Leading medical experts share how to stay healthy during a pandemic

Posted on 08/31/2020 by Austin Chamber

Our world has been turned upside down, but our day-to-day health issues have not disappeared. What is the best way manage wellness visits and emergencies? When should you see your doctor in-person versus a telehealth visit? Should you keep those routine appointments or reschedule? When should you go to the emergency room for urgent care issues? If you’ve been asking yourself these questions, you are not alone.

  • Clay Johnston MD, PhD

    Dean, Dell Medical School
    Vice President for Medical Affairs, UT Austin

Expert panel
  • Samson Jesudass, MD, MBA

    Ascension Texas

  • Kenneth W. Mitchell, MD

    Senior Vice President & CMO
    St. David’s HealthCare

  • Rob Watson, MD

    Baylor Scott and White Health

  • Jay Zdunek, DO, MBA

    Austin Regional Clinic

In this August 26th Business Workshop, Dr. Clay Johnston, Dean of the Dell Medical School moderated the Chief Medical Officers from Ascension Seton, Austin Regional Clinic, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David’s HealthCare to share best practices on staying healthy during this healthcare crisis.

Webinar recording

Dr. Jesudass spoke to how the Austin medical community has come together to collaborate on keeping the community safe:

“As a system, our community has worked much better than most by virtue of us sharing information, addressing the public and press together so there is no element of trying to one-up each other. By doing so, we’ve kept the health of the public and the health of our patients and staff the top priority.”

The panel agreed that the “telemedicine toothpaste is out of the tube” and there is a clear need for it, with even clearer benefits. There has been an uptick in virtual visits, especially in psychiatry, and it has been a huge benefit for patients. Dr. Zdunek implored the community to let Congress know how important it is to make telemedicine a permanent part of the healthcare system.

Even though telehealth visits are up, Dr. Johnston expressed concern over some disturbing trends.

  • Number of patients seeking care for stroke is down 20%. However, there is not a decrease in numbers of stroke victims.
  • Screenings for colon, breast, and cervical cancer are down 90%.
  • Regular childhood vaccinations are also down.

Dr. Watson added that in other major metros, they are seeing a 3x increase in cardiac arrest emergency calls. What’s more alarming is that death rates among cardiac arrest patients is 2/3 this year as opposed to 1/3 last year. The take-away message is this:

Hospitals are safe, and seeking preventative care is safer than avoiding it.

Our healthcare centers are taking health and safety seriously. Dr. Mitchell said that hospitals are safer now than ever, with limited entrances and screening of all visitors. There are some changes, such as visitors and employees being required to wear masks, but hospital operations have normalized somewhat. He added that it’s not back to business as usual, but the focus is on high quality care.

The Chamber's President and CEO, Laura Huffman concluded by thanking these leaders of our healthcare systems for

“working together to prioritize community care over market share.”

Additional resources

As Dr. Johnston mentioned, the City of Austin’s Key Indicators for Staging and The University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium provide up-to-date data and insights regarding the local state of the pandemic.

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