This event took place on December 1, 2020 via GoToWebinar.
After nine months of fighting the COVID-19 outbreak across North Carolina, hospitals and health systems have learned important lessons about how to best protect patients, reduce the spread of the virus, and support communities in and out of the hospital.
Healthcare leaders in the Charlotte region recently came together – virtually – to discuss with nearly 200 viewers what they have learned, and share updates on the pandemic, including surging cases, health equity efforts, and vaccine distribution plans.
The conversation was part of a series of virtual town halls across the state hosted by the North Carolina Healthcare Association.
Panelists included Carl Armato, President & CEO, Novant Health, Gene Woods, President & CEO, Atrium Health, John Green, President & CEO, Iredell Health System, Dr. David Priest, SVP & Chief Safety, Quality and Epidemiology Officer, Novant Health and Dr. Katie Passerati, Medical Director of Infection Prevention, Atrium Health.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the conversation – and join us on February 9, 2021 at 1pm-2pm EST for the next virtual town hall, featuring speakers from the Eastern region of the state. Register here.
Using technology to target COVID-19 outbreaks and better treat patients
The ability to use data analytics to predict and target outbreaks was a key innovation developed and refined over months of fighting the pandemic. Through dashboards and predictive modeling, systems like Atrium Health and Novant Health can now track the status of supplies, facilities, trends, and outbreaks, allowing the systems to send resources directly to where they are needed most.
“Since March, our ability to pinpoint where the outbreaks are, where testing is needed, it’s as sophisticated as it’s ever been,” said Gene Woods, Atrium Health president and CEO.
For Iredell Health System in Statesville, the pandemic accelerated the use of virtual healthcare, which the rural system can use to improve access post-pandemic.
“This got our physicians comfortable, and it got our patients comfortable,” said John Green, Iredell Health System president and CEO. “Now our goal is, let’s take telehealth and keep that moving forward as part of our arsenal.
Staying safe through the winter for one another
The panelists encouraged North Carolinians not to let up in taking all safety precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19, such as washing hands, wearing a mask, social distancing, and getting a vaccine when it becomes available.
These efforts don’t just keep us safe, the speakers said, they protect our friends, families, and neighbors.
“This is about protecting the people who are really at risk,” said Carl Armato, Novant Health president and CEO.
Continuing to stay safe and avoid gatherings also protects healthcare workers in our communities. The rising case counts are particularly serious for frontline workers, who have been at highest risk of exposure throughout the year.
“We aren’t worried about not having PPE anymore,” said Gene Woods. “We have enough stockpiled, and we can manage, but I worry about how tired [the staff] are. We continue to ask the community to please mask up. If we do what we need to do in this period, this time next year, we’re all together with our family and friends.”
Preparing now for vaccine distribution
Speakers also shared that vaccine distribution planning is underway across the state and in every health system. Both Moderna and Pfizer have filed for Emergency Use Authorization for their COVID-19 vaccines, and many expect distribution to begin in December or January, beginning with healthcare workers and patients at highest risk of exposure.
“We’re really being prepared, so as soon as the vaccine hits and we’re able to distribute it, we’ve addressed all the challenges getting it out will entail,” said Dr. Katie Passerati, Atrium Health Medical Director of Infection Prevention.
It will also be important for North Carolinians to have accurate information about the vaccine, the speakers said, because it will only be effective if a large percentage of people receive it. The vaccine uses mRNA technology, which has been studied for many years and allows the body to make the proteins necessary to fight the coronavirus. While there can be side effects, it cannot give you COVID-19, Dr. Passerati said.
“We have a lot of work to do to communicate that everyone does need to get vaccinated,” said Gene Woods.
Health equity efforts before the pandemic supported the Charlotte community during the crisis
Each health system has long been focused on reducing health disparities, including improving quality of health for underserved communities, as well as addressing things like food insecurity and economic mobility.
This became even more critical during the pandemic, as people of color have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
Community clinics and partnerships with churches and other local organizations allowed the systems to provide care and social support during the pandemic, such as testing, mask distribution, access to food pantries and more.
“It’s a long term need for everyone,” said John Green, “and we’ll work toward that to see improvements in health equities across our communities.”
Are you a resident of Eastern N.C.? Join us for our next Virtual Town Hall on Feb. 9.
These sessions are designed to give the public an opportunity to ask questions, voice concerns, and share stories with healthcare decision-makers.
Focused on Eastern North Carolina, this next session will feature:
- Michael Waldrum, MD, CEO Vidant Health
- John Gizdic, President and CEO, New Hanover Regional Medical Center
- Philip Jackson, DSL, President, Sentara Albemarle Medical Center
- Penney Burlingame-Deal, DHA, President & CEO, Onslow Memorial