Though media attention has focused on COVID-19’s rapid spread in densely populated cities, the epidemic has also hit America’s small towns. With smaller — if any — hospital facilities and sometimes long distances to larger medical hubs, rural areas face their own unique set of challenges.
Mountains Community Hospital in southern California was among the small medical facilities in rural areas facing a crisis. The hospital has less than 40 beds to serve roughly 26,000 people who live in the town of Lake Arrowhead in southern California and the surrounding rural area.
When area residents began to experience COVID-19 symptoms, the hospital worried about having them enter the facility. Infected patients could spread the disease to medical staff — or to the hospital’s vulnerable long-term-care patients, who already suffer from disabilities and chronic conditions.
Partnering for patient care
Mountains Community IT Manager Patrick Miller turned to Wipfli, a top 20 consulting and accounting firm, for a solution.
With Wipfli’s senior manager in technology consulting, Jason Vander Velde, Miller worked with hospital management to deploy mobile trailers to help protect healthcare providers and patients.
The hospital leased four mobile trailers for use in its parking lot:
- The first would be used for intake of patients who displayed COVID-19 symptoms
- Two others would be equipped with beds and oxygen for patient care
- The fourth would serve as sleeping quarters for overworked doctors and nurses
Wipfli Technology Management team helped set up network extenders to expand the hospital’s WiFi signal and connect medical staffers’ phones, computers and tablets from the trailers to the hospital’s secure network. Video monitors supported virtual conferencing and patient visits with Microsoft Teams providing a platform for communications and collaboration.
“Once we installed and configured the devices, we were up and running within an hour of setup,” Miller said.
Nurses can now test patients for the virus and create electronic health records without bringing potentially contagious patients into the main hospital building. So far, 56 patients have been tested and treated in the trailers, with just three requiring full hospitalization.
“The process is working as intended,” hospital staff said. “Patients are tested and kept out of the hospital as much as possible, helping to prevent the disease from spreading.”
The Mountains Community staff also has a daily “huddle” during shift changes in which most of the staff would gather in a conference room to share information.
Wipfli helped transition those in-person meetings to virtual using Microsoft Teams.
Wipfli worked with the hospital’s IT department to add Microsoft Teams Conferencing licenses to the hospital’s existing Office 365 account.
After social distancing rules are relaxed, the hospital still plans to use Teams for employees who can’t physically make it to the daily huddles.
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