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Top 10 HealthLeaders Coronavirus Pandemic Stories of 2021

Analysis  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   January 05, 2022

HealthLeaders covered many of the most pressing coronavirus pandemic stories last year, including lessons learned, vaccination challenges and efforts, behavioral health challenges, and operational issues at healthcare providers.

For the second year in a row, the coronavirus pandemic dominated the healthcare landscape in 2021. The following are the Top 10 HealthLeaders clinical care stories of the year about COVID-19.

1. UC Health Shares 4 Lessons Learned from Coronavirus Pandemic

By multiple measures, COVID-19 has challenged healthcare providers more than any other public health crisis since the 1918 influenza pandemic. As the coronavirus pandemic entered its second year, many health systems, hospitals, and physician practices remained in crisis mode. A pair of physician leaders at Cincinnati-based UC Health spoke with HealthLeaders to discuss how the health system has grappled with COVID-19 and shared four primary lessons learned from the coronavirus pandemic.

2. Integrated Network Health System Gains Advantages During Pandemic

Sutter Health—an integrated network of hospitals and physician practices in Northern California—has successfully navigated several challenges during the coronavirus pandemic. In the Sacramento, California–based health system's response to the pandemic, functioning as an integrated network generated several advantages, says William Isenberg, MD, PhD, chief quality and safety officer.

3. Adopt a Crisis Command Culture During the Coronavirus Pandemic

At health systems and hospitals, adopting a crisis command culture has operational benefits during the coronavirus pandemic, a pair of experts told HealthLeaders. The crucial aspect of crisis command culture is the ability to make good decisions quickly, says Stephanie Mercado, CEO and executive director of the National Association for Healthcare Quality in Chicago.

4. Tips for Opening a Field Hospital During the Coronavirus Pandemic

When health systems need to open a field hospital during a public health emergency such as the coronavirus pandemic, they should be guided by emergency management principles, the lead author of a journal article on opening a field hospital told HealthLeaders. Several states across the country have had to open field hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic to accommodate COVID-19 patient surges. A common strategy has been to use field hospitals to treat low-acuity COVID-19 patients who can be transferred from hospitals and cared for safely before being discharged home.

5. Coronavirus Vaccination: 4 Best Practices for Communicating With Patients

Clinicians need to take a multipronged approach to communicating with their patients about coronavirus vaccination, a Yale New Haven Health expert told HealthLeaders. There are four best practices clinicians should follow when communicating with people to encourage them to get coronavirus vaccination, said Richard Martinello, MD, medical director of infection prevention at Yale New Haven Health in New Haven, Connecticut.

6. How Cedars-Sinai Built 'COVID Line Team' for Busy ICUs

A volunteer "COVID Line Team" at a Los Angeles–based medical center has boosted the efficiency of placing central and arterial lines in COVID-19 ICUs and taking pressure off busy critical care teams. The COVID Line Team was formed in March 2020 during the first coronavirus patient surge in Los Angeles, said the team's leader, Evan Zahn, MD, director of the Guerin Family Congenital Heart Program at Cedars-Sinai's Smidt Heart Institute.

7. Coronavirus: Automated Contact Tracing in Hospitals Called 'Game Changer'

In the hospital setting, automated contact tracing is far superior to manual contact tracing, a California-based hospital's chief medical officer told HealthLeaders. Methodist Hospital of Southern California adopted automated contact tracing in November 2020. "With automated contact tracing, which we do with SwipeSense, we can get contact tracing information in about five minutes. It is a total game changer," said Bala Chandrasekhar, MD, CMO of the Arcadia, California facility.

8. "Perfect Storm" Increased Healthcare-Associated Infections During Pandemic

There has been a significant increase in healthcare-associated infections during the coronavirus pandemic, a research article found. The characteristics of the coronavirus pandemic that drove increases in central-line-associated bloodstream infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, ventilator-associated events, and antibiotic resistant staph infections were "clearly multifactorial," Arjun Srinivasan, MD, associate director for healthcare-associated infection programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told HealthLeaders.

9. Behavioral Health Hospital Launches Coronavirus Unit

A Shreveport, Louisiana-based behavioral health hospital has opened a 30-bed unit for coronavirus-positive patients who need immediate behavioral health care. In January 2021, a joint venture between Plano, Texas-based Oceans Healthcare and Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport opened a new 89 bed behavioral health hospital—Louisiana Behavioral Health.

Louisiana Behavioral Health established a 30-bed unit for behavioral health patients who also have a COVID-19 diagnosis. The behavioral health unit meets a critical need, Stuart Archer, MBA, CEO of Oceans Healthcare, told HealthLeaders. "When you take a behavioral health patient who has a unique set of needs and on top of that has an active COVID diagnosis, you have a patient who needs a special inpatient unit. Historically, these patients would be stuck in an emergency room for days or weeks. Or they could take a bed in an inpatient medical unit. There really wasn't anywhere to move that patient."

10. Anxiety and Depression Common Among Coronavirus 'Long Haulers'

Coronavirus "long haulers" are experiencing several behavioral health conditions, according to an expert at Doctor On Demand. "At Doctor On Demand, we are seeing a lot of depression and anxiety among long haulers. Particularly when you experience long-term anxiety symptoms, the condition has the opportunity to differentiate itself into other more specific anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorders, and posttraumatic stress disorder," Nikole Benders-Hadi, MD, medical director of behavioral health at Doctor On Demand, told HealthLeaders.

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.

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