April 2, 2020

Information technology aids VUMC’s COVID-19 response

From eStar to Zoom, information technology is vital to Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s response to COVID-19.

Teams from all three of VUMC’s information technology departments — Health IT, VUMC IT and Enterprise Cybersecurity — are supporting care of COVID-19 outpatients, preparing for large increases in hospital admissions, rapidly expanding telehealth capabilities and facilitating work from home by non-clinical employees.

Neal Patel, MD, MPH

Clinical work at VUMC is supported by eStar, a health record application complemented by other clinical care software.

“A huge part of our efforts has relied on combining the ingenuity and problem solving of our Health IT teams with the inherent flexibility of eStar. This allowed us to quickly address multiple scenarios in preparation for a possible influx of patients suspected of or diagnosed with COVID-19,” said Health IT Chief Information Officer Neal Patel, MD, MPH.

VUMC employees working from home are relying on previously unfamiliar software, such as the collaboration platform Microsoft Teams and the video conferencing application Zoom.

Sarah Hagovsky, MBA

“Many of the VUMC IT initiatives that have proved important for our COVID response were already in early planning or pilot stages, such as our use of Microsoft Teams. So, we quickly scaled, operationalized and rolled them out, to allow a large contingent of VUMC’s workforce who can work from home to do so,” said Sarah Hagovsky, MBA, chief information officer with VUMC IT.

System enhancements and software distribution and training to support COVID-19 care have been extensive. Here are a few examples:

  • At the point of care, eStar automatically delivers decision support for COVID-19 outpatient screening and assessment, as well as patient instructions. Outpatient documentation in turn supports automated COVID-19 surveillance and contact tracing — including employee exposures, triggering automated follow-up by Occupational Health.
  • In preparation for increased patient admissions, Health IT has configured within eStar a new type of VUMC hospital unit devoted to COVID-19 care, with all the clinical roles and workflows delineated and relevant decision support tools in hand.
  • In case clinicians and nurses need to be temporarily reassigned to new areas of VUMC and to make these transitions as seamless as possible, Health IT and Enterprise Cybersecurity have built new flexibility into eStar. They’ve also made preparations in eStar for expedited onboarding of outside clinicians and nurses, should they be needed.
  • Anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 at any site across the VUMC network automatically goes into an electronic patient registry the moment the test is resulted. For patients isolated at home with COVID-19, the registry assists follow-up care by Population Health care coordinators.
  • When COVID-19 tests are resulted in the clinical lab, users of My Health at Vanderbilt, VUMC’s online patient portal, see the result immediately, accompanied by patient instructions.
  • With VUMC relying on Zoom for COVID-19 telehealth visits, VUMC IT rapidly scaled up licensing, distribution and help desk support for this web-based video conferencing tool.