OLE Health clinics in Napa, Solano counties leverage tech to maintain care amid coronavirus pandemic
OLE Health has been coordinating with local hospitals and government officials as it manages patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Within the first three weeks of the coronavirus crisis, the number of OLE Health’s uninsured patients rose from 17% to 23%, according to CEO Alicia Hardy.
OLE Health is a system of federally qualified health centers whose patients largely represent Napa County’s underserved population. The Business Journal interviewed Hardy on May 13.
What has been the biggest impact from COVID-19 to OLE Health, two months into the pandemic?
During this crisis, we have made a complete transition from providing in-person health care to our 37,000-plus patients, to providing that care primarily via “telehealth,” aka via telephone and video.
We’ve been strategic in our coordination with local, state and regional authorities, with public health, with homeless outreach organizations, and with partner health care organizations and hospitals.
We’ve consolidated some of OLE Health’s sites temporarily, limited in-person patient visits to only those deemed essential and re-structured our workforce. Our goal has been to minimize the number of patients and employees entering our facilities in order to keep everyone safe at home and ensure compliance with social distancing. The situation has been changing globally almost by the minute, and the same is true for us here at OLE Health.
How has your staff responded to the changed environment?
During a time when we can’t see our patients in person, and we can’t care for them in person, we’ve had this epiphany that we can still 100% still be here for them, and there are creative, new ways that we can provide their health care and connect with them that technology allows us to do. We are texting them important safety messages, reaching out to high-risk populations with check-in phone calls, coordinating provider-patient visits via appointment text links that connect patients to their physicians, and coordinating with community partners to focus on the immediate needs of food insecurity, mental health issues and more.
Our staff have been personally impacted by school closures and the stress of how much all of our lives have changed, but they amaze me every day with their dedication to our patients and to their jobs, even learning new skills as we’ve restructured. Everyone has a different situation and handles stress differently, so we’ve made sure to communicate to staff the many resources available to them and to patients, both externally and internally.
Our OLE Health behavioral health team has implemented a system to provide private counseling sessions for any staff who just want to talk to someone, a professional, they can trust.
There’s also been this incredible feeling of mutual encouragement and support, as we’re all in this together and working together to be here for our patients. A feeling of camaraderie. You can see that just looking at our social media — the praise and enthusiasm our staff and our community has for the people who work at OLE.
Have there been any furloughs or layoffs of staff? If so, how many and types of positions affected?
I’m so proud that we have not furloughed or laid off any staff since this pandemic crisis began, and we’re optimistic about the future in that regard, as well. Our board of directors was very supportive as we pursued and received a substantial and forgivable SBA loan that has ensured at least eight additional weeks of keeping each and every OLE Health member on staff.