• Article
  • April 15, 2020

Diagnostic Testing and Employee Program Protects Patients and Staff During COVID-19 Pandemic

Enhanced testing, virtual visits and employee safety net highlights COVID-19 response at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

Diagnostics help put both patients and staff at Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) at ease during the COVID-19 pandemic. Advanced testing is one strategy leaders at CHLA highlighted in a recent CHA webinar sharing useful strategies to manage the pandemic.

The hospital deployed COVID-19 diagnostic tests for patients and staff in early March and have performed thousands of tests since then. Jim Stein, M.D., chief medical officer at CHLA says the testing directs the hospital's approach to treating kids as inpatients and in the perioperative setting. "It changed our whole approach to how we are able to bring patients into the hospital," Stein says. "We created a COVID unit where we can house patients while we wait for results. Testing helps us preserve our personal protective equipment (PPE) and provide staff and faculty a much higher level of comfort."

Technology ramp-up

Like many medical facilities, CHLA saw a sharp decline in in-person visits—most likely due to the safer at home initiatives. The hospital had already started the Virtual Care program for telehealth visits, but still struggled with how to reach patients and families.

In six months prior to the pandemic, the pilot of the Virtual Care program had more than 250 telehealth visits. Once the effects of the pandemic started, more than 500 providers and team members expressed interest in providing telehealth. "It was a dramatic kind of 180 shift of an entire team working together," says Mona Patel, M.D., vice president, Ambulatory Operations. "We were saying we need to build this and build it fast so we can still serve our patients." Within three weeks, providers conducted thousands of Virtual Care visits. The CHLA team supported that by creating more than 600 charges and 1,400 new order sets.

The IT team was also hard at work developing an interactive digital app named Chatbot that aligned with the organization's internal appointment reminder system. "We thought what a great time to not only be able to push out information when families are wondering what to do, we were in a good position to do it because we are a trusted resource of information," says Patel. Chatbot provided digital triage technology allowing staff to better navigate with patients and families.

Employee support

Care delivery and work environment changed quickly for everyone. Leaders put the Safer at Home Assistance program in place to provide stability and support for employees during the safer at home period.

In a matter of a week CHLA's remote workforce grew from 50 to 2,000 to reduce community density. Other initiatives are in place to promote resilience among teams. The hospital helps relieve stress by offering free meals, expanding on-site childcare and sharing resource information twice a week. "We tried to deploy a multitude of strategies to provide that broad-based wellness, calm and support for staff and faculty," says Mamoon Syed, senior vice president and chief people officer.

Leadership development has not stopped during the crisis. Mamoon says while leaders are on the front lines working with staff, they want to equip them with resources to have meaningful conversations.

CHLA's president and CEO, Paul Viviano, says they are trying a balanced approach to accomplish their goals which are rooted in a commitment to patients and families. "We are preserving the health and safety of our team members," he says. "We are also focusing on preserving and enhancing job security and financial stability of team members and the organization."

The best work happens together

Alex Judkins, M.D., chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory medicine at CHLA, supports the hospital's value of doing the best together and invites any children's hospital to send CHLA lab information on their positive cases, pediatrics or adults. The CHLA lab will sequence, analyze and return the data. CHLA also plans to share the data publicly. The data contact information and link to watch a CHA webinar detailing CHLA's efforts are available. Member login is required.

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