Flattening the curve: Thinking differently and acting differently

Flattening the curve: Thinking differently and acting differently

Michael O’Connell, MHA, FACHE, FACMPE, senior vice president, operations, Stanford Health Care, has a unique view of the response to COVID-19, coast to coast.


Working in San Francisco, he’s seen beaches, parks and countless other areas closed as part of the nation’s first mandated shelter-in-place orders. “It’s really made a difference,” O’Connell says, noting that his colleagues at Stanford have been working on one of the first U.S. studies on COVID-19 antibodies.


He also knows that on the East Coast — where his daughter works in a 2,400-bed hospital in New York City, where visitor lounges and storage rooms have been converted into patient areas — it’s a completely different story.


Compared to Stanford Health Care, the situation in New York is startling: “We have four patients on a ventilator,” O’Connell said. “She has 400.”


O’Connell’s work has focused on ensuring anyone coming into Stanford’s ambulatory clinics is wearing a mask and getting their temperature taken. They also have special respiratory clinics with additional PPE for confirmed COVID-19 cases, plus drive-through clinics to perform testing in the surrounding regions.


“There’s so many different things that we’ve been working on, to be able to keep our providers or staff and our patients safe,” O’Connell said. “Because we know we don’t want everyone to have to go to the emergency room.” That means updating clinics to “treat everyone as if they have COVID-19 and then figure out how we can care for them in an ambulatory setting.”


“It’s made us think differently and act differently,” O’Connell said. “And it really challenges us in terms of our leadership. … Are we in a mode where we can co-create with our colleagues?” That means being creative to find new solutions. One example: Stanford sent a plan to India to secure masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE). It also means being mindful of scams and ensuring supplies meet the requirements necessary for keeping people safe.


O’Connell will bring his years of expertise in leading two sessions at the Medical Practice Excellence Conference, Oct. 18-21, in San Antonio, Texas:


  1. “10 Steps for a Comprehensive Patient Access Plan,” exploring the human-centered and discovery-led approaches that Stanford Medicine Partners Medical Foundation takes to create short- and long-term patient access success.
  2. “Effective Leadership Strategies for Medical Practice Executives,” co-presented with Ronald Menaker, CPA, MBA, EdD, FACMPE, administrator, Mayo Clinic, which explores how the Body of Knowledge for Medical Practice Management can be applied to lead teams through change to achieve desired outcomes in a medical practice.


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