Managing COVID-19 at UF Health
UF Health responds swiftly to the threat of COVID-19.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began affecting the United States, hospitals throughout the nation began taking special precautions and implementing additional safety measures. UF Health Jacksonville did the same by preparing well before the first COVID-19 patient was recorded in Jacksonville or at our facilities.
The response by UF Health Jacksonville was an incredible feat done in a timely manner to help protect faculty, staff and patients. From constant communication with staff to setting up outdoor pop-up tents as backup locations for patient intake and patient overflow, our hospitals were ready for the worst-case scenario.
Even though the threat of COVID-19 is far from over, UF Health Jacksonville has come a long way in adapting to the new requirements for daily operations.
Planning and communicating
From the beginning, many departments moved quickly to find ways to increase safety measures for patients, faculty and staff. This was done by narrowing down the entry points into the hospitals and other buildings, then performing screening and temperature checks for anyone entering through those doors. Visitation policies were put in place to limit the number of people walking through the facilities, particularly in patient care areas. Various safety precautions were also taken in the primary care and specialty practices.
The Communications and Marketing department ramped up internal and external communications, working with senior leaders to provide daily written updates on changes to practices and policies as well as other important topics affecting patients and staff. The Web Technologies team created a dedicated website — UFHealthJax.org/covid-19 — where the public as well as physicians and staff could quickly access current information about the disease from our UF Health Jacksonville experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Haley worked with the Media Center team to produce daily video updates on all things COVID-19. Physicians, infection control staff and others participated in interviews with reporters to address various topics related to the pandemic, from reducing the transmission to measures our hospitals are taking to the impact of social distancing on mental health.
Finding creative ways to get supplies
Employees in the Supply Chain Services department were quick on their feet to respond to the increased need for personal protective equipment. As the demand for masks rose worldwide, the ability to receive normal orders, much less increased orders, was unrealistic. All hands were on deck with finding other routes to obtain the supplies. On top of their hard work, the local community donated supplies and many employees helped make supplies, such as masks and clips.
Going virtual for provider visits
With the stay-at-home order in place, many patients had to cancel or reschedule appointments with their providers. However, UF Health Jacksonville sent out regular communications encouraging patients to consider an appointment through UF Health Virtual Visit. Also referred to as telehealth or telemedicine, UF Health Virtual Visit offers secure online video appointments using a computer, smartphone or tablet with internet access. This option allows patients to complete standard checkups or talk to a provider about concerns that are not life threatening. This not only limited the amount of patients coming to the outpatient practices, but it also gave the patients a safer, convenient option for their appointment.
Technology was also utilized for patients staying in the hospital. Since the visitation policy prohibited visitors, members of the Patient Relations department, nurses and other staff found a way to overcome the visitation barrier by helping patients video chat with their loved ones.
Stepping out into the community
When the opportunity to bring COVID-19 testing to the underserved population in Jacksonville arose, many UF Health Jacksonville medical personnel went out into the community to perform testing for residents unable to travel to testing sites around the city. During 13 sessions, more than 1,444 people were tested in seven locations in underserved neighborhoods between April 8 and May 29.
All of this, plus many other efforts statewide, have contributed to the low COVID-19 patient numbers at the hospital. However, as we slowly reopen practices and resume elective surgeries, it’s important to remember that the threat of COVID-19 is not over. Together, we will continue to adapt to the ever-changing situation and work hard to protect patients, one another and the community.