[Webinar Recap] Lessons for Managing During COVID-19 From Rush University Medical Center

Rush University CipherHealth webinar

Did you miss our “Roadmap to Recovery” webinar on July 23, “How Rush University Uses Data and Collaboration to Rapidly Adapt to COVID-19”? Access the webinar
replay here.


Last week, we had a rare opportunity to hear directly from operations, nursing, and patient experience leaders from Rush University Medical Center (RUMC) about their response to the COVID-19 crisis. Vanessa Roshell-Stacks, VP of Hospital Operations and Care Coordination, along with her team shared their insights in our “Roadmap to Recovery” webinar. They discussed how they used an integrated, data-driven approach to address the needs of patients, staff and community, and shared how hospitals can prepare for the pandemic in the next few months. 

Here are some of their key learnings:

Find innovative ways to improve the inpatient experience

RUMC knew that their patients felt isolated in light of strict visitor restrictions during the pandemic.  So they used a combination of in-patient and post-discharge engagement to innovate upon the experience in light of COVID-19. With automated technology from CipherHealth to facilitate communication and rounding practices to reduce labor-intensive processes, their staff could be freed up to focus more on patient care.

How they did it:

RUMC set up a “Virtual Care Triad” program to help close the communication gap between patients and families by helping them connect through a video conferencing app. With designated care coordinators and patient ambassadors working together, they rolled out this program to all ICU and acute care units. Based on their current data, they have received 211 patient requests for virtual calls so far, 190 of which resulted in virtual visits scheduled. The model is expected to expand and be used for other units as well.

Rush University Medical Center Patient Outreach

“Looking ahead, I could see us using the CipherHealth platform and only building on what we were able to accomplish in the first go around…Compassionate rounding with CipherHealth and the patient ambassador program were very successful.”                                  — Kathleen Egan, Systems Director, Care Management, Rush University Medical Center

Prioritize staff well-being and safety using staff rounding

As RUMC increased patient rounding efforts, they did not lose sight of their front line heroes, many of whom were afraid to come to the hospital for fear of contracting the disease, and also of going home for fear of bringing it back to their loved ones. They did not want their staff to have to choose between job and family over safety concerns. They worked with CipherHealth to create a staff rounding platform to engage staff and lessen their fears.

Rush University Medical Center Staff Rounding

“There was just an overwhelming sense of fear and we had to get information to our staff.” — Vanessa Roshell-Stacks, VP, Care Coordination, Clinical Documentation, and Hospital Operations, Rush University Medical Center

How they did it:

RUMC created a staff rounding program with CipherHealth to understand their staff’s needs by asking them a series of questions about their well-being and collecting data from the answers to identify issues that needed to be addressed. 

“Staff rounding for us was one of the best initiatives that we could have implemented…It had a profound impact on our staff morale, wellbeing, wellness and trying to identify those opportunities to develop more services and bring the resources directly to our staff members.” — Brittnie Ellis, Patient Experience Manager, EVS, Rush University Medical Center

They also used the Caregrams feature within the staff rounding tool to recognize specific team members for going above and beyond. Through these initiatives, they were able to boost morale, increase communication, and most importantly, make sure team members felt safe.  

Rush University Medical Center CareGrams

“Kudos and Caregrams allowed staff members or their managers to highlight the good work they were doing – it was the pick-me-up that we needed, the light and joy everyone needed to be spread.” — Brittnie Ellis, Patient Experience Manager, EVS, Rush University Medical Center

The senior leadership team including Stacks, their CEO, CNO, CMO and others also ran town halls for  the RUMC staff to minimize miscommunication, and address issues on the spot.

Engage vulnerable patient populations after they leave the hospital

RUMC needed to engage with patients such as those with Congestive Heart Failure, who were Covid positive, or who had cancer, after they were released from the hospital as they found these to be among the most vulnerable. Issues among these populations included delays in care, acute exacerbations that were going untreated, widespread misinformation and fear of contracting the virus, access to medication, lack of familiarity with telehealth options, and lack of understanding their discharge instructions. 

Rush University Medical Center Post-Discharge Outreach

How they did it:

RUMC engaged CipherHealth to conduct longitudinal monitoring of patients, post-discharge. They used this outreach to educate patients in real time on what they could do to stay safe and what the hospital was doing to protect them should they need to return. Reach rates were also quite high: out of 3,126 patients called, 77% were reached, with 24% of these having an issue requiring escalation. Patient outreach uncovered that some of these patients were highly misinformed about their plan of care, had no access to food or transportation, lost access to medication, or had trouble getting in touch with their PCPs. 

“Patients were isolated and scared and really appreciated our calls to check in on them. “   –  Vanessa Roshell-Stacks, VP, Care Coordination, Clinical Documentation, and Hospital Operations, Rush University Medical Center

Using the patient feedback gained from the calls, RUMC was able to educate patients, connect them with their PCPs, and provide symptom management or treatment hours after the outreach call.


Rush University Medical Center has taken an agile, integrative and data-driven approach leveraging technology to respond to the needs of their patients, staff and community during the COVID-19 crisis. Their learnings will be instrumental to any hospital or health system dealing with the ever-changing impact of the pandemic and wondering, “What can we be doing better?” 

Register to view the webinar on-demand here, and receive one hour of Continuing Nursing Education credit after watching.


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