Mobile clinics, on-site PPE production: How COVID-19 has propelled health systems to innovate


When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, hospitals were tasked with quickly finding ways to provide PPE to their workers, connecting doctors to vulnerable patients at home and getting coronavirus testing to the community at large. 

This gave rise to new innovations and ways of working, not just in the US, but around the world. MobiHealthNews sat down with Pothik Chatterjee, the executive director of innovation and research at LifeBridge Health, to talk about how his health system is implementing these advances. Chatterjee will join a panel of speakers next week at Accelerate Health’s second episode, focused on innovations and investments. 

The first challenge was PPE. With a supply chain shortage of this equipment, Chatterjee explained that the health system decided to create the materials themselves. 

“We had some extraordinary situations earlier in the year where we were finding ourselves in a supply chain challenge for masks and gowns for staff. We ended up launching our own PPE factory on the hospital grounds of LifeBridge Health,” he said.

“Within five days, we had sewing machines and staff who were trained to fold face masks and sew isolation gowns. We partnered with UnderArmour, which is in our backyard in Maryland, who provided the design and the supplies. It was really an incredible partnership between the LifeBridge health system and the UnderArmour team, a lot of innovation around designing something that could be folded very quickly and deployed because of the urgency.”

LifeBridge also employed 3D printers to help create parts for facial shields, another PPE measure. 

The hospitals other efforts were in the digital arena. The health center teamed up with a tech company called the Getwell Network to build a mobile app that would help monitor patients who were being tested at the health center’s drive-through testing centers. The app would help to monitor these patients’ symptoms and give patients advice about what to do if their condition was deteriorating and about how to quarantine. 

“Another type of change is we were getting reimbursement for this type of online activity,” he said. “So, there is additional incentives for us as a health system to provide these types of digital services to our patients.” 

The healthcare system also focused on patients who were not in the hospital but in the community. 

“One innovation that I want to highlight is actually around social determinants of health and community care. The [COVID-19] pandemic has revealed a lot of health equity issues that already existed before the pandemic, but further worsened as a result of the pandemic.”

To address this issue Chatterjee and his team worked on developing a program where the hospital and healthcare workers could go into the communities of the patients they served. 

“One program we launched this summer was our Community Mobile Clinic program, where we had these vehicles going into west Baltimore to offer [COVID-19] testing and health screenings, using iPad, for these patients in our community who might not be able to access [COVID-19] testing at our hospital sites, due to [the] social-determinants challenge. These are patients with chronic conditions, as well, like hypertension, diabetes and obesity.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for this program, these efforts are now extending beyond coronavirus needs. 

“Based on the success and the impact of the program we are continuing this into next year and adding pediatric immunizations as a new use case into the community mobile clinic program,” Chatterjee said. “As you may know, some families have been putting off immunizations for their children because of [COVID-19]. So, we wanted to offer a convenient way for them to access these immunizations in the community.”

Chatterjee said that, after a vaccine is found, and the pandemic is under control, these digital innovations are here to stay. 

“I think this a major trend in innovation that will continue where we marry digital health and virtual technology and virtual visits with a focus on community care and making sure all of our patients within our community are getting the care that they need,” he said.  

Chatterjee will be speaking at Accelerate Health’s Episode 2: Innovation and Investments: The Year That Tested Digital Health on Nov. 18 during the panel Investment Strategies: Where to Place Your Bets, which takes place at 2:15 p.m. EST. 




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