When COVID-19 cases began to spread across the US, there were concerns among healthcare systems about whether they would have enough beds to meet demand. That prompted OSF Innovation to proactively think of ideas to prevent patient overflow, reduce cases of the virus, and treat people safely at home.
A concept that emerged from Mission Partners who participated in a Trailblazer Challenge, an innovation competition, would help OSF HealthCare treat both COVID-19 patients and hospital patients without COVID at home. But with the infectious nature of the virus, this idea had to be implemented quickly.
With years of Performance Improvement (PI) experience built into the organization, the Trailblazer team chose to use an agile approach to project management to help get their idea off the ground quickly.
“We already knew how to project, plan, facilitate, solve problems, and bring people together to effect change within the Ministry,” said Kelly George, Vice President of PI. “This base helped the team rotate to respond faster to the needs of people diagnosed with COVID-19.”
In less than a month, the team created the OSF Digital Hospital at Home and Acute COVID @ Home programs to treat people using video conferencing and other technologies.
What does it mean to be agile?
Simply put, being agile means having the ability to go from planning to executing a project as quickly as possible, garnering feedback from leaders throughout the process.
It took a multidisciplinary team of five people working collaboratively to launch the programs. The group included two physicians, an IT expert, an OSF innovation mission partner, and a home care leader. Working in the same space, the team met daily and stayed focused on the goal, possible solutions, and deliverables.
“There was a common sense of vision and desired outcomes between our team and the leaders we reported to,” said Nathan Pritzker, strategic programs manager at OSF Innovation. “With that, we quickly mapped our project, divided the tasks that were unique to our expertise, and kept in constant communication.”
The group had constant access to digital health experts who have presented similar types of projects throughout the health system. With varying levels of experience, the voice of everyone on the team was the same.
“Each member openly presented their unique talents and knowledge,” said Ellen Chaney, IT innovation coordinator. “The willingness to work together with mutual respect made our team resilient.”
The team also had easy access to leaders for feedback and approvals.
“Rapid exposure to clinical and non-clinical leadership allowed us to continually improve parts of our concept,” said Dr. Jay Mathur, Hospitalist for OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center. “That access kept our project moving and ensured that we could help patients as quickly as possible.”
The benefit of being agile
Using an agile approach, the Acute COVID @ Home and OSF Digital Hospital at Home programs were launched within three weeks. As a result, hundreds of people have been cared for from the comfort of their homes through these programs.
Several other teams supported by PI also used this method to rapidly carry out projects as part of the COVID-19 response. PI also intends to use this approach for future projects.