Expanding the Virtual Platform in Specialty Healthcare Clinics

An interview with Christie Luckie of UCHealth

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Narrator:

Christine Luckie is the Director of Operations at UCHealth Medical Group. UCHealth is a not-for-profit health system that was founded in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012. Their mission is to increase access to innovative and advanced patient care and improve the lives of families in Colorado and beyond.

Christine talked to us recently about how COVID-19 forced changes that were stressful -- but ultimately led UCHealth to expand its virtual platform into specialty clinics and reduced its no show rate, too.

She spoke in an interview with Health Carousel, which provides world-class healthcare staffing and workforce solutions designed to improve lives and make healthcare work better.

Christine:

Seeing what healthcare can do for people is something that's always been very personal to me, and why I got into healthcare.

I have lived with a mother who has had health care struggles my entire life. She suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. [There are] other health care issues within my family. Having been a former gymnast, orthopedics were my bestfriend for a while. When I first started, I was in direct patient care and got to, you know, firsthand see the impact. And now being an administration, it's not as direct, but I can, you know, guide the teams and our providers that are delivering health care

It's amazing the impact you can have on somebody by doing something really small. And that's what I love about healthcare is yes, we've got amazing technology and advancements through research, and all the really cool flashy things. But oftentimes, the thing that means the most, is stopping and taking a moment and asking a patient: How are you doing today? Is there anything else I can do to make your day better? It's the little things that I have learned to cherish that mean the most.

Narrator:

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare is changing at a faster pace than ever before. A meteoric rise in telehealth and the adoption of virtual platforms is among the biggest shifts in the industry to date.

Christine:

UCHealth was really focused initially on primary care and urgent care and did not have a broad platform into our specialty clinics. And, you know, COVID really forced us to, you know, expand, expand that platform rapidly. And patients of all ages and demographics adopted it, and we continue to use it now. And even when our COVID numbers took a dip, we still offered it because it may not be somebody who is concerned about COVID exposure. They have transportation issues, they have, you know, other limitations that make it difficult for them to come into the office for every visit.

And so it's allowed us to actually reduce the number of no shows that we have and increase our ability to touch base with patients in a way that is convenient for them. I think it's expanded our platform, to be able to reach patients where they're at, and not set the expectation of you as a patient [to]always have to come to us.

You know, offering that virtual platform tied patients into our online patient portal, which is not a novel concept. The majority of large health systems have some type of patient portal, but who would utilize and the percent adoption, you know, varies and, you know. Getting patients tied in with that, who can now message their provider versus calling and getting stuck on hold or waiting for a voicemail, you know, you can send a message. Refilling prescriptions, is one of my favorite features. And then also just scheduling an appointment.

One of the examples that we often use in our organization is: When is the last time you called and booked an airline ticket with somebody? They actually almost can't. They tell you to go to their website. It's encouraging patients, again, that they can receive health care in the convenience, you know, of their home and when it is convenient for them.

Narrator:

As parents struggled around the country to help their kids adapt to virtual learning from home, the conversation around “why” was just as much of a struggle. With new information being released almost daily, the resounding word of 2020 was “pivot.” UCHealth, parents and health providers everywhere were faced with the challenge of doing things differently.

Christine:

We talk about COVID a lot in our house. My daughter is nine. She understands it a bit better than my son who will be five in April, but I've been as transparent as possible with them. And I think the biggest lesson to come out of it is that we really can do anything.

An international effort occurred in care, not only identifying COVID, but how do we treat it? How do we create a vaccine? There's not many things where, you know, the entire world comes together.

We are flexible. We are resilient. 2020 was a year for the books, and we will be talking about it. And I think as difficult as it is, it shows a lot about our ability as humans to adapt and grow and change and move forward.

I think one of the most important things is, as personal as healthcare can feel, especially when you are on the frontlines and you are experiencing the effects, is to remember that you are not alone. And that it is okay to feel overwhelmed. It is okay to feel the emotions and the heaviness of being a caregiver. That also translates to the non-clinical roles that are supporting those caregivers like myself.

You are not alone. There are lots of other people experiencing the same range of emotions that you are, and to reach out, and it's okay to be vulnerable. It's okay to be scared and overwhelmed by not only the amazing things that you witnessed with people getting better and getting to go home, but also the tough moments of grief and loss. There are a lot of other people that will be there to support you.

I really think this pandemic has changed the face of healthcare, and will continue to impact how we deliver health care for many years to come

Narrator:

Like so many other organizations, UCHealth has experienced internal changes and upheaval as their staff flocked to where they were needed, instead of their usual specialty or day-to-day roles.

The questions on everyone’s mind are: What happens next? How will these changes affect your organization long-term? What new processes or systems will stick around?

Christine:

There was no one person who didn't do something to help the larger organization. We had definitely a lot of people stepping outside their comfort zone to help man our doors, to check visitors, as they came in. We had people helping ensure that our isolation carts for our COVID floors were stocked. Everybody played a role, and I think that that was amazing. And so when our clinic volumes in the outpatient setting went down, then we found other things for staff to do.

As we had kind of a second surge in the fall, we had providers from different specialties helping each other in a way that was really... being helping hands. They can't function as full physicians, because they're outside their specialty, but they can share their knowledge and their skills to be a support.

I think going forward, we continue to look at our staffing.

What are our needs? You know, I think a lot of the questions are: What should we keep doing? What should we stop doing? And what do we need to change?

One of the doors that is opened is, well, yes, healthcare organizations have inpatient and outpatient settings. It's really just what is your home environment, and in times of need or times of crisis, the people who work in the outpatient setting can play a role in the inpatient setting. And once again, we come together, you know, as a team, and so I think, you know, going forward, it's, you know, it's a lot more about not just how do we help our home environment but how do we help each other.

As an organization, I know that not all health healthcare organizations, you know, across the nation fared well through COVID. But I am very proud of UCHealth and how we weathered the pandemic and continue to adapt to this new health care environment. And it speaks a lot to our system leadership, our regional leadership, and, you know, really doing what is best for our patients, but also what is best for all of our employees and providers.

I think before COVID I knew I worked for a great organization and it through the pandemic. It has 100% validated that I work for an exceptional organization.

Narrator

This episode of The Workforce Solution has been an interview with Christine Lucky from UCHealth Medical Group.

The Workforce Solution is a storytelling series brought to you by Health Carousel,  a world-class healthcare staffing and workforce solutions company designed to improve lives and make healthcare work better.

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