are you sticking with the existing chain of command in your organization or are you adopting new organizational schemes focused on issues? Or both?
For many years, Baptist Health hospitals have utilized an incident command system with drills at least twice a year that are based on real-life situations that could occur – ranging from preparing for bad weather, to dealing with a large influx of patients. To support and assist the hospitals, the system has activated its own incident command system which helps to coordinate Baptist Health’s response across its hospitals in Kentucky and Southern Indiana. These incident command systems have clearly established lines of authority and responsibility for each leader, ranging from clinical issues, to financial implications, to communication needs and more.
MN: How has your decision processes for revision of policies/procedures changed?
Out of necessity, the decision process for revising policies and procedures is being expedited to keep pace with the ever-changing challenge presented by COVID-19. Key leadership teams meet daily to review the needs of our providers and staff at our system hospitals, medical offices and outpatient centers.
MN: How are you handling crisis communications both internally and externally?
Baptist Health regularly updates its crisis communications plan and shares it among key leadership groups. We also provide training to ensure leaders are prepared to respond in times of crisis with clear and consistent information that addresses the issues at hand. Crisis communications are coordinated so that employees are the first to learn of necessary changes in policy and/or processes before that information is released to the public. Each hospital has a communications staff member to ensure we can respond quickly to local needs specific to that hospital and community. We also have a team at the System Services Center to support staff at our hospitals with crafting key messages, and a creative team which helps with necessary signage and related materials.
MN: Finally, this will have implications on our healthcare system as a whole for quite some time. What can our region’s healthcare providers do over the course of the next few weeks/months to help address this crisis and continue to protect the health of Kentuckians?
Even before COVID-19, our Commonwealth was taking steps toward greater collaboration between healthcare providers, with groups such as the Louisville Health Care CEO Council and the Kentuckiana Health Collaborative. Baptist Health has strengthened our collaboration with local, state and federal government leaders to ensure we work together to meet the needs of our communities – both in times of crisis and in our day-to-day lives. These types of partnerships will become increasingly valuable as we seek to raise the health status of those in the communities that we serve.
MN: What advice do you have for people concerned about the impact this will have on the healthcare system?
Baptist Health has been caring for its communities for nearly 100 years. That mission will not change. The lifestyle changes brought about by this crisis may give people a chance to explore new avenues for their healthcare that they will find helpful in the future – including Baptist Health’s eVisits and video visits for virtual care from a healthcare provider from the comfort of home. Go to BaptistHealth.com/MyChart to get started.