June 4, 2020
Mass General Brigham (formerly Partners HealthCare) prioritized multilingual communication when preparing for the surge of COVID-19 patients. Joseph Betancourt, M.D., Vice President and Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer at Massachusetts General Hospital, who led the effort, notes, “Historically, disasters have taken a disproportionate toll on vulnerable and minority communities.” Leveraging its many bilingual clinicians has been an important part of meeting the needs of those patients.

In March, the health system’s Equity and Community Health COVID Response team quickly updated and expanded a database of multilingual staff members and began deploying teams to help with COVID-related projects.

A few weeks later, at MGH, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, Hospital Medicine Unit and Department of Interpreter Services formed the Spanish Language Care Group, 51 native-Spanish speaking doctors across 13 clinical departments who helped with daily rounds, family updates, informed consent and other services as needed.

Other organizations have also used the model, including North Shore Medical Center in Salem, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Medical Center and The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Every weekday at noon ET, staff members and administrators at long-term care facilities across the country are gathering in a brief “huddle” to discuss common clinical and operational issues. The “COVID-19 Rapid Response Network for Nursing Homes,” a series of 20-minute interactive sessions hosted by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, features pragmatic solutions focused on a weekly theme, such as virus testing, procuring personal protective equipment and promoting staff members’ well-being. The theme for the week of June 8 – 12 is infection prevention and control.

Alice Bonner, R.N., Ph.D., Senior Advisor for Aging at IHI, explains that the huddles are designed to be effective and efficient: “We’re trying to provide access to experts and simple, straightforward information and to make it as easy as possible for people who are already doing everything they can.” Bonner sees a need for collaboration across settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living communities, PACE programs, home health agencies and others. She notes, “The huddles are an opportunity for people in different roles to come together to share strategies and get peer support.”

The daily program starts with a “data minute” followed by a 2-minute look at a federal, state or local policy development and an 8-minute best practice presentation. Attendees chat throughout the program and are encouraged to share “one good thing” they have experienced in the past few days.

Human factors principles, increasingly applied to patient safety work, offer insight that may help you mitigate risks associated with pandemic-related workforce challenges.
A primer from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Patient Safety Network lays out some of the stressors on the people delivering health care services that could impact patient safety, such as clinician fatigue, inadequate team trust, and time pressures.

More importantly, it suggests a series of steps informed by human factors research that can ease the physical and emotional burden on the health care workforce. These ideas can be readily implemented by health care organizations, including prominent signage, workflow reviews, checklists and simulations.

Funding and online learning
>> Pregnancy and COVID-19:  Virtual town hall to share challenges and innovations hosted by the Betsy Lehman Center and the Perinatal-Neonatal Quality Improvement Network of Massachusetts. Next Tuesday, June 9 at noon.  See the agenda and sign up here.

>> Resiliency and the Workforce Keys to Survival.  Using the CANDOR (Communication and Optimal Resolution) toolkit, experts from ECRI and RLDatix describe how health care workers can cultivate resilience in the context of COVID-19.  View the recorded webinar here.

>> Novel, high-impact studies evaluating health system and healthcare professional responsiveness to COVID-19 : The federal Agency for Health Research and Quality is offering $5 million of new funding for health services research related to COVID-19. Applications are due June 15. View the funding announcement here.

Thank you, readers, for generously sharing stories about ways you are not just coping with COVID-19, but adapting and improving work along the way. We’d love to share even more of them in this newsletter. Please  let us know  about how your organization is managing challenges presented by the pandemic.