Photos: Michael Candiotti

Doctor having a video call with patients and family

Cleveland Clinic worked with the federal government to lift state-specific restrictions for telemedicine platforms, which has allowed the health system to care for more patients during the pandemic.

Doctors putting on protect gear in a hospital

Caregivers use a buddy system to ensure that they’re putting on and taking off protective gear correctly.

Prior to the pandemic, only 1 in 50 Cleveland Clinic outpatient visits was handled via telehealth. By mid-April, however, having patients interact with caregivers on phones or other digital devices was no longer the exception but the rule, with 3 out of 4 visits occurring virtually. By working with government officials to expand telehealth privileges, Cleveland Clinic was able to meet patient needs while flattening the curve of COVID-19 cases by delivering more care remotely.

The urgency of the global crisis also accelerated other innovations across the health system.

Cleveland Clinic teamed up with healthcare software company Epic to create an app for monitoring and managing patients at home with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19. They’re enrolled in an interactive care plan, entering symptoms, temperature readings and oxygen levels daily. If a patient’s condition worsens, the app alerts providers who can quickly determine next steps. “It gives patients that extra level of comfort,” says Eric Boose, MD, Associate Chief Medical Information Officer at Cleveland Clinic. “It also gives us this great capability of keeping an eye on more patients at one time.”

Not every breakthrough was high-tech. To reduce risk for patients with COVID-19 and caregivers in intensive care units, Cleveland Clinic moved equipment and IV poles outside patient rooms and into hallways. To further promote safety, a product called the High-Line was adapted to enable caregivers to keep long lines of IV tubing up and off the floor. Direct contact was minimized by writing messages to patients on glass walls. Caregivers also began using a buddy system to ensure correct donning and doffing of protective gear.

Cleveland Clinic devised innovative ways to safely care for patients in the ICU.