BBJ: Johns Hopkins Medicine chief shares how his system is preparing for COVID-19 surge at webinar hosted by GBC and its Health Care Committee

By  Morgan Eichensehr
April 8, 2020  

Hopkins COVID-19 briefingJohns Hopkins Health System is relying on partnerships with public officials, local manufacturers and industry competitors to prepare for a COVID-19 surge in Maryland, said system President Kevin Sowers.

At this point, the system has sufficient supplies and capacity to handle the case load.

“But we have not yet met our surge,” Sowers told a group of business leaders April 8, 2020, during a special web event hosted by the Greater Baltimore Committee.

He noted that Hopkins is laying out plans for addressing capacity and equipment shortages as an impending spike of coronavirus cases quickly approaches. The system is working with state and city government officials — as well as leaders within the University of Maryland Medical System, typically Hopkins’ largest local competitor — to build up additional infrastructure to address the expected need, Sowers said.

Here are the preparations Sowers said Hopkins has made so far:

Bolstering telemedicine — To free up capacity at its hospitals, Hopkins has been canceling normal doctor’s visits and check-ups. Instead, those visits are being conducted via phone or video calls between patients and clinicians. Systemwide, Sowers said Hopkins has seen a 60% drop in outpatient visits since the coronavirus arrived in Maryland. Meanwhile, Hopkins clinicians have gone from conducting about eight telemedicine visits per day to about 1,200 daily.

Canceling elective procedures — Hopkins hospitals are currently only conducting surgeries for “urgent and emergent cases,” Sowers said, and have postponed any elective procedures to free up space and resources, and keep otherwise healthy people away from hospitals. Systemwide surgical volumes are down by 70%, Sower said.

Tightening visitation policies — The system’s hospitals have enacted strict visitation policies. No visitors are allowed in the hospitals except in cases where patients are being treated at the children’s hospital, giving birth or facing end-of-life concerns. Sowers said visitations for those circumstances are being evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Masking — Hopkins has instituted a universal masking policy across its organization, meaning all employees must wear masks when on the premises of any care site.

Sowers noted these efforts and others were all made in coordination with UMMS, led by Dr. Mohan Suntha. The health system, which Hopkins would typically consider a competitor, has been “an incredible partner” over the last several weeks, Sowers said. Hopkins and UMMS have also collaborated on other recent efforts, Sowers added, including the temporary 250-bed field hospital being set up inside the Baltimore Convention Center, which will help care for coronavirus patients who are well enough to leave a hospital but not yet healthy enough to return home. The health systems are also part of a new public-private partnership launched by city government that aims to bolster public health resources for city residents ahead of the surge.

Procuring more PPE — Hopkins is relying on more partnerships to help bolster its supplies of critical protective equipment. The system is working with Under Armour to produce needed PPE materials like special respirator masks, and Sowers said it is getting up to 15,000 sewn surgical masks per day from three organizations based in Northern Virginia that would typically be sewing graduation caps and gowns at this time of year. In addition, Hopkins staff members have stepped up to help hand-make about 50,000 face shields.

Building up testing capacity — Sowers said Hopkins is running about 1,000 COVID-19 tests per day using its internally developed platforms, and should be able to complete up to 1,500 tests per day by next week. He touted that Hopkins is now doing testing for other health organizations as well, and is able to deliver results within five to seven hours, compared to the five-to-seven day turnarounds some commercial labs are facing. Temporary testing sites have been set up at each of Hopkins’ four Maryland hospitals.

Monitoring scarcity of resources — In addition to concerns about PPE and test supply shortages, Hopkins is closely monitoring availability of other critical tools. About 20% of Hopkins’ coronavirus patients are on ventilators. Currently, the system is well prepared with 611 ventilators and more on the way, but there could soon be a scarcity, as has occurred in other parts of the country and abroad. Sowers said Hopkins is coordinating with other local health care organizations to share resources. The system has also been monitoring the potential for a blood shortage and coordinating with the American Red Cross.

Sowers said he expects the coronavirus crisis will “force” people to rethink how care is delivered in communities, especially in times of great need, and may change how patients and clinicians approach health care even after the threat subsides.

To read the full story, visit Baltimore Business Journal’s website.

Source: Baltimore Business Journal

Also see:

COVID-19: GBC Coverage and Response

Special Update on State and Federal Legislation Related to COVID-19

COVID-19 Resources and Helpful Websites