In this episode of Fireside Chat, we sat down with Dr. Marc Harrison, President and CEO, Intermountain Healthcare to explore the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on healthcare, his pathway for preparation, consolidation around the challenges, communication with the board of directors, and Intermountain’s finances.

In light of COVID-19, many health systems have spent time and money preparing for the coming surge. Dr. Harrison says the Intermountain service area is well prepared, including indefinitely postponing elective procedures, implementing telemedicine, and purchasing extra supplies ahead of time. The system has planned carefully and is encouraging community partnerships among caregivers to supply all necessary equipment.

Additionally, Dr. Harrison says the COVID-19 crisis has opened a new degree of transparency among the organizations and physicians within the Intermountain system.

“Intermountain probably has the majority of ICU beds in the state,” he says. “And enormous creativity goes into identifying additional spaces. Very soon, we’ll need to decide whether we need to repurpose or build beds. We’d rather be over-prepared than underprepared.”

Intermountain’s physicians have begun offering telemedicine appointments widely, and Dr. Harrison doesn’t think they will completely revert after the COVID-19 situation ends. Instead, he thinks patients will continue to demand access to distance appointments like these.

“Once you get people to break that barrier, they’re like, ‘Well, why would I go in? Why would I want to sit in a waiting room with sick people? Why wouldn’t I want to be able to get my visit from wherever I am?’ And I think that this has broken that barrier.”

More than 4,000 caregivers and staff members across the Intermountain system have been redeployed to temporary, new positions that help the system to monitor and combat the spread of COVID-19. This productivity-based model allows staff members to remain employed despite slowdowns in their usual areas. So far, the arrangement is working well for the system and the staff.

Dr. Harrison became President and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare in 2016. He has extensive clinical and leadership experience and specializes in pediatric critical care.

Intermountain Healthcare is a nonprofit health system in Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s the largest healthcare provider in its region, and is fully integrated. Intermountain has 29 hospitals, over 185 clinics, a medical group with 1500 caregivers and doctors specializing in multiple disciplines, and governs SelectHealth insurance services.

To listen to the full conversation, click here.