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Michigan Medicine

A Minute with Marschall

The Ripple Effect

July 31st, 2020

A while back, I wrote a blog which asked, “What has COVID-19 taught us?”

Back then, in late April, we were at the peak and about one month into our COVID-19 battle. In that short time, our teams had learned much about COVID-19 and remained on a steep learning curve while bravely enduring the crisis.

Each day our teams continued to pivot and adjust, adding to the learning curve through the peak and then through the flattening of the curve. You all demonstrated incredible selflessness, innovation and adaptability and I thank you for that.

Now that we are past Michigan’s peak, although not out of the woods, we are working through the recovery process. As we’ve all seen, what we learned over our intense early days with COVID-19 has rippled out to influence how we operate moving forward. Our thoughtful urgent response to a crisis actually became additional building blocks that will help strengthen the foundation of our organization and also illuminate the challenges in implementing change at breakneck speed.

Let me cite just a few examples and encourage consideration of how other pandemic learnings could impact our future. 

During COVID-19, leaders came together every day in our emergency command center to discuss and solve critical issues. We resolved many issues at lightning speed, out of sheer necessity.  Today, the command center model has morphed into a daily Operational Update Meeting to further leverage this extraordinary teamwork across the entire organization. We continue to refine this process and work flows, so in the future we become even more efficient at timely information sharing and critical decision making for better patient care, research and financial outcomes. 

The governor’s shelter in place requirements drove us to find creative ways for non-patient care employees to work remotely. We demonstrated to ourselves that we can support working from home for sustained periods, without eroding our productivity or effectiveness. Now, as we continue to work remotely to reduce unnecessary traffic in our facilities, we see the benefits in greater parking and access for our patients, reduced commuting, lower gas expenses, and an opportunity for greater work/life balance. This could quite possibly be the new norm for segments of our work force in the future, with on-site visits occurring only as needed.

The shelter in place order was also the catalyst for a dramatic increase and adoption of virtual visits during the months of March, April and May. Looking forward, we know now that virtual visits can comprise a significant portion of our overall ramp-up plan. It is an ongoing option for many patients and providers alike that will improve efficiency, particularly because live visits now require additional safety precautions. No doubt, some of the innovations for virtual visits that were born out of the pandemic will continue to develop in the future.  

As our routine patient care ramped down to ensure safety and to accommodate COVID-19 patients, our laboratory-based research also came to a halt. 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.

Additionally, we now have a multitude of COVID-19 related research occurring, including 100 unique research projects that have led to over 20,000 COVID-19 bio-specimens being collected during these months. We have also forged research collaborations with the School of Public Health, which will no doubt strengthen our future understanding of COVID-19 prevention and treatment, its impact on health care disparities, outcomes, and other social determinants.  

Yes, we have learned a lot from COVID-19. We have proven that we can adapt quickly in a crisis. Most importantly, we learned that when we join together, we are stronger as we support our patients, their families, our staff and our communities.

Now we need to learn how to take that knowledge to the next level and how and when to apply lessons we’ve learned about rapid-pace change.

We should all be mindful of the question of where these ripple effects will take us in the future. 

What ripple effects are you seeing? What improved processes or efficiencies are you or your team establishing which will strengthen our future? Please share your thoughts in the discussion box below. 

2 Comments

  • What an amazing institution we are! I continue to be amazed at the great things Michigan Medicine can do. I am honored to be part of this wonderful team. GO BLUE!

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