By Eric Thrailkill, TN HIMSS President/ SVP of BI and Analytics Envision Healthcare
Chapter Members – I hope you are all safe and healthy – I know you’re extremely busy….
On March 10th – a week removed from the tornadoes of Middle Tennessee and just five days after the announcement to cancel HIMSS20 in Orlando – the Chapter Leadership Team met to discuss an event hastily scheduled for March 12th. In light of the HIMSS20 cancellation, we were looking forward to visiting as colleagues and raising funds for Hands on Nashville and the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee in support of tornado relief. We made a decision to cancel this gathering, with sponsors available and over 100 registered attendees, and set our sights on Summit20. The COVID-19 case count in Tennessee on that day stood at 7 cases.
Later that evening, I learned of the suspensions of the NBA and the NHL and stream after stream of cancellations and postponements of local, state and national activity. The United States confirmed case count stood at 755 total cases, with New York surpassing Washington as the state with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases. Over 40 colleges and universities extended their spring breaks and many school systems considered closure through March 31st. Meanwhile, the healthcare industry was planning, coordinating and bracing for the inevitable pandemic.
To say the world has changed in the last 25 days is a significant understatement, as you know. As of Sunday, April 5th, we now have over 312,000 confirmed cases in the United States and over 8,500 lives lost. In Tennessee alone, we have almost five times the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases than existed in all of America less than four weeks ago.
We all know this will only get worse, before it gets better. We know necessary PPE is in short supply and hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, physician practices, public health clinics and many other health facilities have transitioned to top priorities of protecting patients, protecting the clinicians, and planning for literally thousands of health care professionals being redeployed to support the peak demand.
Last Friday, I began our monthly Leadership Team meeting with a sincere introduction of “….it’s great to see you and hear your voices” – on Webex. The very necessary physical and social distancing policies associated with COVID-19 has allowed me to fully appreciate the connection associated with our board meetings, strategy sessions, programs, events, chapter receptions, CIO Dinners and the HIT Accelerator Program. I have been reflecting on how “normal” it was to commence every board meeting with handshakes, chapter receptions with hugs, programs with breakfast, and CIO Dinners in extremely tight quarters.
We were planning our best Summit ever – Summit20 at the Cool Springs Marriott – with over 300 planned attendees, 19 speakers and panelists (10 from outside Tennessee) and certainly the healthcare information technology event of the year in our community.
In less than a month, we’ve cancelled our chapter reception in Orlando, postponed two CIO Dinners, postponed Summit 20 and postponed a Security event. We have pledged to support healthcare organizations bracing for the oncoming peak of patient needs, during a period when individual time is in great demand.
No doubt, there will be significant changes to our healthcare system, when we enter the recovery phase. Today, however, are witnessing amazing support taking place by all of you in many areas of this pandemic response, including but not limited to:
- standing up virtual health and telehealth solutions to support office based encounters, COVID-19 triage, at home monitoring and peer communications
- analytics to support epidemiologists, management of supplies, coordination and deployment of medical personnel, industry research, antiviral and vaccine development
- an array of various clinical trials, analyzing therapeutics and measuring antibody development
- digital health applications modified to support evidenced-based assessment and monitoring of patients
- health information exchanges, data sharing agreements, care coordination and alternative utilization of facilities
- security professionals providing solutions to ensure remote workers, telehealth and information exchange is secure and protected
I suspect every one of our statewide 2,300 members are involved in this response, as well as providing support for health and healthcare outside of the COVID-19 response. I thank you for your service and know that we will have valuable information to share, from many of our members, in the upcoming weeks and months relative to fighting this pandemic. To our physicians, nurses, therapists, technicians, medical transportation personnel on the front lines of care – we wish you safety, health and energy as you combat the virus with long hours and limited supplies. All of you are an inspiration to all of us – thanks for what you’re doing each and every day.
We will also take a long view of as a Chapter, once we emerge from the current healthcare response. It’s a time to reflect on what has worked well in the past and plan for how to make it better – in a post-COVID environment.
We embrace the opportunity to lead in thought, enhance connections, and move health and healthcare forward through better information and technology. We take pride in leveraging what makes our community great – collaboration, hard work and passion. These are very necessary characteristics of our BOD Members, Ambassadors, Officers, Committees and Members. They will be absolutely essential moving forward. We look forward to hearing your feedback, new ideas, and sharing our learning experiences under this reimagined format.
The Leadership Team of the Chapter is pleased to announce the continued support of our Sponsors as we move through this time period of reflection and planning. We can’t thank our Sponsors enough for standing by us during these times. We will be onboarding new board members in June and I will be transitioning the role of President to Tod Fetherling. Our Chapter remains financially strong, and consistently leads the 57 North American Zone Chapters in programs, events and educational assets. We will continue to provide Chapter updates, meeting invites for upcoming virtual BOD meetings and announcements through our various communications channels.
We’ll all be thinking about our Executive Director, Tiffany Madigan, who is approaching the delivery of her second child. Tiffany has reached out to many of you, remains inspired of your dedication to our industry and wishes to express the following (the fuel that feeds our daily energy):
“I just wanted to take a moment to thank each and every one of you in the fight against Covid-19. The level of commitment and dedication I’ve seen from our TN HIMSS family is truly remarkable and never ceases to amaze me. I see you, I appreciate you and it’s an honor and privilege to work with you – keep up the good fight!”
Finally, I’d like to share a picture of a team of doctors and nurses from the company I work for, Envision Healthcare, taking a quick break from supporting a NJ emergency department. I remain humbled by the brave men and women of our health and healthcare systems and wish them safety. I applaud all of our Board Members, Ambassadors and Chapter Members for working tirelessly to defeat this disease.
I look forward to the day when we’re able to meet again, in person.
Be safe and stay well.