COVID Research Team Played Key Role in NHRMC's Response to Pandemic

October 27, 2020
Andy Almeter in Action

In March, NHRMC faced many unknowns and a growing pandemic. That's when a group of employees from across various departments came together to form NHRMC’s COVID Research Team and worked to gather key information. Their research has helped guide the organization’s response to COVID-19, including patient care, and has had a significant impact.

Early in the pandemic, with information from the CDC, WHO and government agencies changing rapidly, and new information from the scientific community available every day, the team’s effort was crucial in getting the latest information to physicians and NHRMC leaders. “This extraordinary team came together mid-March and quickly assembled an expansive database of COVID-19 pandemic-related information,” said Andy Almeter, Business Operations Manager for Regional & Specialty Services, “Over 1,100 resources were manually compiled, sorted into categories and subcategories, and developed into a dynamic, searchable Qlik Application.”

Almeter, who led the development of the COVID-19 research team while working in NHRMC’s Command Center in the beginning stage of the COVID pandemic, noticed they were facing many questions, from clinical and operational questions to questions about planning and environmental services. He believed a team was needed to gather information and assimilate lessons learned from other areas.

Early on, formal peer-reviewed literature was not available, so the new team scoured information from diverse sources, including social media, first-hand provider accounts, formal CDC memos and more. “The COVID Research Team filled a gap in the early stages of our COVID response to identify best practices and inform the initial decisions we were making in the Command Center and as a hospital system,” Almeter said. “The data collected allowed NHRMC to remain nimble and correct course on the fly with the best available information.”

The team gathered the latest information on vaccines, trials, and efficacy and availability of medications, and shared it with NHRMC physicians and leaders.

“It’s crucial that leaders have the most up-to-date and accurate information available for decision making during an event like COVID,” said Christy Spivey, Administrator for Regional Services  “Because this group sorted through, organized, and stayed current with the latest in research and publications, our leadership team was able to use the information to make critical treatment and operational decisions.”

 Spivey said information compiled by the research team influenced care guidelines, PPE protocols, visitor protocols, and planning for additional space.

 The research team provided information critical to providers making decisions about patient care. Quick access to this information improved the quality of care.

“Witnessing what we were doing in our original incident command trying to prep for this, Andy and others clearly recognized a need, and I think they did a really good job,” said Dr. West Paul, MD, PhD, NHRMC’s chief clinical officer. “They were innovative in how they approached this and were able to deliver information effectively.”

Dr. Paul said models from some of the initial COVID hot spots in the U.S. gave insight and guidance on ways to care for patients and prepare for possible surges.   For example, Almeter shared with NHRMC’s ICU staff a copy of a Seattle intensivist’s one-pager on COVID-19 that included valuable information from biology and epidemiology to what to look for on imaging and in labs, precautions to take and treatment for initial stages. 

Dr. Paul said the team’s effort has been a “tremendous assistance” in how NHRMC treats and manages COVID patients. “In anecdotal comparison to the rest of the state, I can say that we are doing a really good job, and we’re probably at or near the top for survival rates,” said Dr. Paul.  “I think the very fact that we’ve discharged over 500 COVID patients, and they were doing well is a testament to the work that this organization is doing.”

Dr. Paul described the research team as a model for the organization.  “This was a team that came together on their own; This group saw a need, and they didn’t ask permission; they just did it,” he said.  “That is a great example for this organization, and they made a huge impact on what we’re doing. I think that’s one of the key lessons to be learned--this self-starting, ask forgiveness, not permission is a huge lesson to be learned in this organization going forward.” 

The team was made up of volunteers from various departments ranging from Pharmacy, Spiritual Care, Neurosciences, and Cardiology to SEAHEC Medical Library, Volunteer Services, Innovation and more.

The role of finding information and the research team’s work will soon be transitioned to the SEAHEC Medical Library.

“The SEAHEC Medical Library has an established process for doing literature reviews and answering questions based on literature,” Almeter said.  “It’s time now to capitalize on the research team’s effort, and the SEAHEC Medical library provides that perfect vehicle to continue this work.”

For now, the COVID Research Yammer page will remain active and will include information about SEAHEC Library’s resources and the process for requesting information.


Pictured: Andy Almeter in the Command Center.