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Information Technology Team Steps Up in Big Ways During COVID-19 Pandemic

Covid testing

Seattle Children’s IT and Enterprise Analytics teams quickly developed analytics tools to aid in testing and tracking the spread of COVID-19.

When faced with challenges, Seattle Children’s staff and faculty members never back down. The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception.

From rapidly deploying telehealth-enabled rolling devices into patient care areas at the hospital to developing data analytics tools to aid in testing and tracking the spread of COVID-19 to supporting a growing remote workforce, Seattle Children’s IT team has played a critical role during the pandemic working in partnership with providers, researchers, administrators and leaders across the system.

Here’s a closer look at a few of the ways IT has supported Seattle Children’s COVID-19 response.

Innovative technology to limit exposure

When COVID-19 was first detected in the area, Seattle Children’s immediately kicked into full gear to determine the best way to treat patients suspected of having the virus, while also limiting their exposure to too many people and conserving personal protective equipment (PPE).

The solution: a telehealth-enabled device on wheels that makes it possible for fewer clinical team members to be physically in the room with vulnerable patients.

Seattle Children’s small and mighty Digital Health Innovation team — part of IT — spent several long (and sleepless) weeks building and deploying more than 20 of these devices across the hospital.

These rolling devices allow different care team members who do not need to physically touch the patient to stay outside the room and provide the same services virtually. Using various cameras and a Bluetooth-enabled stetho­scope, they can look more closely at the patient and even listen to their heartbeat and breath sounds.

Data is power

During the pandemic, the Enterprise Analytics community (including members of IT) quickly mobilized to develop tools to not only collect information, but to build dash­boards that serve as the single source of truth to help guide decision-making during the ever-changing pandemic.

Telehealth-enabled devices

The Digital Health team built and deployed about 20 telehealth-enabled devices on wheels soon after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to limit the number of clinical team members physically in the room with vulnerable patients.

The team designed tools to track — in real-time — the number of COVID-19 tests conducted for patients and staff members, positivity rates, census in the special isolation unit, workforce absenteeism rates and completion rates of PPE training by frontline staff members, among other important data points.

They also developed tools necessary for the rapid growth of the telehealth program, including helping set up a dashboard to track COVID-19-related clinic appointment cancellations and converting in-person appointments to telephone visits in the early days of the pandemic.

On the research side, analysts created a tracking database for a prospective COVID-19 study on employees and was integral to the certification process to allow Seattle Children’s to begin testing for COVID-19 using a test developed at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

The team also recently launched a website — schdatascience.org — that provides a broader look at the spread of COVID-19 across local communities, the state and the nation.

Supporting a remote workforce

The number of Seattle Children’s workforce members who began logging in remotely grew exponentially almost overnight when the pandemic started — from about 300 to about 4,000 daily users.

The number of virtual meetings through Webex has also increased exponentially during the pandemic — from about 400 meetings per weekday prior to COVID-19 to an average of 2,100 meetings involving about 10,000 participants each weekday.

Telehealth appointment

While telehealth doesn’t resolve all of the barriers in accessing healthcare, it does address many of them. Telehealth takes geography out of the equation, and helps provide a standard of care to pediatric patients no matter how far away they are.

Several IT team members have remained onsite at Seattle Children’s to support critical clinical, research and operational teams who are unable to work remotely.

A larger remote workforce also means a greater risk to Seattle Children’s information security. In March 2020, the IT Security team blocked nearly 29 million emails from being delivered to Seattle Children’s workforce members that may have contained viruses. This was about twice the number of emails that are blocked during a typical month.

Many IT team members have also jumped in to help with IT tasks outside their normal job responsibilities, like assisting with the rapid growth of the telehealth program.

The number of Seattle Children’s workforce members who began logging in remotely grew exponentially almost overnight when the pandemic started — from about 300 to about 4,000 daily users.