The year had barely begun when the COVID-19 crisis began, and as the year ends, repairs from two major hurricanes are ongoing, and the pandemic continues. There is no doubt that 2020 presented unique challenges for our community, even more so, in many ways, for healthcare providers.
As the region’s largest multi-specialty regional medical group, Imperial Health has over 60 providers and 23 locations, so responding to a pandemic took a great deal of coordination and communication. “It was a gamechanger for the regular way of caring for patients. There was a great deal of education that took place in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, especially during the shutdown,” says Dr. Andrew Bradberry, family medicine specialist. “As doctors, we had to be fully informed about the guidelines for prevention, protocols for seeing patients, what procedures were still allowed and which were not, testing and much more. We had to make sure our staff was educated about these things as well, and confident in the measures we had put in place to protect them. We all had to work together to communicate accurate information to our patients. It was a massive effort to somewhat restructure how we operate and we did so very quickly.
Part of the group’s response involved offering care through telemedicine. In addition, they offered COVID testing at their urgent care centers. A contactless walk-up testing window was created at the Urgent Care Center in Lake Charles to make testing even more convenient and safe. Dr. Bradberry says patient communication was a big part of the group’s pandemic response. “Patients were contacted directly about new office visit protocols, we added signage throughout our offices, and we used social media and our group’s website to communicate with our patients, and the general public as well, about prevention guidelines, office policy changes and to correct misinformation. After schools reopened, Imperial Health’s Primary Care Clinics in Iowa and DeRidder provided posters on COVID-19 prevention to schools in their areas of service.
When two hurricanes struck within six weeks of each other later in the year, Imperial Health again relied on teamwork and communication to manage the new crisis. “Every Imperial Health office was affected in some way by the storms,” says Dr. Bradberry. “Once the storms passed, our team immediately began assessments to determine the extent of the damage at each location and to develop a reopening plan. We knew we’d be without power, internet and even water in some locations for quite some time, so a plan was put in place to allow patients to access their medical records if they needed them where they had evacuated. We set up a patient call center to answer patient questions and to assist them with getting the information they needed to get the care they needed. Updates were provided to our staff and to our patients throughout the recovery process. Social media and our website served as effective ways to communicate during this process.”
Dr. Bradberry says the events of the past year have reinforced the importance of Imperial Health’s team approach to caring for our community. “This has always been a part of our mission, with our primary care doctors, specialists and clinical support professionals working together, sharing resources and expertise to provide high quality health care. This approach served us well as we faced the challenges of 2020 together, and we are all proud to be part of a community that demonstrated such resilience and compassion as we faced such extreme circumstance. We, along with everyone in Southwest Louisiana, are looking forward to better days ahead in 2021.”