The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses across the country to adapt—perhaps no more so than in the healthcare industry. This was the case for Northwell Health, New York’s largest healthcare provider, with 22 hospitals, 830 outpatient facilities, and 77,000 employees. Over the past year, Northwell has treated 200,000 coronavirus patients while developing myriad programs to more effectively care for patients and employees alike.
“We have an innovative, team-oriented, and collaborative culture, which makes the challenges we’ve had to deal with much easier to handle,” says Michael Dowling, Northwell Health’s president and CEO. “When you have a crisis like COVID, and a culture like this, that’s taken years to develop, it all comes together.”
That culture helped Northwell move quickly in the face of rapid change. For example, the company added 2,000 beds at the height of the pandemic by converting lobbies, auditoriums, conferences rooms, and procedure rooms—at one point, Northwell was adding 200 beds per day. Northwell’s ability to adapt and innovate helped to earn it a spot on Fast Company‘s list of the world’s Most Innovative Companies.
A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO CARE
COVID-19 accelerated trends across the healthcare space, from remote work to a rapid adoption of technology. Innovations in these areas helped Northwell respond to the pandemic effectively and will strengthen the healthcare network in the future. For instance, Northwell developed coworking spaces—called Workwell Signature Hubs—that gave employees an alternative to working from home. These specially designed areas feature private workstations and conference rooms that employees can reserve, as well as amenities such as cafés and meditation rooms.
Meanwhile, to help protect the health of clinical staff and patients, the company’s research arm, the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, partnered with Fitbit to study wearable technology that could detect COVID-19 before symptoms begin. Thousands of Northwell employees wore the devices, which used algorithms to detect signs of a potential infection, such as variations in heart rate or respiration, so users could preemptively test for COVID-19. Data suggests that they may detect more than 20% of cases the day before symptoms are present.
The company also used predictive analysis to better position ambulances throughout the community by examining data on where emergency calls are likely to originate. “You might see an ambulance of ours on the street and wonder why it’s sitting there,” Dowling says. “But that’s because we know from the algorithms we use that there’s going to be a call from that area within the next 20 minutes. We’ve worked on dozens of programs like these throughout the year which, [taken together], have made a difference.”
APPLYING LESSONS LEARNED
Northwell plans to carry many of the lessons learned during the pandemic into the future. “COVID has been a phenomenal learning experience,” Dowling says. For example, he points out how telemedicine allowed patients easier access to physicians and the care they might need.
“[The question] now is: How do we continue these standards for care once COVID is over?” Dowling says. “We’re willing to raise the bar, allow people to be flexible and aggressive in their creativity, and continue to create a culture of agility, adaptability, and innovation. We’ll be a much better organization because of it.”