Cisco, a worldwide supplier of information technology systems and solutions, in its “Cisco Live!” global event on June 17 featured a video about Sky Lakes Medical Center and how the hospital responded in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 100,000 Cisco customers worldwide tuned in for the online event.

The company also highlighted work by Sky Lakes Information Services Department in an online news story:

On a bright early spring day in south central Oregon, John Gaede, Director of Information Services at Sky Lakes Medical Center was called into a meeting with the top executives from his community hospital and the news was not good.

Officials from hospitals in neighboring Washington State were starting to see the impact of COVID-19. With scenes from the heart wrenching devastation in Italy fresh in everyone’s mind, along with alarming concerns emerging from New York, it was time for the Sky Lakes community hospital to prepare for coming storm.

Like hospitals across the nation, there were concerns about the availability of the required personal protective equipment (PPE), that is necessary to keep staff safe. Projections for the impact of COVID-19 were “surreal” according to Gaede, with “Armageddon” type language being used to describe the coming pandemic wave.

“Our mission statement at the Sky Lakes Medical Center Information Services department is – we save lives and we innovate, in that order,” Gaede said.

Walking out of that meeting, the tasks at hand were considerable, with a need to essentially stand up a second hospital – in days. With determination and conviction, staff rose to the challenge. New drive-through evaluation centers were setup, remote telehealth was deployed and actions were taken within hospital premises to help reduce risks.

In their arduous tasks, front line workers were supported with flexible IT infrastructure from Cisco that was able to rapidly scale to meet the unprecedented challenges. Gaede and his team had started a process in 2017 to refresh some IT infrastructure, choosing Cisco HyperFlex. That infrastructure gave Gaede the confidence he needed walking out of the room, that he could layer capabilities on top to fight back the COVID-19 wave. One such example is with telehealth.

“So for our journey with telehealth, we talked about it on a Wednesday, we looked at technology on a Thursday, met with our teams on Friday and then we were doing care on Monday,” Gaede said. “Challenge created the necessity to find ways to do this and people were open to it.”

Cisco wireless access and collaboration technologies allowed the remote testing centers to quickly get up and running. Innovation also was needed to help reduce the use of PPE, which was achieved with the use of a robot that provides a camera and a screen, where patients can converse with providers with reduced risk and full social distancing.

For Gaede, there are many lessons learned thus far that could help to inform health care IT in the future. For one, he noted that while it’s good to create plans, there also needs to be a willingness to change and to do things differently. Another lesson learned might seem obvious in retrospect, but it is to be prepared.

“We need to be ready and we need to have all the infrastructure in place,” Gaede said. “In addition to saving lives and innovating, our vision statement is to lead the organization in customer service and if there has ever been a time when we need to do that, it’s right now.”