Facing the crucible of the COVID-19 crisis has been an unprecedented challenge, but it also has allowed surgery center leaders to take a closer look at areas for improvement so they can handle future emergencies better.
Same-Day Surgery: Are there any other personal or professional lessons learned from the pandemic and its impact on you and your facility? What might you do differently in the future?
Mahoney: I feel we could have improved our communication to our medical staff during the earlier stages. Many things were happening in other parts of the country, and we weren’t there yet. We could have communicated our plan to them earlier.
We also were going through something we had never experienced before. So much was uncharted waters. New information was coming out daily.
Patterson: We need effective ways to communicate what is going on in real time. There was so much information coming out, and interpreting how to respond appropriately was a challenge since things were sometimes changing each hour. We were fortunate to have processes in place to communicate with employees and providers but feel that always could be improved.
In addition, we have actively participated in our community disaster preparedness drills, which was very beneficial for our team. We knew the players and how to get in touch with the respective parties, which helped us understand what the community impact was going to be.
I think the after-action report process will be imperative to learn what could have been done better as a community.
Millsap: ASCs [ambulatory surgery centers], like MPSC, are proving to be a valuable resource during the COVID-19 crisis. The impact of this pandemic on hospitals is expected to be severe, and U.S. hospitals typically operate at or near full capacity.
ASCs are well positioned to rapidly increase available healthcare services by accepting overflow patients from local hospitals. MPSC is expanding service lines while maintaining our high-quality standard of care. We are in close and consistent communication with our hospital partners to ensure quality service to our community. MPSC’s physicians and staff are collaborating to bring innovative, effective treatment and support to our patients during this crisis. For example, MPSC is considering establishing a pandemic preparedness committee, which would include representatives of all clinical and support departments, as well as senior administrators.
We also are speaking with neighboring hospitals and local public health agencies to determine if a healthcare coalition would benefit our community.
These committees would be responsible for monitoring the market for potential issues; keeping abreast of innovations in planning, testing, and treatments; and sharing this knowledge with colleagues.
Forming dedicated institutions both within our facility and beyond our ORs [operating rooms] ensures our ability to successfully integrate systemwide planning and preparedness.
Harrison: Right now, I cannot venture a forecast for a specific change in same-day surgery center operations, other than every touchpoint of healthcare, as we knew it, will change. This includes the way we do traditional office visits, history, and physical screening prior to surgery, and the reopening of the ASCs that closed during this pandemic.
The lesson is: We are never certain of anything in healthcare. We know we need it. We will all be watching closely as the face of healthcare changes.
del Granado: It is quite simply impossible to plan for every contingency. Larger organizations and governments were caught flat-footed, and it would be the height of hubris to presume to be able to do better.
Instead, we had two factors in our favor. First, we always maintain enough resources to ride out a 100-year storm. Second, we have been able to continue running through a challenging and constantly shifting landscape without missing a step, not because we prepared countless exhaustive plans for every possible scenario, but rather because the staff, physicians, and partners stuck together with resilience and levelheadedness.
We stuck to the facts and ignored the wild speculation on both sides, we remained forward-looking, and anticipated each development so we could prepare in advance and adapt to the necessary changes.
Every move we made — policy changes and contingency plans — came out ahead of everyone else because we stayed on top of things and prepared the team, communicating constantly and openly, so that when challenges came our way the team was ready for them.
That really distills the essence of my advice: Stay vigilant, flexible, resilient, gritty, and, most important, stay together.