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Five Lessons Learned During the COVID-19 Delta Surge

Physician leaders from the AdventHealth Central Florida Division recently published a New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) article outlining how clinical leaders moved beyond their traditional focus on quality and safety and drove change and innovation in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the state of Florida became one of the epicenters of the pandemic in the U.S. during the summer of 2021, AdventHealth was overwhelmed and stretched beyond capacity, Victor Herrera, MD, vice president and chief medical officer of AdventHealth Orlando, and Neil Finkler, MD, chief clinical officer of the AdventHealth Central Florida Division, explain in the NEJM’s Innovations in Health Care Delivery section.

“As clinical leaders, we developed, out of necessity, new knowledge in order to respond to the pandemic,” Dr. Finkler said. “This knowledge became our new skillset to aid in problem solving and it will be necessary for the next generation to implement in order to design the next version of health care.”

The two physician leaders enlisted the help of the entire clinical leadership team to identify five main areas that presented unique challenges and the lessons that emerged, such as:

  • Using new data sources (e.g., the community positivity rate) to effectively forecast COVID-19 dynamics in the hospital setting
  • Designing a COVID-19 Clinical Performance Dashboard to track actionable data and accountability on the fundamental clinical processes instead of only tracking outcomes
  • Creating and leveraging external partnerships and developing new ways to interact with media to reduce the transmission and impact of COVID-19 through community education
  • Learning to accept failure as part of innovation to transform care as well as adapting to a workforce transformed by the pandemic that’s burnt out
  • Finding hidden health disparities, such as a digital literacy and/or language barrier, and problem solving to improve access to all populations

“In researching these best practices, COVID-19 has shown us where our strengths lie and how we can improve in the future,” Dr. Herrera said. “By sharing these insights with other physicians and clinicians through the NEJM, we hope our findings will be implemented across hospitals globally to improve patient outcomes.”

These focus areas also provided opportunities to acquire new skills and new knowledge, with the potential to redefine aspects of clinical leadership into the future.

Both Drs. Herrera and Finkler agree, in order to do this, organizational changes may be required to continue to provide clinical leaders with the necessary tools to improve and maintain their effectiveness in the post-pandemic world.

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