Lights in the Dark

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By Clay Holderman

Like all healthcare leaders, I have found myself in a world I would not have recognized when I wrote my 2020 goals at the end of 2019.  As we work around the clock to procure PPE and keep our workforce safe so they can be here for our communities, the weight of the decisions and the pace and intensity of the work can be overwhelming.  I stood in my back yard after a call last night and I was mesmerized by a million tiny lights – and I realized – they only appear so bright and beautiful because they are penetrating the darkness.  

I took a few minutes this afternoon to share a few points of light penetrating the dark of this COVID crisis.  I hope other healthcare leaders will join the conversation and add to the lights.  May it give us just the boost we need to lead through these unprecedented times.

1.  PPE Donation – It started with a local subcontractor who saw the news about healthcare workers facing shortages of PPE and donating his stock of N95 respirators.  That brought a tear to my eye.  Then other companies joined in. Then individuals.  I am so humbled by the outpouring of love and concern from our communities as they rally together to ensure our healthcare workers are protected.

2.  Innovation – My teams amaze me!  Setting up a drive-thru screening and testing site in less than 24 hours that was capable of seeing 80 cars per hour and screened 790 people in one day – wow!  Turning an online visit platform into a vetted COVID screening tool and making it available to the general public for free – amazing!  Moving 900 providers onto phone and video visit capabilities and switching templates overnight – unbelievable!

3.  Bureaucracy – Who would have believed that regulations and hurdles could be cleared in hours when we come together.  When we identified IRS regulations that prevented us from providing free online care to high deductible health plan members, it was on Vice President Pense’s desk in four hours and we had a rule change the next day!  Countless state-level waivers are granted within hours of request allowing us to transform our care model.

4.  Robotic Process Automation – We have been waiting for the chance to showcase our bots and they came through in spades, creating seamless back-end account creation to allow people who have never touched our system to interact with our online care and participate in screening, testing and automated resulting.

4.  Our people.  At the end of the day, the most brilliant light in all of this has been our people.  While the world is cocooning around us, hoarding and protecting themselves, our teams are doubling down.  They double their hours, they come in willingly to care for COVID-positive patients and PUI’s, and they love and care for each other.  When schools close, they watch each others kids.  When PPE is short, they trust in re-use and conservation guidance.  When I am tired or overwhelmed, it is these amazing people that give me a new boost of energy to push on.  

So please share – where do you find light in these dark times?

As Executive Vice President and COO for Presbyterian Healthcare Services, a not-for-profit integrated system of hospitals, clinics, a medical group and one of the nation’s largest provider-led health plans, Clay Holderman leads operational alignment across the health system and is focused on the continued transformation of the delivery of care to achieve the quadruple aim. During his 22 years in health care leadership, Clay has been successful in both for-profit and not-for-profit systems, led new program development, hospital consolidation, new hospital conception and construction, and health system performance improvement.

He writes about healthcare leadership and innovation at A National Laboratory for Healthcare.

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