Reexamining patient care: How COVID-19 changed Gastro Health

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The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated several trends Miami-based Gastro Health was implementing and has left a permanent mark on how it will operate going forward.

Eugenio Hernandez, MD, Gastro Health's vice president of clinical affairs for Florida, shared insights into how the platform dealt with the pandemic and what changes have left a lasting mark on the practice.

Question: How has your practice changed a year after the COVID-19 pandemic began?

Dr. Eugenio Hernandez: COVID-19 undoubtedly changed our practice. In many ways, COVID-19 accelerated some of the initiatives that our organization had already been developing and prioritizing.

Recent investments in IT and our disciplined approach to deep integration allowed us to quickly pivot to virtual delivery of patient care through telemedicine. This allowed us to continue serving our patients' needs throughout the health crisis. While the percentage of our patients currently receiving their healthcare virtually through telemedicine has decreased compared to the early stages of the pandemic, we continue using this form of healthcare delivery for a significant number of our patients and expect this to continue and expand in the future.

Additionally, the pandemic fast-tracked our plans for virtual communication among our providers and nonclinical staff across the country. We quickly turned to platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom to rapidly disseminate information, share best practices and communicate real-time operational data during a time where these were in a constant state of evolution.

As with most physician groups and healthcare delivery systems, we also had to adapt quickly to various staffing challenges. Symptomatic staff or providers or outbreaks within care centers that required quarantine placed an emphasis on sharing of staff resources across multiple locations. Cross-training also allowed our staff to adapt quickly during times of crisis.

In retrospect, the pandemic forced us to reexamine how we interact, communicate and care for both patients and our staff. We found many of our adaptations had a positive effect on patient care and care center operations. Some of our “temporary” changes may become permanent. The challenges presented by COVID-19 ultimately accelerated our development as an organization, while keeping us focused on delivering excellent care.

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