The novel coronavirus, according to Dr. Kevin Tabb, CEO of Beth Israel Lahey Health, is like a fire spreading through an apartment building: It’s not enough to save your own unit, because it’s a group problem.
“If you put out a fire in your apartment but the ground floor burns down, you’re going to be in trouble,” Tabb said during a session at Modern Healthcare’s Transformation Summit webinar series. “This virus, this crisis, does not respect boundaries. We need to find ways to work together.”
That meant not only working more closely with other leaders within the Cambridge, Mass.-based system, but also with the six competing academic medical centers and three medical schools across the greater Boston area, not to mention other providers throughout the state.
Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, leaders from many of those competing hospitals have participated in daily calls with one another and local officials, including the governor of Massachusetts and the mayor of Boston, where they discuss challenges and solutions. That’s led the organizations to better distribute patients, personal protective equipment and ventilators during respective surges and shortages.
“We began to talk, to coordinate and to help each other in ways that I’ve never seen,” Tabb said.
That need for collaboration has been a common reaction among hospitals across the nation.
“It’s very interesting how the sense of urgency changes when people can rally around a common enemy,” said Teri Fontenot, CEO emeritus of Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, La.
In response to COVID-19, Kaiser Permanente set up command centers in each of its nine regions—eight states and Washington, D.C. Each command center is led by an incident commander from Permanente Medical Group, alongside a colleague from Kaiser Foundation Health Plan or Kaiser Foundation Hospitals.
The regional command centers manage the response for their specific area, as well as participate in daily virtual huddles with Kaiser’s national command center. That collaboration has helped the Oakland, Calif.-based organization improve resource allocation.
“When you collaborate across a broad spectrum of hospitals, the overall product improves,” said Dr. Richard Isaacs, CEO and executive director of the Permanente Medical Group and co-CEO of the Permanente Federation.