Continuing Your Care: Non-COVID-19 Related Medical Attention
Dr. Ettore Palazzo shares the importance of seeking non-COVID-19 related medical attention.
Melanie Cole (Host): Welcome to Check-up Chat with EvergreenHealth. I’m Melanie Cole and today joining me is Dr. Ettore Palazzo. He’s the Chief Medical and Quality Officer at EvergreenHealth. And he’s going to tell us about continuing your care during this pandemic. Dr. Palazzo, how have you modified caring for patients throughout COVID-19? Is it safe to some to the hospital? What have you modified as far as elective surgeries, versus urgent care and emergency care? Tell us about what’s going on.
Ettore Palazzo, MD (Guest): We do indeed feel it’s safe, as safe as ever to come to Evergreen whether you need acute care services through our Urgent Care or Emergency Room or in the hospital or if you need regular preventative care with your Primary Care Provider. We have instituted a number of steps under the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control, Washington State Department of Health and Public Health Seattle, King County to ensure safeguards are in place to keep not only our patients safe but the staff that are caring for those patients as well. We recognized earlier on that it was very important for the organization to have a mechanism to monitor for COVID-19 and disease activity and some of the steps that we’ve taken have included active temperature and symptom monitoring for all individuals entering the facility, universal masking policy for all employees with recommendations for our patients to wear masks as well to prevent any spread of infection. And then appropriate what we call cohorting or positioning of patients who are being considered as persons of interest for COVID-19 or those who have tested positive, so we have all the appropriate maneuvers in place to protect them and to protect the staff that are working with them.
Host: Well thank you for that answer. So, tell us a little bit about some of the steps you’re taking as far as PPEs because everyone’s hearing about that in the media. They want to know if you have an adequate supply, if the staff is protected and how you’re designating areas and keeping patients that do have to come in safe.
Dr. Palazzo: Yes, so we had what’s called a high consequence infectious disease pathogen protocol in place well before COVID ever landed on out shores in the United States and in fact, well before the known appearance of COVID-19 in China and that included a full mechanism to convert areas of the hospital over to what we call negative air flow that actually protect both the patients and the staff and moving air flow from rooms where we have persons of interest or known positive patients out into the atmosphere and not through the rest of the facility. And so, those maneuvers were easily implemented right away when we first learned about COVID-19. Along with that, was the use of appropriate personal protective equipment the so called PPE and we used the recommendations from the CDC and Department of Health early on to make sure that we were using the appropriate precautions whether it be masks, gowns, and gloves for the situation. In the early days, we were monitoring the PPE very, very closely to make sure that we had adequate supplies and using assistance from those same agencies, using conservation strategies to ensure that we had adequate PPE to continue taking care of all of the patients both in the here and now and as we look to ramp up activities including elective procedures and other services that initially had been delayed or put on hold as a result of the governors proclamations.
Host: So, if somebody is experiencing symptoms, that they normally would seek care for, but they’re not sure if they can manage them on their own until it’s safer to seek care; are they putting themselves in more harm and what conditions obviously, stroke symptoms or heart attack symptoms those kinds of things should be addressed immediately. Speak about some of those that you want people to not put off and the importance of using the emergency room or urgent care when they need to.
Dr. Palazzo: No question. If you are experiencing symptoms that you would normally seek care for, we want you to come in and be seen. There is no question that the risk far outweighs the benefit of you toughing it out at home and we have seen examples where folks have made that decision and have put themselves in a position that would have been easier to deal with had they come in sooner. We feel that the examples that you gave are prime ones. Certainly the common symptoms of cardiac disease, chest pain, shortness of breath, certainly any neurologic symptoms like severe headache, any weakness, neurologic abnormalities, numbness, tingling, those are all signs of potential serious issues that need to be addressed by a medical professional. So, in those examples, and using that same decision making that you would before COVID-19, we want you here. We have a mechanism to keep you safe and to keep others safe to make sure that we are ensuring your safety and your health.
Host: Such an important point. Dr. Palazzo how are you utilizing Telehealth at this time to help people whether it’s for screening or for things that may not be urgent and for people that are not as tech savvy, tell us a little bit about your Telehealth and how easy it is.
Dr. Palazzo: Yes, so the industry, healthcare industry has been moving towards Telehealth well before the current COVID-19 pandemic. And I think what this has done is really accelerated the move to this technology. We do feel that Telehealth visits are an effective alternative method to receive healthcare and certainly in those situations where you do not need a direct patient to healthcare interaction, we do appreciate the benefits of direct visits with your provider including those needs for say physical examinations, things that couldn’t be performed via virtual visit, but that stated, we find it to be an excellent method to perform initial assessments, to make that determination if a patient can safely stay at home or if they need to seek in person care. And that’s one of those important portions of Telehealth that allows us to give patients that guidance rather than them just sort of waiting it out and trying to make a decision on their own. We find Telehealth visits the method to support rather than replace traditional care for our patients at Evergreen.
As far as the tech savvy status of this, do you need to be tech savvy to be able to use it, is it easy to set up? We have worked with a lot of patients that have characterized themselves as not being in the tech savvy camp but have been able to use our Telehealth mechanisms with quite a bit of ease and have commented on how much easier it was than they thought it would be.
Host: Well thank you for that reassurance and we certainly are going to see more of it in the future, I think. Where can the community go for more information or to ask questions specific to their care plan?
Dr. Palazzo: So, there are a lot of different options out there to get more information. Here at Evergreen, we have a great website at www.evergreenhealth.com/coronavirus that speaks exactly to what we’re doing here for this situation. Many of the most common questions pertaining to COVID-19 and EvergreenHealth are addressed there. We also have links to additional frequently asked questions from our local public health agencies there and we also provide daily updates on what’s happening at Evergreen, whether it’s from visitor policies to our masking policies where individuals can get up to date updates essentially.
Host: Dr. Palazzo, before we wrap up, how are you helping your patients remain calm and manage the emotional challenges of this pandemic and strains of isolation? Please help up put some of this into perspective because there is a world wide stress that we’re all feeling right now and an anxiety and for people that may have chronic conditions, or people that do have to come to the hospital for some reason; that anxiety is a bit magnified. Please reassure us and tell the public what you’d like them to know and the community about what EvergreenHealth is doing to keep them safe and your best advice about stress management at this time.
Dr. Palazzo: We recognize that this is an anxiety provoking time for everyone, whether you are seeking healthcare or you’re just trying to sort out what this all means and that’s natural and it’s normal. And we don’t want to ignore that. I think what folks need to understand is that at Evergreen, we are doing everything possible to make the healthcare experience as safe and effective as it was before COVID-19. And what that requires is for us to work with all the experts whether it’s the World Health Organization, our own Washington State Department of Health or our local health jurisdictions to understand real time what is going on and to be transparent with our patients. It would be impossible to say we know everything and that we know exactly what the course of this is going to be over the long term. And I think what our patients need to understand is that we are ready to work with them and work with the experts to understand how we’re going to move forward in this new era of the pandemic and how we essentially work towards caring for one another on the other side of the curve so to speak. And we’re ready at Evergreen to do that with our patients.