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Lessons Learned: How Our Lives Might Look Post-Pandemic


The health care industry has learned a lot of lessons during the pandemic, and many of them were difficult.

Some of the acquired knowledge, though, has had a positive impact.

Andy Draper says some of the knowledge the health care industry has acquired during the pandemic includes the use of technology.

That knowledge has led to better care for patients now and could prepare hospitals for outbreaks in the future.

University of Denver
Andy Draper

Draper, a Wichita native, is the chief information officer for HCA Healthcare's Continental Division, which includes Wichita's Wesley Medical Center.

Draper talked with The Range about how technology played a key role in the treatment of Covid-19 patients, and how doctors are tapping into that knowledge today. Plus, how health care is preparing for the next pandemic and how the average person can, too.

Interview Highlights

Tom Shine: If you could, talk a little about the role of technology in the pandemic and how that role will help you plan for the next one.

Andy Draper: So one of the big themes is telemedicine. So during the pandemic, patients and their families were separated because of the contagiousness of the disease. And so we created basically … if you have an iPhone, it's like FaceTime.

So we had to deploy very quickly in the patient rooms, and in the units of the hospital and the emergency department of the hospital, iPads and laptops with video capability … so that patients could talk to their family members, physicians could talk to the family members, physicians in some cases would talk to the patients. And so that was really widely deployed very quickly.

So the pandemic was about basically doing video conferencing with patients and doctors, but now we're doing more telemedicine around chronic care management.

We're doing telestroke prediction at Wesley. So we have the ability to take an image from a rural emergency department and upload that. And within five minutes or less, the physio, the (emergency department) physician and the stroke physician can see the picture on their iPhone of where the stroke is happening in the brain, and then communicate to the whole care team — the ambulance, the air flight team, the stroke coordinator at the tertiary hospital — what's going on with the patient and get ready for surgery. That process used to take 30 minutes or more. And now we can do that within six minutes. And that's a telemedicine advantage.

What was the other one [technology], besides telemedicine?

Artificial intelligence, which is a fancy name for getting data to make better decisions. And so predicting things. So one of the items we needed to predict was PPE: all the gloves and gowns and masks and across the United States and across our company.

So we had to figure out … when would the demand in Wichita be needed?

So we could move supplies from Florida to Wichita or from Denver to Wichita.

So one of the other things was how many cases of COVID will we have in Wichita? How many patients will be on respirators because there was a shortage a year ago if you can recall?

A hospital has the number of patients in our hospitals called the census. And so if you have 100 people in the hospital, what percent of them are going to be on a regular medical floor?

What percent are going to be in ICU? And then when you're an ICU patient, what percent of them are going to be on a respirator?

Generally, you can call that artificial intelligence, but we're using that now in many different ways. But … both those things, telemedicine and artificial intelligence in health care, really took off during the pandemic.

What's the most important lesson that the industry needs to carry forward … as we prepare for another pandemic.

So I think vigilance has been heightened because I think we all experienced this in a very profound way … We lost family members and friends. I don't think we'll ever forget that. So I think we all have a forward posture now.

I think we're more ready. I think if it happens in the next 10 years, I think that the response will be quick.

What role does the average person have in preparing for the next pandemic? What should they be doing or thinking about?

I think fitness. I think you have to be well. I think … the more unhealthy you were, the higher the susceptibility to the disease. So I think what can somebody do now to be ready for the next pandemic would be to go see your primary care physician, eat well and exercise. Other than that, I would have supplies ready at home, you know, masks.

I'm asking these questions as if it's inevitable that we'll have another event, like COVID-19 in the future. Is that inevitable?

People much smarter than me would say yes. And … there're articles on that.

I think also there'll be like SARS and Zika, like we discussed. There'll be regional outbreaks. So I think this is the world we're in now.

Mark Twain says history repeats and rhymes, and I think we'll have a lot of rhyming for the rest of our lives.

Tom joined KMUW in 2017 after spending 37 years with The Wichita Eagle where he held a variety of reporting and editing roles. He also is host of The Range, KMUW’s weekly show about where we live and the people who live here. Tom is a board member of the Public Media Journalists Association, serving as small station representative, a volunteer coach for League 42 and an adjunct instructor in the Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University.