COVID-19: Norton Healthcare responds to pandemic

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?

Norton Healthcare opened a centralized Clinical Command Center for the COVID-19 crisis that reports directly to system chief medical officer, Steven Hester. The role of the center is to quickly address new and innovative approaches to managing this challenge during a time of rapid change. The command center team ensures consistent processes and messaging across our system. All COVID-19 clinical decisions and communications come from this center.  

The Clinical Command Center is composed of a team of individuals monitoring the situation 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These include physicians, nurse practitioners and pharmacists with many years of infectious disease experience. The team also includes staff from Norton Healthcare’s radiology, clinical effectiveness and quality, human resources and IS departments, along with administrative leaders. They are focused on supporting our caregivers and patients, and providing analytics, daily updates and care guidelines.  

The Clinical Command Center team is working on cross-functional initiatives for inpatient, outpatient and employee health. The Command Center team reports to executive leaders and cascades information daily to clinical providers and employees across the system.

Of note: Infection prevention policies and procedures are well established, and we address any infection outbreak with a high level of attention and concern. Our system epidemiologist and leadership teams were monitoring COVID-19 long before the first diagnosis in the United States. They began assembling teams specifically dedicated to preparing for the possibility of infected patients in our community. These team members also began working to protect our employees and providers caring for patients who may be infected with COVID-19.

MN: How has your decision processes for revision of policies/procedures changed?

The Norton Clinical Command Center was launched to enhance the speed at which we are able to effectively revise and implement policies and procedures. In these unprecedented times, we actively review and revise policies for the delivery of patient care as well as applicable employee policies/guidelines, such as work from home and travel.

MN: How are you handling crisis communications both internally and externally?

We feel it is very important to keep everyone informed during this ever-evolving situation. To help address the need for education around this virus and to manage the high level of requests for similar information, our marketing and communications teams quickly went to work creating a community resource page on our website to address common questions from the public, as well as a dedicated COVID-19 resource section on our employee intranet. They also are in the process of developing a media resources page. These digital resource centers are updated daily as information changes.

Russell F. Cox, president and CEO of Norton Healthcare, is creating videos seven days a week for Norton Healthcare employees.  An email box was established for employees to submit questions. Russ responds to these frontline questions and shares important updates in his videos. This transparency helps employees feel confident that they have what they need to know to do their jobs effectively during this pandemic. Russ feels that open, honest communication is vital at all times and especially during these challenging times. These videos also are available in transcript form for those who may not be able to view video or prefer to read the updates.

MN: 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 all Kentuckians?

We must continue to educate the community on how to appropriately seek care; reinforce the importance of social distancing, cough etiquette and proper hand hygiene; and support the governor’s initiative to stay “Healthy At Home” and similar initiatives.

MN: What advice do you have for people concerned about the impact this will have on the healthcare system?

As always, the safety of our employees, providers and patients is paramount. These are trying times for the health care industry, and each day we do our best to meet these challenges. This is unlike anything we’ve experienced in modern history, and we are at the beginning of this pandemic in the United States and Kentucky.

The best advice is to stay home unless you are having symptoms you would normally have sought treatment for in the past. Do not risk infecting others or becoming infected yourself by going to an urgent care center or emergency care center with mild to moderate symptoms. As of now, you will not be tested unless you are in the hospital, in a high-risk category or are an exposed health care provider.We must reserve health care resources for those who are the most critically ill.

If you have a supply of new masks or other personal protective equipment, consider making a donation to your local hospital.

Stay home. Stay healthy. Stay informed.


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