Virtual Town Hall

Transforming Healthcare through Innovation

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This event took place on May 12, 2021 at 1pm-2pm EST via Zoom.

It takes innovation to make healthcare work better for every North Carolinian, no matter who they are or where they live.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted North Carolina hospital and health system efforts to quickly adapt to unprecedented circumstances and care for the patients who needed them. But equally, it uncovered some of the gaps and areas in which more investment and innovation are needed to keep every community healthy.

From community collaboration to technology advancements and beyond, North Carolina’s hospitals are working tirelessly to improve community health and access to high quality care.

To discuss these transformative innovations, four healthcare leaders joined the North Carolina Healthcare Association virtually for a conversation about how hospitals transforming health care to benefit everyone in the state.

Panelists featured Carl Armato, CEO, Novant Health, Donald Gintzig, President & CEO of WakeMed Health & Hospitals, Michael Waldrum, MD & CEO, Vidant Health and Julia Wacker, Interim Executive Director, Carolinas Health Innovation Institute, and the conversation was moderated by Dr. Nisha Mehta, a physician in the Charlotte area and healthcare writer and speaker.

Here are a few takeaways from the conversation.

What does innovation mean?

 It’s a big, broad topic — and it can encompass everything from cancer breakthroughs to virtual visits and so much more.

Importantly, innovation is all around us, said Julia Wacker — “It’s the organizations and people who are coming up with new and creative ways to care for their communities. We may have healthcare challenges, but we do not have a shortage of dedicated people with big ideas.”

For Donald Gintzig at WakeMed, innovation is paramount to how healthcare is delivered. It covers new procedures and technology, but also redesigned logistics, reduced wait times – anything that puts the patient’s health first.

“You’ve seen most organizations transition from being primarily focused on providing healthcare to partnering with all the organizations that focus on how we make North Carolina healthier, [like] focusing on disparities, moving care from the inpatient to the outpatient setting, to the physician practices, and now, into the home.”

While hospitals in North Carolina provided home-based care well before the pandemic, it certainly accelerated the demand for these services. Providing hospital-level care at home through digital monitoring and virtual visits is one of the innovations expected to continue transforming healthcare after the COVID-19 crisis, along with telehealth for less acute needs, like routine visits or chronic care check-ups.

Read more: Hospital-Level Care, Right at Home

Thanking the healthcare heroes behind pandemic innovations

“I have to thank our care teams,” said Dr. Mike Waldrum, who shared how important every member of the Vidant Health team has been in transforming the way the hospital cared for its patients.

“Our ICU nurses had to take care of critically ill patients in a different way and in a new environment. The providers, nurses and team members mounted a historic response to these issues,” he said.

Another key innovation deployed during COVID-19 was advanced data analytics, which can be used to better predict patient needs for all kinds of chronic conditions.

“Our goal is to improve communities one person at a time,” said Carl Armato of Novant Health. “Innovation and technology are critical to our ability to deliver on that mission.”

“We have used a lot of technology in the past to eliminate wait times with predictive analytics — we’re building cancer centers that don’t have waiting rooms, because of our ability to predict the right place and the right time,” he said.

Carl shared how that level of sophisticated analytics allowed Novant Health to fight COVID-19 – the hospital was able to target specific zip codes and bring resources, testing and vaccinations to the hardest hit communities.

Read more: Leaving No One Behind in the Vaccine Effort

In the future, these tools can be used to target conditions like diabetes, congestive heart failure, cancer and others.

“The lessons that have been learned have inspired a new way of care moving forward,” said Julia.

“Our goal is to not lose any of that innovation moving forward,” said Carl. “Our goal is to create remarkable healthcare to give patients and communities more options to access healthcare…how do we meet people where they are? I’m excited about harnessing all that we’ve learned during this pandemic to offer regularly to our patients.”

Read more: Three Ways Hospitals Are Keeping Patients Safe During COVID-19


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