Catalyst - Fall 2020 Vol 3 No 1 | Page 10

An Interview With EmpowerHealth Cohort One Participant: Jemea Dorsey Center for Black Women’s Wellness What was the experience like for the Center at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic? I guess it was like it was for everyone else – a complete stunner. ‘Pivot’ has kind of been my word throughout this whole process – I probably used the word ‘pivot’ in March more than any other time in my life! Initially, our first phase was really just looking at our clinical procedures and making sure that we had enhanced patient safety procedures in place as it related to temperature checks and doing screenings over the phone for risk factors or symptoms. It’s just like any other facility, but particularly in a clinic where you’re already trying to modify plans to reduce exposure. Then, all of a sudden, we are in a city building, and of course the city of Atlanta buildings closed around March 16th — so we had to pivot again and say, “We can’t do in-person care, so how do we then make sure that we’re in communication with all of our patients and make them understand that now we don’t have access to the building,? How can we be in that COVID-19 mode?” We scrapped that and immediately went into Phase 2, which was really converting everything into telephone encounters, and then rapidly researching for the planning and implementation of telemedicine. We already had been anticipating doing that – in our strategic plan, we probably put around September 2021 that we would be doing telehealth, so obviously we accelerated it. Around a month in, we implemented a telehealth platform. We do women’s healthcare through paid staff, and then we do primary care and chronic disease management through volunteer providers, so we’ve been really kind of getting everybody up to speed. Right now I’m happy to say that around 13 of our 19 active volunteer healthcare professionals are up and running, and they are actually still engaged with us even amidst the pandemic. I always tell people that telemedicine is a wonderful strategy to compliment in-person services, but to be used exclusively in the long term it’s not possible. We are, of course, unable to do pap tests and clinical breast exams, and all that care that needs to happen within a clinical environment. But in terms of the management of chronic diseases, being able to do those telehealth visits has become critically important, so it’s a nice option to be able to still provide continuity of care, and to continue engaging our volunteers, who – many of them – are of the demographic where they’re more susceptible to the virus anyway, so that keeps our patients and our workforce safer by being able to do telemedicine and to be within the safety and comforts of their home. Do you think that any of your takeaways from your time in the EmpowerHealth program at Healthcare Georgia Foundation might have helped you be more agile during this time? With our EmpowerHealth grant, we were focused on having communications, fundraising, diversifying funding and we had some strategies around the board. I think the key thing is that communications already had to be at the forefront. When you’re doing remote work, you have to have communication touchpoints. As an example, I’ve been communicating more frequently with the board about what’s going 8 10