CEO Message: August 2020

Dear Colleagues:

I hope you are all doing well and taking some time to enjoy the summer safely.

As we continue to navigate the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, I want to express my gratitude to all of you for your hard work and commitment to patient care. At the height of the pandemic, in mid-April, we had nearly 800 COVID-19 positive patients admitted to our hospitals, system-wide. I am very pleased to say, that as of mid-August, that number has drastically decreased to fewer than 20. In this month’s newsletter, I will discuss some of the recovery-related updates for the Northeast Medical Group.

As of August 11, 2020, we have had 139,725 completed appointments, in-person and virtual, since returning to full operations. Since our reopening, we have performed as high as 101% of baseline. In comparison to last year’s weekly average, we were at 109% last week. Our reopening process was based on a phased schedule. We began our reopening by allowing only two patients per hour for each clinician, face-to-face, with a limited amount of clinicians per location. Our larger offices were capped at three clinicians, however, that amount was expanded to as many as we could fit per site, while maintaining appropriate social distancing and patient safety considerations. On June 15, we continued to progress in phase two, quicker than expected, and now all of our practices, including walk-in locations, are open. Please see some of the steps we have taken to ensure the safety of our patients, as well as clinicians and staff, in a recently-created video.

In addition to face-to-face office visits, telehealth continues to be an effective, convenient option for patients to maintain their care and connect with their physician. Although the number of patients permitted to the office for in-person visits is limited, the remaining capacity of our physicians can be seen through telehealth. I am proud to report that as of August 11, we completed 42,047 visits, since our June 8 phased reopening, with video continuing to surpass telephone encounters. As of this publication, we expect 20% - 30% of our visits to occur through telehealth.

The emotional and isolating effects of COVID-19 have also been challenging for our patients and all of you. During our July 20 patient town hall, Peter Morgan, MD, discussed some of the ways that our patients maintained their emotional well-being, including transitioning to tele-psychiatry and attending group therapy sessions via Zoom. I am pleased to say that since the phase three of reopening, roughly 25% of behavioral health visits are in-person again and, within the past month, we have had an increasingly higher volume of patients coming forward for care. In addition to our patients, your physical and emotional well-being is top priority. As we continue to navigate this challenging time, I want to remind you to take advantage of the following resources:

  • The Employee and Family Resources Program offers confidential counseling.
  • A variety of helpful options can be found at www.achievesolutions.net/ynhhs.

Annual wellness visits through telehealth have also continued to be very effective for our Medicare patients. This type of visit is important to our effort to continue conducting preventive health exams, and allows us to prospectively track the patients receiving these visits in conjunction with our value programs. Since April 13, we completed over 6,200 visits, both via video and in-person, and we will continue to provide this important service.

Over the past few months, the proportion of NEMG’s patient population registered for MyChart has increased. As video visits continue to be a key part of our transformation effort, encouraging patients to use MyChart will be very beneficial. In addition to co-pay and bill payment, please remind our patients, from a preventive standpoint, they can also use MyChart to fill out pre-visit questionnaires, conduct screenings and more.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) availability for our offices has been well managed throughout the course of the pandemic. As we move forward, our supply looks quite favorable, however, due to the increase in our volumes, we will continue to monitor our supply closely. Recently, we made a significant purchase for gloves. As mentioned in my last message, a recycling process was put into effect at all NEMG locations serving as direct patient encounter (DPE) sites. For more information on the NEMG PPE recycling process, please refer to the article from the last newsletter.

Keeping our patients and employees informed throughout the pandemic has been paramount. Our town halls have allowed us to share information and answer important questions. Attendance at the NEMG virtual town halls and COVID-19 educational webinars continues to be strong. I would like to thank all of our contributors for their valuable information. Please click here to view the town hall from July 16.

Despite the pandemic, NEMG and YNHHS will continue to look for new growth opportunities to provide patient care to the community. I recently mentioned that as a system we were approached by the University of New Haven to help them with their student health services. This includes services related to walk-in, women’s health, behavioral health, sports medicine and more. The University of New Haven is a private institution of nearly 7,000 students and we look forward to this opportunity for smart growth.

Please visit the intranet for the most up-to-date information.

Please do not hesitate to talk to your supervisor or email me, via the “Ask the CEO” mailbox, with any questions or comments.

For more information about COVID-19, please visit the following:

On Sept. 9, from 12:15 – 12:45 pm, Northeast Medical Group will host the first-ever virtual ribbon cutting to celebrate the opening of our new multispecialty center in Fairfield, CT. Be on the lookout for an email containing the Zoom link to this wonderful event.

Thank you all for your diligent work, resilience and dedication to excellence.

 

Keep well and safe,

Prathibha Varkey, MBBS, MPH, MHPE, MBA
President and Chief Executive Officer
Northeast Medical Group