In 2020, we served 13,104 patients for COVID-19, and provided resources, information and testing to countless members of our communities. Our caregivers across all locations worked as a team of teams to care for our patients while meeting the demands posed by COVID-19.
In 2020, we first cared for COVID-19 patients at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi (CCAD). Our CCAD caregivers shared valuable learnings and best practices with the rest of our system on safe caregiving, and we continued to work as one Cleveland Clinic throughout 2020 in the fight against COVID-19.
A Safe Environment for Care
In 2020, we implemented new safety measures to continue to provide a safe environment for exceptional care during the COVID-19 pandemic. We proactively communicated with our patients to address safety concerns, which was important during a period when many individuals had deferred care due to lockdown measures and reservations about receiving in-person care.
We also expanded our distance health offerings to care for patients from the comfort of their own homes.
In March 2020, Cleveland Clinic made the decision to convert its Health Education Campus (HEC) into a temporary hospital to meet the potential needs of our patients and community in the event of a surge of patients with COVID-19. We prepared the facility, dubbed Hope Hospital, based on predictive modeling of anticipated cases, and chose the HEC primarily for its proximity and ease of access to our main campus.
Completed in less than one month, Hope Hospital could accommodate up to 1,000 hospital beds for low-acuity patients with COVID-19 to preserve ICU beds for patients that would require ventilators or large amounts of oxygen. A multi-disciplinary team including nursing, supply chain, operations and medical leadership worked together to ensure the facility could safely house patients and stabilize their care before they returned home. Fortunately, due to aggressive public health measures, our health system did not exceed capacity and we did not need to activate Hope Hospital. In late June 2020, we began to convert Hope Hospital back to HEC.
Home Monitoring Program
In anticipation of a surge of COVID-19 patients, we developed a home monitoring program in 2020 to care for COVID-19 patients whose condition did not require hospitalization. We designed a new tool, made available via our MyChart app, to enable patients to get health information, report symptoms and contact caregivers when needed. Using the app, patients enrolled in a 14-day interactive care plan through MyChart, where they entered their symptoms, temperature and oxygen once a day. If a patient’s symptoms worsened, the app automatically delivered a message to a group of providers for intervention.
This program enabled us to manage care quickly and effectively while keeping patients safe in their homes, preserving hospital capacity. We monitored 36,000 COVID-19 patients at their homes through this program in 2020.
At the onset of the pandemic, fast, reliable tests were critical in curbing the spread of COVID-19. Just eight days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authorized private laboratories to do their own COVID-19 testing, our Tomsich Pathology & Laboratory Medicine Institute (PLMI) successfully launched testing. Our caregivers worked 24/7 to process tests, scaling capacity from 200 tests per day in March to over 5,000 tests per day by November. For their innovation, development and processing related to COVID-19 testing, we awarded the PLMI COVID-19 Testing Team the 2020 CEO COVID-19 Hero Award.
On March 14, 2020, Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals (UH) partnered to provide drive-through COVID-19 testing for patients at the jointly-owned W. O. Walker Building in University Circle. To increase access, patients did not have to pay a copay for testing. Samples collected from this location were sent to UH and Cleveland Clinic laboratories, ensuring faster results for patients. On March 17, Cleveland Clinic and UH jointly opened a second drive-through COVID-19 testing site due to high demand. Throughout the pandemic, Cleveland Clinic collaborated with local Northeast Ohio hospitals to stem the spread of COVID-19 and provide care for our communities. In 2020, Cleveland Clinic tested more than 570,000 patients for COVID-19.
Online Screening Tool
To help individuals determine their risk of being COVID-19 positive, Cleveland Clinic launched a free COVID-19 online screening tool in 2020. The tool prompts individuals to answer a series of questions based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which include symptoms they are currently experiencing, as well as recent travel. At the end of the questionnaire, the tool provides recommendations for the most appropriate care.
Connecting Patients with Loved Ones
Events in 2020 created much disruption and change in healthcare, and this greatly impacted the patient experience. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, we had to limit onsite visitors to patients. When we began limited visitation, we distributed iPads to units to facilitate virtual visits between patients and their loved ones.
We also created guides to help families and patients utilize the technology easily. While there is no substitute for in-person support, this effort helped patients make important connections with their loved ones and alleviate concerns. We continue to keep iPads on all units, and have implemented a simplified process to facilitate the virtual visits for patients.
In addition to the pandemic, 2020 was also a significant year for politics. These two issues converged in our hospital in November. Hospitalized patients maintained a civil right to vote, but the pandemic precautions in place caused concerns for Boards of Elections workers. Typically, Board of Elections will send representatives to a patient’s bedside upon request to assist in exercising these constitutional rights. But in 2020, the ombudsman department in the Office of Patient Experience positioned itself to step-in and help patients vote instead.
In order to do so, our caregivers completed special training in both Ohio and Florida, and worked with legal and government relations. As a result, more than 50 patients across our hospital system in multiple states received assistance from this team and were able to cast ballots. One patient’s family expressed gratitude and shared that the act of voting provided peace to the patient, who was suffering from COVID-19, in their final days.