Managing the COVID-19 response for an entire medical network is no easy task! The team at Meritage Medical Network has to ensure that patients, physicians, and staff are well supported and safe through this uncertain time.
We sat down with Marcy Norenius, the Chief Strategy Officer for Meritage Medical Network to learn more about the changes that were implemented once shelter-in-place rules impacted the North Bay.
Please introduce yourself.
Hi, my name is Marcy Norenius. I am the Chief Strategy Officer for Meritage Medical Network. We are a physician network in California in Marin, Sonoma, and Napa Counties with 700+ physicians taking care of over 20,000 patients in the North Bay.
How has Meritage Medical Network as a whole been affected by COVID-19 and the shelter-in-place?
Meritage was affected by the shelter-in-place order internally because we needed to transition our employees to working remotely quickly. Fortunately, we did this even before the official shelter in place was announced so we were ahead of the game. Our teams have done a great job of adapting to this new work from home reality, though we really miss the in-person interactions with one another.
How have the physicians’ offices been affected by COVID-19 and the shelter-in-place order?
Shelter-in-place and COVID19 have greatly affected our physician offices. They are an essential business, but their volume of patients who come in for routine care or elective procedures has substantially decreased during this time.
All practices remain open but are using a variety of methods to keep patients safe: telemedicine, phone calls with patients, and using the patient portal system. Our physicians are really making an effort to make sure that patients are still seen (virtually or in-person) for their preventative care. Specifically, pediatric practices quickly found ways to care for their patients safely in the office because children still need immunizations.
Our physicians, the public health department, and hospitals all worked together quickly and got testing sites up and running. They have done a really excellent job of making sure patients are safe.
Meritage also set up a response team to help our physicians with the federal programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program (an SBA loan that helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 crisis), loan applications, or understanding all of the different new systems available to them, we have a team that’s prepared to help them. We also have the Meritage Liaisons calling practices, making sure that they’re doing okay, and making sure we’re doing everything we can to help out.
The good news is most of our physicians are continuing to consistently use telemedicine in addition to office visits in their offices and from their homes. We hired a telehealth physician consultant who helped them get more comfortable with telemedicine and helped them get set up with their patients.
Tell us more about telemedicine.
One of the positive side effects of COVID-19 is that all of our physicians have successfully adopted telemedicine – it is really exciting to see patients have this kind of access to care!
Physicians are also providing care via phone calls and with their online patient portals. As I mentioned, most physician offices have now reopened their practices with safety precautions to protect patients and staff.
What has Meritage done to support patients during this time?
Even before the shelter-in-place order was announced, the first thing Meritage did was have our Care Management team reach out to all high-risk patients, those with multiple comorbidities (the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient) and/or issues that made it difficult for them to manage any sort of disease. The purpose of the calls was to make sure those patients had the medications, food, and supplies they needed to be safe at home. If needed, our Care team connected these patients to local resources and ensured they understood how to access their physicians remotely.
Once we were finished reaching out to our high-risk patients, we started reaching out to all of our senior patients, checking in and making sure that they were doing ok. We’ll continue to reach out to the patients that need our support during this time.
Thank you, Marcy, for taking the time to chat with us! If you have any additional questions about Meritage Medical Network’s COVID-19 responses, please contact Marcy Norenius.
We are so incredibly thankful for all of the frontline workers who are working every day to keep our community safe.