April 7, 2020

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April 7, 2020: In this episode, Bill Russell interviews Phyllis Teater, the CIO at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Joining the conversation, listeners will learn about their facility, the scope of their care, and the community they serve. What has been of great help in the COVID-19 crisis is having a supportive, proactive governor and state, a situation that Phyllis and her team do not take for granted. She shares about discovering the impressive capabilities of their health IT team, how they have been able to set up a testing facility in record time, and how they are partnering up with Battelle to help solve the PPE and monitoring dilemma. She also talks about their solution for placing patients during a surge, how they have adjusted the care for non-COVID outpatients, and what — in retrospect – they would have done differently in terms of planning. 

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Learn more about the Wexner Medical Center system and the community they serve. 
  • How a forward-thinking governor and state structure are supporting them through the crisis. 
  • What Phyllis has discovered on the journey of preparing for the surge in patients. 
  • Their solution for assisting with the placement of patients during a surge. 
  • What they are doing to care for outpatients with non-COVID-related needs. 
  • Hear how they set up a fully-functioning testing facility in less than a week. 
  • Their partnership with Battelle for PPE and monitoring solutions. 
  • What they would have done differently in terms of the prepping process. 

Field Report: Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center with Phyllis Teater

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Field Report: Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center with Phyllis Teater

Episode 220: Transcript – April 7, 2020

This transcription is provided by artificial intelligence. We believe in technology but understand that even the smartest robots can sometimes get speech recognition wrong.


[0:00:04.5] BR: Welcome to This Week in Health IT news where we look at the news which will impact health IT. This is another field report where we talk to leaders in health systems on the front lines. My name is Bill Russell, healthcare CIO coach and creator of This Week in Health IT a set of podcasts, videos and collaboration events dedicated to developing the next generation of health leaders.

As you know, we’ve been producing a lot of shows over the last three weeks and serious healthcare has stepped up to sponsor and support This Week in Health IT and I want to thank them for giving us the opportunity to capture and share the experience, stories and wisdom of the industry during this crisis. If your system would like to participate in the field report, it’s really easy, just shoot me an email at [email protected] Now, on to today’s show.


[0:00:55.3] BR: Today’s conversation is with Phyllis Teater, the CIO at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Good morning Phyllis, thanks for joining the show. 


[0:01:06.6] PT: Thank you it’s wonderful to be here, Bill.


[0:01:08.9] BR: Well, again, I really appreciate your time. I get emails from CIOs there’s just so much work going on right now. We’ll just get right to it, you know, what’s – give us a little background on your system and if you can, a little context of what’s going on in the – in your community right now.


[0:01:26.3] PT: Great. We’re a large academic medical center about 1,200 beds, a very large outpatient volume here in central Ohio. We are the provider for many of the high-end things that you would expect form an academic but we have another couple of large partners in the area who also provide care and start talk about as our coordination with the other care providers in the community.


We are very blessed to have a governor and a state structure that is being very forward-thinking in helping us prepare and so be able to work through the issues related to COVID. We are still in a state where we are preparing for a surge that we do not expect still for a couple of weeks. So, a lot of work going on, getting that preparation in place.


[0:02:22.9] BR: Yeah, we won’t go down the political side but your governor is getting a lot of kudos for getting in front of this, being aggressive, coordinating activities and I think that’s something that we will all take a look at after the fact to see how the state governments and federal and one I responded. 

What other things you have discovered in the past few weeks that might benefit others as you’re getting ready?


[0:02:52.3] PT: Well probably, the most amazing thing I’ve discovered is the ability of a large IT organization and a very large organization to move at speed that I never expected to see. We are a large – again, system with a lot of maybe bureaucracy sometimes and I think that I have been amazed at our ability to set that aside and get some things done that would normally take us months or years in a matter of days or weeks.


I think that just discovery is just incredible and amazes me that we kept turned on that dime but now, of course, we’ve learned we can do things very quickly which is wonderful.


[0:03:43.1] BR: No, please, go ahead.


[0:03:46.0] PT: From a specific perspective, we started shortly after things started to escalate, we started a daily communication with the whole IT department and then a few, probably a week later, added a section to that communication that is we call on the lighter side and it’s really helped, it’s really helped I think our team to stay connected. People sharing personal stories, funny things that they’ve heard, cartoons, all sorts of things that has really helped our team I think to continue to try to stay as the family that we are.


[0:04:23.2] BR: Yeah, you know, I’ve heard the word focus used a lot from CIOs, it’s the pandemic has been a focusing effect on health systems. Just everyone is laser focused on addressing this so we’re able to do things at speed and at scale that we have the capability of doing but haven’t really done that until this point, its’ pretty amazing.


What are some specific solutions that you’ve put in place that maybe others might benefit from?


[0:05:05.5] PT: We have done the two massive areas, been a lot talked about are the work from home, as well as the capability for telehealth, those really have hit had the industry all of those things were in progress and as you spoke about our amazingly, how they were in progress, we had some capabilities that are ability to take that to scale and ramp it up and get buy-in from our users is what has just changed dramatically.


One of the things in that space that we helped with early on was to work really hard to get our call center people home and working from home. Because we do not have that in some of the more critical areas like our transfer center and where we do bed placement and that kind of thing.


Complex setups that are rough to do remote. We did work through that and got them home and that’s allowed us to be prepared, we are doing something I think probably somewhat unusual here in central Iowa where we’re doing a small cohort of individual people from each of the large health systems are being added to a single call line that will help us to place patients during the surge that we may see. 


They are all connected electronically to a single sort of hunt group which is what they’re called for them to be able to take incoming calls and. Even though they’re at three different institutions.


[0:06:34.0] BR: Wow, that’s fantastic. Academic medical center, you had a – you probably had a sizeable population at the time when this was starting to break and obviously we’ve taken away the elective or non-urgent surgeries and those kinds of things but are you doing something in the way of remote monitoring and care for those patients that you’re not doing those surgeries for at this point? 


[0:07:09.5] PT: So I think that in the inpatient environment they still require such direct care that we are not doing – you know we are doing some things maybe differently but still functions for those non-COVID patients as much as it did before and we’re hoping to continue that although the volume is less so we’re working through that. For our outpatient environment, yes we are doing a lot of things differently in terms of how we care for that patient population. 


Because some of those visits are just as critical to keeping people healthy if they are struggling either with a chronic disease or with an acute issue that is non-COVID related. We still need to be able to serve that population and a quick and efficient way but also in a new way in order to keep them safe. 


So if they need to come in person, there is some processes and new policy types of things happening but if they can’t be seen virtually that is obviously the place that we really want to go and have ramped up our visit volumes in a virtual way by a couple of orders of magnitude in there. 


[0:08:18.9] BR: Yeah, the numbers I am hearing are amazing. What is one of the things that you’ve been really just amazed or impressed that your team has been able to accomplish? 


[0:08:28.7] PT: So in one week, we stood up both a large skit toward the organization, a large scale, very large scale outdoor drive-through tent based swabbing station and wired all of the connectivity and set that up. That kind of took off on Monday. On Wednesday morning they were open. The same week we started to put in place and plan to stand up a new lab both physically as well as organizationally that we partnered with another organization here in Columbus named Battelle. 


Who is a very large – one of the largest research organizations in the United States to stand up that lab and use some novel processes for testing. So we had a blank slate on Wednesday morning and by Friday it was outfitted with all the technology, all the build was underway and our Epic system to be able to do those tests. All the users had access and they were doing training. So in three days, we creped a space and built all of the system things and added all of the users to be able to start doing our test ourselves. 


And we are now the reference lab for Central Ohio and the first test was done maybe a week and a half ago so. 


[0:09:57.0] BR: Wow, that’s fantastic. Do you have any solutions you are doing right now around PPE or just monitoring or putting that in place? 


[0:10:06.3] PT: So Battelle again is a wonderful partner and an amazing group of brilliant people. For PPE we are across the street from Battelle Research Institute from their home office and we are reprocessing PPE. So for N95 masks, we collect them, transport them to our partners at Battelle and they are able to re-sterilize them and return them for use and they think that the tests are showing that we could re-sterilize an N95 mask perhaps 20 times and use it before it is not useable. 


[0:10:51.3] BR: Wow that is fantastic. Anything in the prep process that you wish you had done earlier? 


[0:10:58.2] PT: I think that understanding as we were making our plans for folks that there were things we should have ordered earlier because we are having some delays with some equipment that we would like to have had earlier and that list would include some headsets, those are in very short supply because we want to send people home that need a headset in order to do their work. The small wireless adapters that you can hook up to a desktop to be able to equip it to function wirelessly. 


If you want to send somebody home with a desktop. So just always having that be the first time sort of an idea comes up to do something different that should be one of the very first questions in this kind of situation is what might be some of the equipment and let us get it on order now. Okay, now let’s talk about the process and tested and those kinds of things so. 


[0:12:00.7] BR: That is amazing. Well, Phyllis, thank you very much for taking the time and thanks for sharing your experience and your wisdom with us. I really appreciate it. 


[0:12:09.6] PT: Thank you Bill, happy to do it and I am learning from the other field reports because I am here listening to those so thank you very much for doing these. 




[0:12:19.8] BR: That is all for this show. Special thanks to our sponsors, VMware, StarBridge Advisers, Galen Healthcare, Health Lyrics and Pro-Talent Advisers for choosing to invest in developing the next generation of health leaders. If you want to support the fastest growing podcast in the health IT space, the best way to do that is to share with a peer. Send an email, DM whatever you do. You could also follow us on social media and subscribe to our YouTube channel. 


There is a lot of different ways you can support us but sharing it with a peer is the best. Please check back often as we would be dropping many more shows until we flatten the curve across the country. Thanks for listening. That is all for now.




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