Lakeland Regional Health Recognized Nationally for Early COVID Care
Healthgrades, a hospital/physician ranking website, recently published its list of Leading Hospitals in Early COVID Care. Lakeland Regional Health was recognized for providing “best-in-class” care during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We salute the many hospitals and health care providers who have stepped up during the pandemic,” said Burt Kann, executive vice president at Healthgrades.
The CFDC spoke with LRH President Dr. Timothy J. Regan and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Hal Escowitz about the hospital’s collaborative approach during the pandemic. They said that establishing the following aspects provided direct, hands-on and on-site support for their frontline workers:
- 24/7 command center
- Medical oversight committee consisting of multiple specialties and pharmacy members
- Various task forces comprised of executive leadership, physicians and clinical leaders
“We were able to keep our team informed about new developments, respond to questions and concerns quickly, create and revise policies when needed and keep abreast of the most up-to-date expert information to help guide our team on proper COVID-19 care,” they said.
Other initiatives included establishing a respiratory care center, providing drive-through testing and telehealthcare and using progressive therapies like Remdesivir. Additionally, the hospital created a real-time dashboard to actively visualize patients with COVID throughout the medical center. According to Regan and Escowitz, this allowed them to allocate internal resources based on need, optimizing clinical and operational performance.
Accuracy Matters in Healthcare
Escowitz said accurate testing from the beginning helped LRH deal with its caseload.
“In addition, the creation of dedicated COVID care units in both the Emergency Department and in the hospital and the development of strict infection prevention protocols helped us to provide COVID-specific care in the safest manner while following best practice guidelines,” he said.
According to Regan, the hospital was able to find unique solutions to space shortages and clinician availability thanks to an innovative team that thought outside of the box.
“Using some of our procedural areas and postponing elective surgeries are some changes that made it possible for us to care for the increasing number of patients.”
Taking Care of Staff
Senior Vice President Scott Dimmick said the hospital’s Talent Services team worked to ensure employees were taken care of. Efforts included:
- Creating programs related to earned time off.
- Providing COVID-19 pay for staff who contracted the virus and providing bonuses.
- Hiring 1,000 new employees between January and August 2020.
- Giving team members opportunities to work in different areas of the hospital, providing extra support in more critical needs areas.
The hospital’s Pastoral Services and Behavioral Health teams also worked together to provide emotional support.
“We were able to offer regular resiliency messages and positioned caring stations located throughout the hospital,” Dimmick said. “Workers could come to find peace, relax and find resources to help them through some of the most difficult times.”
Additionally, LRH added a new position in their pastoral services department dedicated to supporting team members. Members of the Lakeland Symphony Orchestra also came to play for workers as they arrived at work or left for the day.
“We can’t say enough about the wonderful community support during the pandemic,” Dimmick said.
A Next Wave
The possibility of future waves is clear, even if not as severe as the first several. However, Escowitz said LRH has learned how to adjust its operations to care for its patients. Its staff continues to review research on best healthcare practices and therapies.
“Our responses to the multiple ‘waves’ we have faced over the last two years have always been centered around rapidly adapting our approach to care based on contemporary information at that time,” he said. “Our analytics teams have kept us updated with current trends where we can both anticipate needs and innovate solutions to these challenges in rapid fashion.”
Regan added that LRH would follow the processes it developed in the last two years. “We have learned the importance of being nimble to address the different characteristics of COVID that each wave brings,” he said. For example, the original wave had multiple unknowns and was a huge learning process; Delta required us to dedicate more resources to the Intensive Care Unit and respiratory, and Omicron required a shift to outpatient treatments.
Proud of the Lakeland Regional Health Team
Danielle Drummond, President and CEO of Lakeland Regional Health, said she has reviewed answers that other hospital executives applied and are part of the Healthgrades article. She feels confident in what her hospital has achieved.
“We shared many of the takeaways and perspectives shared by the other executives and feel we would be well prepared for any future pandemic impacts,” Drummond said.
She’s most proud of her team and how they cared for the community under challenging circumstances, she said.
“Despite the physical, emotional and mental exhaustion of working through multiple COVID-19 surges over the past two years, they have continued to step up by working extra shifts, working in different roles across the organization and supporting one another,” Drummond said. “Our organization served this community so well throughout the pandemic because of our exceptional team members. I am amazed every day by their hard work and resiliency.”