FAH Hospital Policy Blog

Perspectives on health policy affecting America's hospitals and the patients we serve.

Quality & Safety | COVID-19 | FAH Policy Blog Team

The Successes of Learning Health Systems with Marty Bonick

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on with the rise of the Delta variant, the modern hospital has taken on a major role as a source of help and hope for many communities across the United States. But what are we seeing on the ground, and how are hospitals learning from past surges to help care for patients in large, unvaccinated areas?

In this latest episode of “Hospitals In Focus”, Chip Kahn is joined by Marty Bonick, who became President and CEO of Ardent Health Services in 2020, just as the pandemic began to heat up. Marty and Chip open up the podcast discussing his background and his new role at the company during these difficult times. The two then move on to how hospitals within the system are sharing their data and what they have learned from COVID-19 hotspots. Lastly, the two examine how Ardent is working on quality issues and transferring these lessons across different communities.

The conversation began with Marty talking about how it felt taking the reins of a health care system during a pandemic. He stressed that while it wasn’t the easiest time to start, he was encouraged to find “an organization that had relied upon its strength of its people and its systems to really help learn from each other and create ways of cascading that knowledge across the organization.” Marty went on to praise the processes that were in place and the work that those on the front lines were doing for patients.

Talking about the politicization and polarization that has come with COVID-19, Marty said “I’m really seeing the divide between those communities that have taken vaccination seriously and the impacts that have had in terms of reduced hospitalization versus those communities that have not had a strong vaccination uptake and the correlation between the two is pretty clear in terms … of the impact on hospitals.” He also spoke about continued surges and the impacts they are having on staff, “When you have more patients than the systems can handle it really overtaxes the entire system.”

When asked what Ardent had learned from treating patients during the early surges in New York and New Jersey, Marty spoke on the power of having integrated systems that could share information and resources. “We were able to send nurses from Idaho, from Tulsa, from Albuquerque, into New Jersey and really help our nurses up in that market care for patients because that hospital quickly became overrun by COVID patients. About 60% of all of the patients in that hospital were COVID patients. So they had triage tents set up outside the ER, they had patients everywhere with COVID. We were still trying to figure out at that point how to treat them.” He concluded however that the “strength of our network helped to provide staff and to provide physicians support. We were able to bring the full weight of our corporate support team to help locate, identify, and supply equipment… to make sure that they got to the right facilities.”

Lastly, Chip and Marty discussed new care programs and innovations at Ardent, focusing on a new quality initiative the company calls “Mission Zero,” which focuses on patient safety. “When patients come to us in the time of need, they’re expecting to get well, not harmed, and we all know too well that in health care accidents and mistakes happen. It’s never someone’s intention. Mission Zero for Ardent is really us focusing in as an organization collectively in terms of how do we make sure that each and every action that we take, every activity that we embark on with a patient is safe and free of harm and error for our patients.” Marty added that this program has already had great success in one market that will be rolled out system.

Listen to the full episode here.