#ValuesSuperStars: Caldwell Health Information Management (HIM) – Coming Together With Our Communities
On December 29, 2020, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and positivity rates were high across the country, and numbers were continuing to climb quickly. With increasing hospitalizations, hospital beds were in short supply. This was especially true in the North Carolina foothills of Caldwell County.
On that day, the Health Information Management (HIM) team at Caldwell UNC Health Care got a call. They were asked to be part of a larger team and rapidly set up and support a field hospital at Caldwell Memorial Hospital. One week later, on January 7, multiple organizations had come together, established a 30-bed field hospital and accepted the first patient. The flexibility and collaboration they demonstrated over the days and weeks following that call serve as an example as one of the many ways our teammates have worked together as One Great Team throughout the pandemic.
The field hospital in Lenoir brought together Caldwell UNC Health Care in coordination with five local area hospitals. It was led by Samaritan’s Purse, a global humanitarian aid organization known for its work in disaster relief and founded in the nearby city of Boone.
“The hospitals were full. People were fearful… it was very important that we have an area specific to anything COVID-related,” recalled Colleen McComas, HIM Operations Manager who oversees teams at Caldwell UNC Health Care, Johnston Health and Rex Healthcare. “And it’s not every day that we have Samaritan’s Purse – or a large worldwide organization – come and collaborate.”
Four tents were set up to hold up to 32 patients total. Other tents housed a pharmacy and support personnel. Forty-six disaster response specialists, including 24 medical professionals, staffed the field hospital. “It involved and coordinated all of [Caldwell Memorial] Hospital’s departments,” Colleen said.
For the HIM team, the collaboration came with new problems to solve. Since the field hospital was led by Samaritan’s Purse, Caldwell UNC Health Care teammates working at the field hospital had to learn different processes and workflows. “Samaritan’s Purse do not use electronic medical records (EMR). All of their charts were paper charts,” Colleen said. “Teammates had to basically learn paper charts all over again, and with paper forms.”
HIM teammates then had to find a way to merge information into UNC Health’s electronic medical record system efficiently. “Samaritan’s Purse had their own type of forms, so we had to coordinate their forms and our forms to prep the discharge chart in a way that we could scan into the EMR following discharge,” she said.
Less than four weeks later, COVID cases, hospitalizations and positivity rates began to improve across Caldwell county and the field hospital shut down having treated 79 patients.
“The HIM team did an extraordinary job in a short period of time to ensure that our patients were receiving the great care that we could provide being a UNC Health facility,” Colleen said.
Now, less than one year later, we are reminded of how far we have come since the beginning of the pandemic and how we continue to come together as One Great Team. “I’m proud to be a part of this team and very proud to share this team with the UNC Health system,” reflected Colleen when recalling the HIM team’s accomplishments.
Thank you, Caldwell Health Information Management (HIM) team, for being UNC Health #ValuesSuperStars and part of our One Great Team.