The pandemic continued to test our health system in 2021, with new COVID-19 variants driving surges in hospitalizations and creating new challenges. Our caregivers responded with extraordinary resilience and empathy, working as a team of teams to ensure a safe environment for care while providing resources, information, testing, and immunizations for countless members of our communities.
Our caregivers continued to provide support where needed to aid in the fight against COVID-19. During a surge in Ohio early in 2021, eight nurses from Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi assisted with patient care at our Hillcrest Hospital for six weeks. Later in the spring when the pandemic surged in India, overwhelming its healthcare system and supply chains, Cleveland Clinic shipped 138 pallets of face masks and shields, gloves, cots and mattresses to the Indian Red Cross.
In total, our caregivers served more than 23,500 COVID-19 inpatients in the second year of the pandemic—18,000 in Ohio and 5,500 in Florida.
Fast, reliable and accessible testing remained crucial to curbing the spread of COVID-19 in 2021, especially as new variants emerged. To support our communities, Cleveland Clinic continued to offer COVID-19 testing at over 20 locations during the second year of the pandemic.
In winter of 2021, Northeast Ohio experienced both a surge in COVID-19 infections and an increased demand for healthcare services, particularly in emergency departments. To better serve our communities during a time with an overwhelming demand for testing, we collaborated with University Hospitals to operate a COVID-19 testing site in Cleveland’s University Circle with the Ohio National Guard and the Ohio Department of Health. The site was open for just over one month, and approximately 25,000 individuals received COVID-19 tests at this location.
To improve ease and accessibility of testing, we also developed and received Food and Drug Administration authorization for an at-home self-swabbing kit called SelfCheck®. Available at our pharmacies, SelfCheck® enabled patients with a provider’s order to pick up a kit, complete the test at their convenience and receive results within 72 hours of returning the kit to a Cleveland Clinic Express Care, Pharmacy or drop-box.
From the onset of the pandemic through the end of 2021, Cleveland Clinic conducted more than 1.3 million COVID-19 tests, with over 750,000 tests performed in 2021.
When the newly approved COVID-19 vaccine became available in early 2021, Cleveland Clinic quickly mobilized to administer vaccines to caregivers, patients and the public. We created vaccination sites for caregivers, offered vaccinations at family health centers and operated community-based vaccination clinics.
We also supported efforts to distribute vaccines in our local communities, partnering with various organizations and agencies to increase access. For example, when the state of Ohio opened its mass vaccination site at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center in downtown Cleveland, we provided planning and operational support, ultracold storage and transportation of the Pfizer vaccine and pharmacy oversight.
Our caregivers worked alongside the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Department of Defense, the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and Cleveland State University to administer more than 260,000 COVID-19 vaccines during the 12 weeks the Wolstein Center’s clinic was open.
More than 100 of our pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy students contributed to ensure proper handling, reconstitution and administration of the vaccine. In the United Kingdom, Cleveland Clinic London caregivers volunteered to help deliver the shots when the National Health Service began its COVID-19 vaccination program.
Vaccine education and access
Once COVID-19 vaccines became available, one of our top priorities became communicating timely, accurate information to the public about vaccines. From one-on-one discussions during patient visits to national media appearances, our trusted health experts explained the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines and advocated for vaccination throughout the year.
In addition to our website, video and email communications, we created patient resources and community on demand webinars in Spanish and English to improve access to information about COVID-19 vaccines and address frequently asked questions.
We also collaborated with other hospitals and healthcare systems to share information about COVID-19 vaccines. For example, we co-led a nationwide campaign with Mayo Clinic to encourage adults to get vaccinated. The coalition included 60 top hospitals and healthcare institutions, who worked together to communicate the safety and efficacy of vaccines through diverse digital and traditional media.
When cases of the omicron variant surged and hospitals filled with unvaccinated patients in late 2021, we joined with five other Northeast Ohio hospital systems in an advertising campaign to urge the public to get vaccinated and take other precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Home monitoring program
We are focused on making high-quality care more accessible and affordable to those in need, and the pandemic provided unique challenges to meet through new and innovative patient service offerings. To preserve limited hospital capacity, we thought about ways to safely care for COVID-19 patients whose condition did not require hospitalization.
In 2020, we developed a home monitoring program for these patients—available via our MyChart app—and continued to use this program throughout 2021. The goal of the program is to keep patients safe at home, out of the hospital and supported with resources, education and human connection.
When a patient with COVID-19 enrolled in the program, we provided them with monitoring, education and support. Caregivers called patients daily by phone or via a digital application to monitor symptoms and connect them to a provider when needed for urgent virtual intervention.
This program enabled us to provide quick and effective care while keeping patients safe in their homes, and Value-Based Health Care Center Europe honored Cleveland Clinic with its Cost-Effectiveness Award for the COVID-19 Home Monitoring Program both in 2020 and 2021.
Some individuals continue to feel a constellation of symptoms weeks or even months after their initial COVID-19 infection, causing disruptions to their daily routines and activities they enjoyed pre-COVID. In February 2021, Cleveland Clinic opened its reCOVer Clinic at our Independence Family Health Center to help individuals with symptoms lingering 28 days or more after their initial infection, known as long COVID-19 or post COVID-19 syndrome.
Patients seen at reCOVer Clinic receive a comprehensive evaluation for ongoing symptoms, which includes a medical history, physical exam, tests and lab work. The evaluation aids in developing a care path that best suits the patient’s needs, while also providing valuable clinical information to help us better understand the many facets of COVID-19.
A care team reviews results and reCOVer Clinic providers discuss next steps with patients, which may include referrals to one or more of our experts in pulmonology, cardiology, neuropsychology, neurology, psychiatry, rheumatology, nephrology, dermatology, ENT, endocrinology, geriatrics sleep medicine, integrative medicine, functional medicine and other specialties.