Like many of you, we at Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) entered 2020 with great optimism, prepared to ambitiously advance patient care, enhance outcomes and drive employee engagement. What we hadn’t planned on was a global pandemic that would impact almost every aspect of our work.
Despite the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19, the BSWIR team persevered, adapting to demands of this virus, continuing to meet our patients’ complex needs and learning important lessons along the way.
Rising to the occasion
It’s true that while heroes have always worked at BSWIR, at no time was it more evident than in 2020. As the coronavirus spread nationwide, we quickly came to understand both the enormity and the uncertainly of what we were facing. Closely monitoring CDC and state guidelines, we adopted new practices and protocols on what seemed to be an almost daily – or hourly – basis. Our teams proved to be flexible and resilient, determined to maintain a safe and supportive rehab environment for our patients and each other.
That’s not to say our staff didn’t have questions and concerns. Whether it was why certain practices were put in place or how to best allay fears, we found as always, that honest, open communication was key. While we may not have had all the answers, we worked together, found creative solutions and continued to provide uninterrupted care.
This also meant, changing or updating our model of care delivery as new information was continuously shared through federal and state agencies, as well as Baylor Scott & White Health and Select Medical. We implemented new PPE policies, infection control practices, clinical protocols and family visitation guidelines – many of which will likely become our new standards of care. Within this framework, our BSWIR team led the way in establishing a safe care environment at our four hospital campuses, neuro-transitional centers, day neuro and other specialty programs and outpatient centers.
With limitations on in-person encounters, BSWIR physicians and clinicians successfully pivoted to virtual platforms. Our physicians embraced tele-medicine to connect with patients whose care might otherwise have been impacted due to COVID. Similarly, our clinicians leveraged tele-rehab to continue to deliver treatment. This was especially true at our more than 100 outpatient centers where some patients were unwilling or unable to participate in person. By year’s end, well over 1,500 tele-visits had been performed and we continue to use this platform, expecting it will be the new standard of care for certain patient populations going forward.
We also welcomed Zoom and other platforms to host virtual patient and family visits, meetings, education and training sessions and support groups.
When the sequela of COVID hospitalization – respiratory, cardiac, cognitive and other deficits – and its long-term impact on survivors was realized, BSWIR in collaboration with Select Medical’s outpatient division, established a rehabilitation program specifically for that population. The Recovery and Reconditioning Program provides therapy and education to help individuals restore strengths and skills to resume their lives. Over 2,500 visits have been logged since the program’s inception in April, 2020 – with demand for services continuing to grow as more “long-haulers” are identified.
Despite the pandemic or perhaps inspired by it, we continued to explore new avenues of treatment and expanded our programs. That includes our Day Neuro Program in the Austin market, Neuro Transitional Center in the Dallas market and Traumatic Brain Injury Model System efforts across our network. These programs, along with the extensive research being conducted, continue to demonstrate the remarkable potential for recovery when patients choose our care continuum.
Learning important lessons
If this year has taught us anything, it is the power of resiliency, flexibility and collaboration. We worked together, wore our masks, practiced social distancing and did whatever was necessary to help prevent the spread of this disease. We adapted. We gained knowledge and insight to prepare us to best respond to the next health crisis. Our teams carried on with grace and perseverance, proving once again that together we can weather the storms of change. There has been – and always will be – one constant: our commitment to keeping our patients, staff and communities safe and delivering the highest level of quality rehabilitation services to those who entrust us with their care.
When COVID-19 changed the course of 2020 for the entire world, our clinical teams went to the drawing board to develop a program to treat patients who where impacted by the virus. Read Now