UH and other health systems began to work with state officials to figure out how to more systematically handle the spread of COVID across the state. The Ohio Hospital Association paired hospitals with nursing homes in their areas, and those systems became responsible for sharing infection-control policies, conducting walk-throughs, assisting with PPE supplies and helping with resident placement after discharge, said John Palmer, an OHA spokesman.
“The rationale was to pair hospitals with nursing facilities within their area to collaborate on various response and preparedness efforts related to the pandemic,” Palmer said.
“It was truly a community benefit to make sure we continued to put water on the fire, and not let it get out of control,” Sague said.
Working so closely with nursing homes and responding when they needed help created “an immediate rapport and respect with one another that would have taken years and years to establish,” Cannone said.
“It dramatically accelerated our relationships with the post-acute care facilities in a very, very good way,” Cannone said.
Hospitals’ relationships with one another also improved. By working together to respond to the pandemic and keep the state’s health system from getting overwhelmed, Ohio hospitals that normally compete became allies, Cannone said. CEOs talked regularly. They collaborated to focus on each system’s strengths to aid in the pandemic response, he said.
“I don’t think the relationship will ever be the same to be honest with you,” Cannone said.
While there will be friendly competition, “I honestly think this has changed that dynamic,” he said.
Even now, systems are working together to handle vaccination efforts. UH is working with the state on nursing home visitation guidelines.
He said it’s hard to give advice to other systems on how to prepare going forward because he doesn’t have the answers.
“You just need to be innovative and solve,” he said.
But Sague said systems need to plan. The pandemic has shown that any kind of preparation that systems can do in advance—from strengthening internal communication, to stockpiling supplies, to building external relationships—will better enable them to respond to the unexpected, he said.
“We know these things are real threats, so we have to live a culture of preparedness,” Sague said. “As a country, we were not prepared to do this.”