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What Lessons Did We Learn from COVID-19?
By David L. Feldman, MD, MBA, FACS, Chief Medical Officer, The Doctors
Company Group, and Laura Kline, CPCU, MBA, Senior Vice President, Business EDevelopment, The Doctors Company
ach year, The Doctors Company assembles health- care leaders to discuss the most pressing issues affecting physicians, practices, and systems across
the spectrum of care. The 2020 Executive Advisory Board meeting gathered top healthcare executives for a virtual discussion of shared pandemic experiences and lessons learned that can help healthcare organizations navigate through COVID-19 and beyond.
Here are the top 10 meeting takeaways:
1. Follow federal, state, and local guidelines—and don’t apologize for change.
Southern California’s Hoag Medical Group followed guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and their local health authorities to the letter. Then, the moment those guidelines changed, Hoag leadership announced the change to physicians and staff. This provided consistent messaging and allowed them to manage expectations.
“The minute you go out on your own, you become
very vulnerable to criticism and accusations of lack of fairness or lack of taking responsibility. Following the guidelines protects you, and then you just have to be nimble to change course as quickly as the recommenda- tions change,” said Martin Fee, MD, senior VP and chief clinical officer at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, California, and an infectious
disease specialist.
2. Do change your own mindset to succeed.
Andrew Racine, MD, PhD, system senior VP and chief medical officer at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York, reflects on his experience with COVID-19 at the heart of the crisis in NYC: “Everything about what you are used to doing and how you are used to doing it had to be discarded, had to be put aside . . . Where were you going to do things? What kind of equipment were you going to use? Who was going to do things?” He advises, “You have to be flexible. You have to adapt to the circumstances.” And, “You have to be proactive.”
3. Plan for what’s coming next.
Dr. Racine says that Montefiore has systematized lessons learned: “We have a very detailed plan about
what will happen if we get 10 percent more patients than we currently have, if we get 20 percent more patients than we currently have, if we get 100 percent more patients than we currently have.”
And Dr. Fee describes contingency plans that incorpo- rate not only medical realities, but political ones—fac- toring for predicted executive actions from California’s governor.
4. Communicate with honesty, empathy, authenticity, and consistency.
Dr. Racine describes the need for empathy in effective communication: “People were frightened. They were anxious. They were angry, they were grieving. And the communication had to acknowledge that.” In addition, Dr. Racine stresses authenticity: “People were not going to accept communication coming from just anybody”— which was why Montefiore’s communications came from their CEO.
Dr. Fee notes a communication lesson learned: “Initially, I was trying to be very reassuring with the physicians and saying, ‘We’re going to get through this and every- thing’s going to be OK and this will be over soon.’ In retrospect, that’s not true . . . What I would have done differently is say, ‘We’ll have to just see,’ but maybe not be too reassuring.”

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