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Michigan Medicine

A Minute with Marschall

Envisioning a New Normal

April 27th, 2020
Photo Credit: Steve Upton

As state and federal agencies, health care experts and economists discuss when and how we will “go back to normal,” we at Michigan Medicine are quickly recognizing that there will be no going back to what we once considered normal before COVID-19.

Despite all of the pain and suffering, our journey in the last two months has brought a better understanding of our opportunities and our shortcomings, and we believe we can make sustained changes that will improve health care for all. Now is the time for us to seize these opportunities, look to the future and create what will become our new normal. 

What has COVID-19 taught us?

First and foremost, we must build a stronger system that will be better prepared to weather any future crisis. While the quality of care and the intensity, commitment and compassion throughout Michigan Medicine has been simply incredible, we can further improve on our performance should another crisis arise. We also learned that our historical reputation for quality health care, innovative learning and research alone will not guarantee that we are future leaders in what will now become an even more complex and competitive health care industry.

To lead in this industry, we must become more productive and efficient, adapt even more quickly to new technologies and proactively problem solve to anticipate the future needs of our patients, their families, our staff and our communities.

Indeed, we have already started great work that will be vital for our future. Here are just a few examples:

The pandemic forced us to think and act with thoughtful, non-negotiable urgency. This really culminated in our command center, which brought a cross-functional team of leaders together to discuss, strategize, and make decisions on critical issues. This daily collaboration will continue as a part of our new normal. 

Shelter in place requirements drove us to utilize a variety of technologies to not only connect with each other but reach out to our patients and families. We have proven that with tools like Zoom, many in our work force can do their jobs remotely, while still being effective and productive. This has a number of implications for the future, including alleviating our parking challenges and maintaining social distancing in the future.

From a clinical perspective, we are setting new paradigms for provider and patient interactions. In the month of March, we conducted over 8,000 virtual visits, which is a far greater number that we achieved over the prior year. We will continue virtual visits as a first-line option, which will greatly improve access. The vast majority of our patients (and providers) who used virtual health grew to like it for its convenience and ready access.

Based on what we learned about our hospital and clinical capacity through the pandemic, we know we need to move forward with 24/7 hospital operations and 12/7 clinic hours. Moving to this model will help us reduce length of stay, minimize disruptions in care, and standardize practices across our various departments and units.

Although non-essential research came to a halt at many of our labs, our researchers turned to technology-driven solutions to continue their work, including advanced virtual desktops, remote patient consents for drug trials and using wearable devices to collect data.

It will be a long journey to developing the Michigan Medicine of the future but I am confident we will succeed and in the process we will establish the many “new normals” that will position us as a future-forward health system. 

What do you do differently due to the pandemic that you would like to see continued as part of our new normal? Please share your thoughts in the discussion box below.  


  • To continue to work from home, thank you

    • Marschall Runge

      Hi Julie, I think many of our Michigan Medicine team members would agree with you. We discovered quickly that by using technology, we are able to get things done while sheltering in place. In some cases, we could even work more efficiently, and with fewer distractions, in our own homes. We know it won’t work in all situations, but in the future we will look for opportunities where Work From Home (WFH) will become a viable option.

  • Every surgical patient must have Covid19 test performed and resulted before OR case is scheduled. Pre Op questionnaire in Surgical Family Waiting Room cannot be trusted.

    Close parking structures should be reserved for bedside patient care workers.

    Have adequate inventory of N95, N100, PAPR for all healthcare workers, EVS, sitters.

    • Marschall Runge

      Thanks for your suggestions, Debra. I want you to be aware that beginning yesterday, we have begun testing all patients admitted to our hospitals regardless of presence or absence of symptoms. That includes testing for COVID-19 prior to procedures performed in our operating rooms or procedure areas.
      After all we have learned from COVID-19, we know we will be better prepared for any future outbreak. What we have witnessed so far is that we, at Michigan Medicine, can adapt and adjust quickly to respond to a crisis, but we cannot always control the availability of outside resources. We continue to procure, inventory and provide PPE and testing to our staff and patients at the highest levels possible within this pandemic age. We have had many questions and suggestions about this from our staff and we have developed a very extensive FAQ that answers PPE and testing questions. You can find that here.

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