By Published On: March 14th, 2020Categories: COVID-19

In the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic, several companies in the HEP portfolio have stepped up in remarkable ways to help others—patients, caregivers and hospitals—navigate these uncertain times. “Tackling the Pandemic Together” is an effort to recognize the exceptional efforts of employees in our portfolio in responding to this crisis. We have asked the CEOs of our portfolio companies to nominate one employee for their significant contributions to the company’s COVID-19 solution. We will feature these employees in a series of vignettes. In association with each nomination, HEP will be making a charitable contribution to a healthcare organization of that employee’s choice. We’re all in this together.

Over the past two months, we have showcased the efforts of our portfolio company employees in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak as part of our Tackling the Pandemic Together Series. As our country grapples with the other pandemic of racism, we focus this installment of the series on how people of color have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

As part of our ongoing focus on social determinants of health, we shared Amy Roeder’s research at the Harvard School of Public Health on the high maternal mortality rates in black women in our Q2 2019 newsletter (America is Failing Its Black Mothers). It is critical to acknowledge that factors like socioeconomic status, education, discrimination, and access to healthcare impact the health outcomes of individuals.

The statistics in our featured article underscore that, while we are all navigating through the same storm of COVID-19, we are all not in the same boat. In recognition of this disparity and in support of the black community, HEP has made a charitable contribution to the Black Women’s Health Imperative.

Archie Algas, Director of Product, Wildflower Health

What have you done to help Wildflower Health and its customers respond to COVID-19?
Our platform allows us to quickly update our client applications with new content and interventions. During this pandemic, we have been moving very quickly with clients to make COVID-19 content available to users. In addition to general COVID-19 education and support, we also are directing users to each client’s specific resources, such as a preferred COVID-19 screening tool. There is so much confusion, misinformation and general anxiety about COVID-19 among Americans. Helping our clients consistently connect with individuals to cut through the noise has been a priority for our company since day one. It takes on an entirely new level of importance when the world is faced with a crisis like this.

How has Wildflower Health responded to the COVID-19 challenge?
The sudden increased need for virtual visits uncovered workflow gaps in care for expectant mothers that the Wildflower platform is well-suited to help our customers address. We recently announced a new virtual visit solution that helps childbirth providers fill patient education and workflow gaps associated with virtual prenatal and postpartum visits, including remote device delivery, symptom monitoring, pre-visit data transmission and personalized digital education.

The solution includes a provider-facing portal that can intake the practice’s scheduling information and allows each provider to view patient-entered app information, such as latest blood pressure reading, questions the patient wants to ask, and the patient’s intake form answers, before or during the virtual visit.

We understand the urgency with which our clients have to fill these workflow gaps. With this in mind, we have designed a very simple and rapid onboarding process for the new solution. We are also offering the new solution to OB practices at no cost in order to best help them provide high-quality patient care during this crisis and beyond.

What advice or thoughts can you share that might motivate others right now?
The problems surfaced by the pandemic are similar to the ones Wildflower was already solving for existing customers, but there are significant changes and new additions to the platform that are needed to address the new challenges in the most efficient way. We have had to make those changes quickly, which means putting other priorities aside. My advice is to always keep yourself, your teams, your product and your thinking nimble enough to adjust to unexpected times like these. It is often easier said than done, as it requires solving problems not just for current needs but for the unknown future as well. If you are successful, then responding to the needs of healthcare during times like these can be incredibly rewarding.

We thank Archie Algas for all his hard work and have made a $1,000 donation on Archie’s behalf to ­­­Direct Relief’s COVID-19 Relief program.

Soy Chen, Director of Data Science, Jvion

What have you done to help shape the Jvion COVID-19 product set?
I lead a very passionate data science team at Jvion. Like so many others in the healthcare community, we knew we had to help during these difficult times. We possessed the skills, data, and experience in deploying clinical AI products, so we immediately launched multiple COVID-19 initiatives and were able to hit the ground running. The urgency and imperative for getting the products out had everyone firing on all cylinders and displaying impressive team collaboration.

How has Jvion responded to the COVID-19 challenge?
We identified multiple levels of action that would be beneficial to tackling the pandemic, from the community level to the acute level. At the community level, we created a publicly accessible Community Vulnerability Map that identifies at-risk populations that are likely to suffer severe outcomes once infected so that resource planning, interventions, outreach and other community initiatives can be made with intelligence. At the individual patient level, COVID Patient Vulnerability Lists were delivered to help care providers in taking proactive actions to save lives in their communities. At the acute level, we developed a product identifying the risk of morbidity and mortality as a result of acute respiratory illness from viruses similar to COVID-19 to arm clinicians with the ability to prioritize and triage their challenging caseloads.

What advice or thoughts can you share that might motivate others right now?
The data and research coming out of this pandemic has been fast-paced and dynamic. The lack of consolidated or standardized data resources on COVID-19 has proved challenging and frustrating. Despite these challenges, many are still contributing and doing what they can. The progress we have made is thanks to the collective efforts of the broader community driven to fight this pandemic. It has been inspiring to see everyone pitching in however they can as it validates that we’re all in this together.

We thank Soy Chen for all her hard work and have made a $1,000 donation on Soy’s behalf to International Women’s Health Coalition.

Francine Mastin, Regional Director, Managed Care & Partnerships

What have you done to help ContinuumRx and its customers respond to COVID-19?
I recognized that many of our clients, who are essential hospital workers, routinely were not receiving PPE. Therefore, with the encouragement of another colleague, I contacted a friend who is a seamstress and she agreed to make 1,200 masks. I gathered material and resource supplies from other volunteers and over a two week period, we distributed hundreds of masks to ContinuumRx referral sources and key clients in Baltimore, Maryland. The need and outpouring of gratitude was so overwhelming that we collaborated to make and distribute a second wave of masks to other hospital workers within the Maryland market.

How has ContinuumRx responded to the COVID-19 challenge?
Leadership and staff stood tall and faced their fears. As essential healthcare workers and a home infusion provider, our first priority was to create a safe work environment for our branch employees so that we could continue to provide the same level of care to our patients receiving service in the home. We encouraged our employees to follow CDC guidelines but also enhanced those guidelines to meet the demands of our workflow. We assigned many employees to work remotely, however, much of what we do requires patient interaction either at home or in a hospital. We collaborated with our hospital partners on “surge planning” to assist with caring for patients in alternate sites. When it was appropriate, our hospital liaisons utilized video chat apps to educate patients in the hospital and coordinate discharge. We initiated guidelines and provided PPE for our hospital liaisons, field nurses and delivery staff as they continued to enter hospitals and homes to provide patient education, medication transfer and care.

What advice or thoughts can you share that might motivate others right now?
As healthcare providers, we have an obligation to set an example by encouraging our employees to adhere to all the guidelines set forth by the authorities – this means hand washing, using PPE, maintaining social distancing and making healthy lifestyle choices. It is important to remind our employees that they should encourage these practices when interacting with others as well.

Most of all during this time, it is important for all of us to maintain a positive and optimistic outlook. We must believe that we will come out on the other side of this pandemic perhaps changed, but most likely, stronger.

We thank Francine Mastin for all her hard work and have made a $1,000 donation on Francine’s behalf to the Maryland State Police Special Olympics Polar Bear Plunge.

Beverly Stubbs, Director and Administrator of Clinical Services, Klarus Home Care

Early in March I activated our Emergency Preparedness Response Plan and Procedure for COVID-19. This came shortly after assembling a dedicated team of expert nurses as well as long and thoughtful discussions about a proactive way to reduce our patient and staff exposure while continuing to care for our patients in the challenging home environment. During these meetings we also recognized the need to protect our staff with appropriate and adequate PPE and provided patient and staff education utilizing guidance from the CDC and WHO.

Our HR coordinator and I began ordering PPE from a variety of sources we found online and throughout the Metroplex to ensure we had the required PPE for our clinicians to keep them safe. Our sales team began finding seamstresses to sew face masks (some with HEPA filters) to protect our staff and protect their N95 masks supply due to the shortage. After unsuccessful attempts to order fit testing equipment for our N95 masks due to shortages and multiple rejected orders, I was able to make arrangements with a free standing ER to borrow their fit test equipment so we could have all of our employees and contract therapists fit tested for their N95 masks to ensure their safety.

We immediately began screening every patient by phone prior to every visit for possible symptoms of COVID-19 so that we were prepared. I created the process of requesting that staff complete a daily questionnaire in order to screen for possible symptoms before coming in contact with their first patient. We also limited access to our office through a one-way entry where guests and staff are screened for potential symptoms or exposure. We reduced our office staff presence by 75%, creating new operations for them to work remotely from the safety of their homes.

How has the company responded to this challenge?
Klarus Home Care provided their staff with 24/7 clinical support, innovative and proactive processes, access to PPE, the security of fit-tested N95 masks and updated information about the COVID-19 virus. I believe that because of this response, our clinicians became warriors during this pandemic. This team has been impressive in ways I would have never imagined. They have worked many long and exhausting days and weekends and have shown great creativity and courage navigating this crisis. They have demonstrated immense flexibility and steadfast dedication to our patients’ needs during this crisis with a willing heart and a smile.

What advice or thoughts can you share which might impact or motivate others right now?
Abide by social distancing orders to slow the spread so that we do not overwhelm our healthcare systems. Protect and take care of yourself by staying healthy, washing your hands often and getting plenty of sleep/rest. Please only take in information about COVID-19 from reliable sources, as many other sources may create confusion and unnecessary anxiety. Reach out to your health department for any questions or concerns as I have found them to be immensely helpful and knowledgeable. Support your staff however you can; the creativity and dedication they will show you will not disappoint. Above all, have hope and know that this will pass. We will gain great knowledge and benefit from powerful lessons through this crisis.

We thank Beverly Stubbs for all her hard work and have made a $1,000 donation on Beverly’s behalf to Partners in Health, a global health organization which brings quality health care to the most vulnerable around the world.

Erika O’Donohoe, Vice President – Client Services, Access Physicians

What have you done to help Access Physicians and its customers respond to COVID-19?
Access Physicians is a well-established, physician-led telemedicine pioneer providing on-demand consultation services to over 190 hospitals. My team and I have been facilitating the onboarding of over 1,000 new providers onto the platform we utilize to run patient encounters. It has allowed these providers to continue to deliver care to their patients virtually. In addition to these new providers, we have also rapidly deployed pulmonary programs to a cohort of rural acute care hospitals who are facing the possibility of having to manage higher acuity patients. Typically, a program like this would take six weeks to launch but with a lot of team effort, we have launched in seven days.

How has Access Physicians responded to this challenge?
Access Physicians has a long history of building long-term, successful telemedicine programs that create high adoption and buy-in. Those programs are focused on the highest level of quality program design, physicians and technology. We have taken this model and experience and have developed several short-term solutions to help our partners manage the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been a few key programs that we have rolled out in the past couple of weeks: a “Bring your own device” (BYOD) program and a COVID-19 Pulmonary/Critical Care Cohort.

The BYOD program is a highly scalable solution for health providers who are either facing their clinics being closed but still need to care for patients or hospitals trying to limit the amount of COVID-19 exposure to their healthcare teams. This model allows for teams to utilize any type of available device to run a secure encounter with a patient or other staff. To date, over a thousand healthcare providers are utilizing this service.

The COVID-19 Pulmonary/Critical Care Cohort is a short-term solution to bring pulmonary and critical care programs to smaller community hospitals to help manage any COVID-19 patients that they are not able to transfer. Creating the cohort has helped to minimize cost to these partners and bring high quality physicians into their hospitals in this time of need.

What advice or thoughts can you share which might impact or motivate others right now?
I have been looking to our core values at Access Physicians to help guide me. Those are tenacity, integrity, vision, excellence and kindness. During these times, tenacity, integrity and kindness are the values driving many of the decisions and work that I am doing. At the end of the day you need to have something to keep a line of sight, amongst all the chaos, into what you are working towards.

We thank Erika O’Donohoe for all her hard work and have made a $1,000 donation on Erika’s behalf to St. Mary’s Foundation, in Madison, WI. 

Julie Pickering, Lead Nurse Practitioner, AllyAlign Health

What have you done to help shape the Ally Align/NHC Advantage Plan protocol for COVID-19?
My team and I have the same goal: keep our patients and families safe. One of the many obstacles we are facing is the ability to continue to be physically present in all our centers. I have implemented daily communication templates with our centers to ensure patient change of conditions are immediately addressed.  Our clinical teams are working closely with other providers to make sure all residents (plan members and non-members) have the treatments/orders/and monitoring that they need.  I have encouraged our clinicians to be mindful of the social isolation of our vulnerable patients and to provide extra 1:1 interaction on our rounds. Addressing the mental well-being of our patients is as important as the physical needs.  I also am mindful of the potential needs of my fellow clinicians. I was able to obtain PPE for my nurse practitioners (just in case) which helped alleviate some of their fears. I also have scheduled weekly Zoom Happy-Hours with my staff to ensure we stay connected and support one another during this time. My sincere hope is that clinicians, patients, families and facility staff, will never feel alone during this unprecedented time.

How has the company responded to this challenge?
With our population residing mainly in long term centers, we realized we needed to come up with alternate ways to care for our members. Ally Align made our telehealth project a priority within days of the pandemic.  I have been able to pilot its use to conduct meetings between clinicians, patients and their family members.  Our patients have been able to see and hear loved ones (even family pets) during these virtual meetings. I have been able to see the smiles and feel the sense of relief from the families finally being able to communicate with their loved ones. In addition to these virtual meetings, our telehealth will provide the ability to conduct physical assessments, end of life/advanced care planning discussions and assist in the enrollment process all remotely during the restricted visitation.  I am so proud to work for a company that acknowledges the need for innovation and encourages ideas from all roles within the company.  I am also proud of our CMO who developed an up to date COVID-19 educational in-service to our plan partners, facilities, and our own Ally Align staff.

What advice or thoughts can you share which might impact or motivate others right now?
Give yourself grace during this time. Allow flexibility in all areas of your life to become the new “norm”. I for one have 4 children at home now, our routines are a mess, and there is so much uncertainty about the future that it becomes easy to focus on the negatives. However, I have also enjoyed getting to know my teens again, having dinner together, and going on walks with my 2-year-old that I never made time for before the start of the pandemic. I also feel like we all are learning what truly matters:  family, friends and experiences. Keep your heads up, we will get through this together and come out stronger than ever with valuable lessons learned.

We thank Julie Pickering for all her hard work and have made a $1,000 donation on Julie’s behalf to The Well Outreach, a food pantry in Spring Hill, TN. When Julie worked in home-based palliative care, her patients often relied on this organization to bring them meals, so The Well Outreach holds a special place in her heart.

Michael Stephens, Senior Lead, Customer Experience, Bardy Diagnostics

What have you done to help shape the Bardy clinical protocol for COVID-19?
I helped coordinate and support the team at BardyDx that launched the mail-to-patient program of the Carnation Ambulatory Monitor (CAM) Patch, a wearable heart monitor for patients around the country. Because Seattle was the origin site for the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, I simultaneously supported both the operations and customer service fronts and helped provide technical consultation on developing the back-end process for program implementation. For example, while fielding questions as a patient support representative and effectively using my product knowledge to help resolve inquiries about our CAM patch technology, I also packaged and fulfilled orders so patients around the country would continue to receive uninterrupted cardiac monitor care. I feel proud to represent BardyDx in providing patient access to heart monitors for those in need during this COVID-19 pandemic.

How has the company responded to this challenge?
Typically, the CAM patch is applied to a patient by an ECG technician or nurse during an office visit. In an effort to reduce unnecessary patient and healthcare provider contact and mitigate possible exposure to COVID-19, BardyDx has prioritized the transition to telehealth services and adapted business operations to launch a Mail-To-Patient program which enables patients to receive and apply the CAM Patch at home. The home application program bypasses in-person contact, reduces the need for additional personal protective equipment, provides streamlined care, and allows healthcare personnel who are already resource-constrained to focus on other areas of critical need.

As the global COVID-19 pandemic evolves, there is unprecedented demand for remote patient monitoring, specifically cardiac monitors. Additionally, the BardyDx CAM Patch is currently being used in hospitals to monitor cardiac rhythms for COVID-19 patients on Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) after hospital discharge and for outpatients. HCQ has been demonstrated in certain populations, to prolong the QT interval, resulting in Torsades de Pointes (TdP), “twisting of peaks”, a potentially lethal arrhythmia. CAM’s unique ability to detect and record low frequency, low amplitude cardiac rhythms is valuable in measuring QT intervals and diagnosing TdP. The CAM Patch is being used in the fight to help physicians better identify and understand any arrhythmias or other cardiac irregularities that may be related to the use of HCQ in COVID-19 patients. The CAM patch might also be used to monitor the effect potential COVID-19 vaccines might have on cardiac function.

What advice or thoughts can you share which might impact or motivate others right now?
I would tell others, “This Too Shall Pass,” and to remember, if we all just stick together and follow the recommended precautions, we can overcome any obstacle or challenge that comes our way. Be sure to thank your frontline healthcare professionals and essential workers for all their hard work and the sacrifices they make to allow us to continue living healthy lives. During this time pick up the phone and reach out to someone who might need a friend. We are all in this together!

We thank Michael Stephens for all his hard work and have made a $1,000 donation on Michael’s behalf to the Seattle Children’s Foundation.

Amanda Hall, Director of Clinical Services, Catapult Health

What have you done to help shape the Catapult clinical protocol for COVID-19?
I facilitated the discussion that led to our COVID-19 clinical protocol, and led training for our Nurse Practitioner team as they prepared to consult with patients about symptoms of and exposure to the virus. I coordinated the development of the protocols related to the consultation process, including set up, connecting to patients, assessment of pertinent history and physical exam, decision, and development of an action plan for each patient. As a Nurse Practitioner, I was able to pilot this process myself to get a better idea of the process flow and the clinical course. I used my experience in the pilot to consult with our other clinical advisors and to guide our Nurse Practitioner team in their clinical decision making. During this pilot we developed protocols around high-risk patients that provide guidance for the decision to refer the patient for same day testing or urgent care, or to wait 24 hours for further evaluation and/or testing.

How has the company responded to this challenge?
CatapultCares launched on Tuesday March 24th, only one week after the idea was conceptualized. Our HR team quickly identified Nurse Practitioners who could provide consultations from their home, organized a scheduling process, and purchased and configured secure systems that the NPs could use. Our technology team worked around the clock for days to program our COVID-19 criteria for CatapultCares. This support has provided our Nurse Practitioners a quick and effective way to assess patients and refer if they meet COVID-19 screening criteria. If they do not, we are encouraging self-quarantine, giving them warning signs, and discussing ways to keep themselves and family healthy.

What advice or thoughts can you share which might impact or motivate others right now?
Follow your state and county shelter in-place orders. We can slow the spread. This is crucial so we do not overwhelm our healthcare system. Reach out to a medical professional, by phone, with questions. Remember to thank healthcare professionals and first responders for working tirelessly to care and serve.

We thank Amanda Hall for her all her hard work and have made a $1,000 donation on Amanda’s behalf to the Community Health Clinic, where she volunteers.

William DePaso, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Twistle

What have you done to help shape the Twistle COVID-19 use case?
Using the Twistle Health Journey Model, I created a COVID-19 Health Journey Map that has been useful in helping Twistle staff and customers understand the role that Twistle can play in force multiplying our overburdened healthcare system. I then developed standard Twistle workflow templates for multiple COVID-19 remote monitoring use cases that can be quickly adapted to our health system clients’ specific operational workflows, allowing for more rapid implementation. These use cases enable health systems to reach out automatically to at-risk patients via secure text messaging, phone, app, or e-mail to gather up-to-date information about symptoms and to generate alerts to care teams if patients’ symptoms require more attention.

The solution relieves health care professionals while giving patients peace of mind and a safety net for communication. Twistle is now monitoring over 900 positive or presumptive positive COVID-19 patients through its platform and is seeing patient response rates close to 90%.

Finally, as a trained pulmonary/critical care clinician, I have also aided the company in translating the most up to date recommendations from the CDC into patient-facing information and rapidly iterating on workflow content.

How has the company responded to the COVID-19 challenge?
I am so proud of the fact that every single Twistle employee, starting with the CEO, is living our #patientfirst value. Everyone is working tirelessly to create and implement COVID-19 remote monitoring workflows in record time. We’ve deployed our COVID-19 platform at each of the health systems using it in just four days, in some cases over the weekend. Everyone on the team is working together to make this happen. We are learning and adapting to the urgency of the situation with impressive speed.  I am impressed that we are finding ways to work with clients that not only keep us afloat but are respectful of the incredible financial stresses our clients are being subjected to. Lastly, as a lean and mean (at times stressed) organization, the engineering and implementation teams are knocking it out of the park.

What advice or thoughts can you share that might impact or motivate others right now?
I am a student of the physiology and psychology of survival, and my favorite mantra under times of extreme stress was well stated by former United States Navy officer, Admiral Stockdale – “Face reality but maintain hope.” This situation will eventually abate. Until then, keep your head down, pace yourself, and stay the course. As a sleep doctor, I also cannot hesitate to remind people who are working tirelessly on the front lines to make sure you get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation lowers the immune system in addition to other health effects.

I also want to say that as a trained ICU doctor, it is hard for me to be on the sidelines when there is such a great need for my skill set. However, given my age and underlying condition, I would be at great risk. When I told my son, who is a nurse, that I was stressed over this and wanted to help in our small community of Helena, Montana, where there is only one pulmonary doctor, my son said “Dad, with your skill and training, you are doing more good and helping more people by staying on with Twistle and helping them.”

We thank Bill DePaso for all his hard work and have made a $1,000 donation on Bill’s behalf to St. Peter’s Health in Helena, MT, where his son and daughter-in-law are both front line nurses.

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