When the pandemic struck and hospital beds began to fill up, healthcare providers realized they were dealing with a full-blown crisis and had to adjust accordingly.
Novel situations demanded novel solutions, and hospitals responded. Through increased communication, innovation, flexibility, and division of labor, they created strategies and procedures for handling the heavy demands placed on them and for moving forward as the pandemic continued to spread.
One healthcare system comprised of 51 facilities in several western states created a kind of executive pharmacy team to direct operations throughout the entire system. By doing this, healthcare providers improved coordination, communication, and efficiency among the various medical centers and clinics. The leadership team met every day and set up a virtual command center.
Pharmacy Command Center
From the command center, pharmacy leaders kept in constant communication with all of the medical facilities. This enabled the entire system to respond to problems quickly and effectively. For example, when they realized they needed to cut down on their exposure to aerosols, they quickly made a change throughout the entire network from nebulizers to metered-dose inhalers.
Initially, the executive team was viewed with some suspicion by pharmacists who worked at various regional centers. But the value of this kind of arrangement soon became apparent. Without such a centralized authority, any changes to processes or procedures would need to be reviewed by each regional facility, slowing things down significantly.
Pharmacists at the regional facilities also adopted new strategies, depending mainly on their patient population’s needs. One center set up drive-through testing for its anticoagulation clinic and increased telehealth services.
The hospitals also created more flexibility with staffing, linking staffing levels to patient census data, and workload.
Another major problem the medical facilities had to deal with was shortages of medications. Having a pharmacy command center enabled the healthcare system to deal with this situation also. To prevent shortages, the pharmacy executive committee drew up a list of 150 medications that providers relied on most. They worked with wholesalers and pharmacy buyers to make sure they had enough of these essential drugs.
Another group of pharmacists developed a list of alternative products that providers could use if their first choice was not available.
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