Improving healthcare in the post-COVID era

Amy Compton-Phillips, MD, President of Clinical Care for Providence, shares COVID-19 health system learnings, how to improve patient safety and quality, and offers leadership advice.

Editor’s Note: This conversation is a transcript of an episode of the HealthLeaders Women in Healthcare Leadership podcast. Audio of the full interview can be found here.

Amy Compton-Phillips, MD, has always wanted to serve in healthcare. Thirty years ago, she started a practice on the east coast. In 1993, she joined Kaiser Permanente as a frontline internist. During her 22-year tenure, she worked as a doctor and held various administrative positions, eventually taking up the post of doctor-director of population care, and then finally that of quality manager for the organization. health care center based in Oakland, California.

In 2015, Compton-Phillips joined Providence as President of Clinical Care. Among the key health care and value outcomes to the Seattle, Washington-based healthcare system, she also led the treatment of the first confirmed COVID-19 patient in the country.

In the most recent Women in health care leadership Podcast episode, Compton-Phillips shares the organization’s COVID-19 learnings, how to improve patient safety and quality, and offers leadership advice.

This transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.

HealthLeaders: What are the main lessons the healthcare system has clung to since the first COVID-19 patient was admitted to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett in Washington State in January 2020?

Amy Compton-Phillips: The main lesson was that planning is the antidote to panic. When that first patient hit us, luckily we were working with our Infection Prevention Team and Infectious Disease Clinical Decision Team to monitor the outbreak of infection in Wuhan, China.

We learned that we need to have a detection system around the world after Ebola. We knew we had to be ready. In fact, due to the infection in Wuhan, we had even done exercises in some of our facilities, including our hospital in Everett, to be ready for, when, and if, the infection came to the United States. .

When the first patient entered, the nurse practitioner this patient originally came to was ready when he said he had been to Wuhan, China, and had a fever and cough. She called the CDC and said, “What should I do? This person who saw the patient at the clinic knew they were ready.

The patient had gone home and then returned to the hospital when the test came back positive, and all of the hospital infrastructure, from paramedics to people in the emergency room, to people in the clinic, was ready. They were able to calmly deal with this person with the breakthrough infection. At that time, we were treating everyone as if they had Ebola, with very high level infection prevention processes in place. Soon after, we had patients on cruise ships who needed places to get treatment, and we also provided facilities for these patients.

We started to design a very patient-centered, person-centered way for people to access care if they had COVID. This kind of human-centered conceptual thinking is what has absolutely stuck with us ever since, that if we think about it from the perspective of our consumers, our patients and our neighbors, how do we make sure that we take intentional decisions in the health care system to be ready for the way people want to use our system.

The third key learning is that teams matter. We had quickly, like the rest of the planet, stopped things. We switched to video capability, but because we realized we were working on our own, we had to intend to stay connected. We have set up a series of caucuses. Initially it was every day, then we had workgroups during the day, then our emergency operations center would go online again in the evening.

HL: What can hospitals and healthcare systems do now to improve the safety and quality of their patients and expand it in the post-COVID world?

Compton-Phillips: COVID has given us time to think, pause, and imagine differently than we would have without it. Very often, if you look back, pandemics have been threshold events. There is the before and the after.

There is before and after the Black Death. It really changed the way medieval society moved around the world. The 1918 flu and WWI were also going on at the same time, but between WWI and the flu of 1918 we moved from that time when the world was at war and fighting each other to the Roaring Twenties, where the future looked bright.

As we think about the pandemic’s ability to serve as a threshold event, now is the time for us to do the little tests of change to make a health system that is much more distributed, much more equitable, much more focused on health. getting care where people live, work and play. This is exactly what we need to focus on over the next five years, because I suspect that in 2030 health care will be very different from what it is today.

Look at what happened with the telehealth regulations. The regulator realized that if we didn’t turn on telehealth and didn’t have some way to reimburse telehealth and simplify the regulation of where providers sit versus where patients sit, we would not have had health care at all during the pandemic.

When they realized that and removed the barriers that regulatory environments can create, it helped innovation to flourish. I hope that as we move forward, the regulatory environment and healthcare providers together agree on a few simple rules, but allow for some experimentation, and innovation, and new models of care so that we can take advantage of the incredible digital and technological innovations that exist. We have to allow innovation, otherwise we will keep doing the same things over and over again.

HL: What prompted you to work in the health sector as a doctor?

Compton-Phillips: I never wanted to do anything else. I think there are a lot of doctors and nurses who were born to practice, and I am one of them. Since I was in kindergarten, I never had a different response from “I want to be a doctor” when people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up.

HL: What has been your experience working as a female clinical care manager?

Compton-Phillips: I suspect it’s not that far from any human being who works as a leader in clinical care. Although I think it has evolved over the past 30 years.

One thing is different is that if you look at the health workforce, it’s about 75% female, the health leadership doesn’t come close. Fortunately, he is closer and closer to 50% of women.

For women as well as people of color, who have different styles and backgrounds, we need to create space for opportunities, training and mentoring to help them integrate into the C suite. We need to recognize and build capacity. and the ability of people who look different from those who came before them to lead into the future. We will have more innovation and a more vibrant community when we do.

HL: What advice do you have for women and others who want to take on leadership roles in the healthcare industry?

Compton-Phillips: Something I think is different between women of my generation and men of my generation is that there is a different approach to leadership, at least that is what it appears to be in my observation, that when there is a big job to do, I often see men raise their hands, and I often see women waiting to be asked. Even in my career, I have taken jobs because people have contacted me, I cannot think of any jobs that I have taken because I asked for other work or asked for help.

If we are a leader looking for women to lead something, or looking for a person of color, or someone who is not used to leading a project, we have to seek leadership and ask people to step in, inviting them to lead, not just waiting for people to raise their hands. This is an important way for us to continue to develop leaders who look outside of what we might traditionally have considered a leader in the past.

Melanie Blackman is the chief strategy editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

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