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How Vizient Is Connecting Hospitals Across the Country to Combat COVID-19

The North Texas-based company helps share best practices, logistics tips, and data analytics.
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Since the beginning of the pandemic, North-Texas-based Vizient has been hosting weekly calls with 500 to 1,000 member hospitals across the country, sharing best practices and allowing hospitals experiencing COVID-19 hotspots to share their experiences, help others learn, and get advice from others.

Vizient leverages the scale of its membership to help academic medical centers, health systems, ambulatory care facilities, and other providers manage their costs, analyze their data, improve quality of care, and more. Across the nation, 95 percent of academic medical centers, half of all hospitals, and 20 percent of ambulatory care centers are part of the network. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services named Vizient as a top contractor for quality improvement and innovation last year. 

“Vizient does a really good job of bringing together member organizations to talk about leading practices in quality, safety, patient experience, and clinical practices,” says Dr. Christopher Kim, the associate medical director of quality, patient safety, and clinical efficiency at the University of Washington Medical Center. “They also provide the forum in which data can be submitted that allow organizations to benchmark itself.”

Vizient’s weekly webinars allowed hospital leaders to learn from contemporary and experienced clinicians on the front lines. The University of Nebraska received the first cases off of the cruise ships, and the University of Washington treated many of the first cases in Seattle. They discussed with hospitals around the country how the virus impacted their facilities and how they were solving problems. 

“We were polling our entire membership about how many cases they have had, patients under investigation, and on vents,” says Vizient group senior vice president of performance management and national networks Julie Cerese. “We were asking them questions about PPE and about strategies on how to protect patients.”

Supply chain, pharmacy, clinical, and quality executives joined the calls to share perspectives. They were able to share week to week as the situation changed, and the practices evolved. From the limited visitation to searching for protective equipment and ending elective procedures, hospitals could see the seriousness of the issues and respond accordingly. Vizient also provided a dashboard to see case volume and a calculator to measure PPE usage, guiding how organizations needed to respond. 

“Learning about where they were in this trajectory gave them confidence about where things are evolving and changing,” says Cerese. 

 The organization also hosted webinars about vulnerable populations and how the hospitals are treating them. Sharing how various ages, races, and patients with comorbidities react to the virus was essential in crafting health systems’ response. As the providers learned more, they shared how genetics and other factors impacted how patients would respond. 

“One of the things that is a tremendous benefit in being part of Vizient is that they have connections to hospitals across the country,” says Kim. “When the coronavirus first hit the northwestern part of the country, everyone out there was reaching out to organizations like ours and other hospitals in California and on the West Coast. They tried and get a sense of what was happening and identify the early experiences, including their successes and challenges. They are trying to determine how they, as an organization, might help all of their membership.”

For much of the spring, the New York hospital members could not attend because they were swamped with cases, but when things slowed down, and they were able to participate, they realized what they had been missing. “When they were able to join the webinars, they were amazed and disappointed,” says Cerese. “They would have benefitted had they joined earlier.”

Some medical centers have expertise that others don’t, and a community like the one Vizient has created allows them to learn from each other. “Vizient is unique in that it brings together organizations of varying sizes, whether the system is a flagship hospital or a major teaching hospital,” Kims says. “It does a good job of meeting the needs of individual hospitals, regardless of the size.”

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