By: Hank Milius, President/CEO, Meridian Health Services—
Muncie, IN—I heard a quote over the weekend which I believe is relevant for the COVID-19 challenge:
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” —Winston Churchill
As this crisis unfolded, we were stunned by the negative outcomes. Today I’m focusing on the progress taking place.
In Indiana as of this writing, 42% of all ICU beds and 81% of the ventilators around are available. These are good indicators that we have managed the potential surge (knock on wood!)
As Covid-19 entered our lives, the delivery of healthcare changed dramatically. In March, we examined how to contain the pandemic. In April, we took measures to withstand an anticipated surge of patients. Now in the month of May, we realize that this virus will be here longer than we desire and are learning to live and work with it, taking all the necessary practical measures to minimize its contagion, and live our mission of helping make our communities healthier.
At Meridian we were challenged to provide services to our 40,000 annual patients, but in ways that may look different than our typical 500,000 face-to-face outpatient visits. We have been providing Telemedicine services for 5 years, and now with some regulatory restrictions lifted have been able to significantly expand it. In April 2019 we provided 960 telehealth visits. In April 2020, we provided 33,000 telehealth visits. An incredible shift by an incredibly professional staff who is ready to see even more patients as we get back to a “new normal.” In addition, we are providing COVID-19 testing at ten of our primary care sites, and proud to be a part of the over 125,000 tests done in the state of Indiana.
Governor Holcomb and his staff have outlined plans to methodically lift stay-in-place restrictions and reopen businesses. From the beginning, our medical staff and leadership teams have created protocols in order to ensure patient/staff safety.
— Identified a single entrance to our buildings
— Offered curb-side testing of non-Covid issues—
— Provided appropriate personal protective equipment for caregivers
— Put protocols in place to ensure social distancing
— Disinfected surfaces frequently
— Checked the temperature of everyone who walks through our doors
— Increased virtual visits to replace in-person appointments
— All staff are required to wear masks
— Patients are asked to wear masks, and if they do not have one, they are given one
— Limited visitors to our facilities through proper screening
— Encouraged patients to call ahead to a single # 1-866-306-2647 to determine treatment options
The message I want to convey to you is that Meridian is one of the safest places in town. Meridian along with many other healthcare providers are making the necessary changes to ensure patient/staff safety.
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, nearly half of Americans report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health. As an organization we are seeing the need for integrated care more than ever. We see this situation as a new opportunity, to bring primary and behavioral health care together in ways that are so needed by our community. And we are poised to provide care even better than we ever have.
Maybe this really isn’t the “beginning of the end.” It’s just the beginning.