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Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day. But Its COVID Hospitals Went Live in Weeks.

By March, when the Italian region of Lazio directed Gemelli Hospital to lead its clinical response to COVID-19, the pandemic had turned the world’s attention to the nation. Italy instituted a strict lockdown as the death toll climbed, chiefly in the northern regions. Rome, where Gemelli is based, was bracing for impact. Hospital leaders had to build up the city’s defenses, and they had to do it quickly.

Roman Colosseum So, Gemelli got to work. In mere weeks, the organization opened the Columbus COVID-2 Hospital in its polyclinic, providing 21 intensive care units and 32 beds, and turned a nearby Marriott hotel into an 80-bed hospital where COVID-positive patients could quarantine after discharge. Suddenly, international media focused not on Italy’s struggles, but Gemelli’s successes.

What received less attention were the rapid-fire remote technology implementations that fortified the work of Gemelli’s dedicated physicians and nurses. Gemelli IT staff and InterSystems, for instance, took a single week to launch InterSystems TrakCare at Columbus. The Marriott followed weeks later, going online April 1. The prestigious university hospital’s mobilization went on to underpin Italy’s remarkable turnaround in its fight against COVID-19, which saw new case and death counts fall and an entire society reemerge from a panicked slumber.

Gemelli’s speedy implementation of TrakCare in both hospitals aided clinicians in a sprawling effort to screen all patients, connecting COVID-19 testing data in a central location. Physicians and nurses received alerts the moment the laboratory identified a positive patient. The technology empowered the hospital to locate COVID patients and separate them from others. Clinical decision support tools and visualizations illuminated trends in prescribing data, helping Gemelli execute medication management, and develop standards of care.

The launch had several factors working in its favor. For one, Gemelli and InterSystems teammates moved decisively on the remote go-live, a new approach for each organization. They used automation tools to transfer data and virtual programs to train users. IT specialists remained available to guide and troubleshoot for Gemelli employees. Then there was TrakCare itself, whose regional edition drew on previously established workflows, security groups, and localized compliance mechanisms. The personalized system also came ready with favorites and simplified configurations for physicians. And they were familiar with TrakCare, which went live in Gemelli just months before, in late 2019.

In the end, however, the major reason for success was Gemelli’s leadership. Instead of hesitating, they jumped at the challenge. They set up their clinicians to succeed with two new COVID-19 hospitals, running on an integrated source of information that allowed physicians to focus on what mattered most: patients.


This story originally appeared the July 20, 2020- OnTrak News Flash No.5: The Fight Against COVID-19 newsletter

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