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How an Organization Acted Rapidly to Adapt During the Height of the Pandemic
Episode 11919th January 2023 • This Week Health: Community • This Week Health
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January 19: Today on TownHall Linda Yang, CIO, talks with Erin Osbourn, Former CIO for the NY Hotel Trades Council & Hotel Assoc. of NYC Employee Benefit Funds about how her team supported the organization and the effects on the organization by the critical period of the pandemic. What were some of the unexpected impacts of the pandemic that she saw? How did the pandemic affect team members? What are her thoughts on the evolution of the access and delivery of healthcare towards a more holistic approach?

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Today on This Week Health.

The pandemic hit us enormously, not only are we a healthcare organization our revenue comes directly from contributions from the employers, the hotel.

Within a matter of weeks we saw huge drops in revenue. The hotels, occupancy went down to near zero. So we certainly had to pivot very, very quickly.

Welcome to this week, health Community Town Hall is our show hosted by leaders on the front lines with interviews of people making things happen in healthcare with technology. My name is Bill Russell. I'm creator of this Week Health, A set of channels dedicated to keeping health IT staff current and engaged. For five years now, we've been making podcasts that amplify great thinking to propel Healthcare forward. We wanna thank our show partners for investing in our mission to develop the next generation of health leaders now onto today's.

Welcome to This Week Health. I am Linda Yang and it's my pleasure to have Erin Osborne as my guest on today's Town Hall podcast. Erin is c i o of the New York Hotel Trades Council. And the Hotel Association of New York City Employee Benefits Fund. And as we know, the Covid Pandemic has severely impacted many industries in the past few years, especially the hotel and hospitality industry.

And so I'm really excited to have Erin on our show today to talk about how her and her team continue to meet the needs of their members. Welcome, Erin.

Hi. Hi, Linda. Thank you so much for having me.

You're very welcome. I'm Grateful that you're able to spend a few minutes with us today. Tell us a little bit more about your organization please.

Yes. And good work on getting the name correct. It's quite a long one. We are a very unique organization and have been around for a while, so we are an employer fund. Benefits fund and we serve the hotel union workers of New York City. They receive the benefits funded by the employers, the hotels themselves in New York.

One of the biggest benefits that we administer is health benefits. We are their health. So we cover their lives, the hotel workers, their dependents and the retirees on top of it. We own and operate our own ambulatory care health centers very large health centers with comprehensive medical care, all outpatient including primary care.

Multitude of specialties, dental clinics, behavioral health, onsite laboratory, radiology, onsite pharmacy, retail pharmacies, all for our membership. So we are a health plan and provider organization. And it's an. Incredible place to work under this kind of model and serving a group of members hardworking new Yorkers, the hotel workers themselves.

Certainly that's a whole list of services that you offer your members. And so can you share more about how you and your team support it throughout the entire organiz?

Right. So the clinical operations is a big part of our business. So we employ physicians, nurses, clerical staff, administrative staff to run the health centers, and all of them are computer users using the EHRs.

The other clinical applications the applications are talking to each other through interoperability and interfaces, and we're supporting all of that application wise. On top of it, we support the entire enterprise, the entire benefit funds. From IT infrastructure and operations. A robust cybersecurity program to cover the, our US as a HIPAA entity and as a A P C I compliance.

As well as we have our own applications in-house homegrown applications, so we have application development data and analytics all within the IT department to support. The benefit funds.

Mm-hmm. . Right. And so, towards the beginning of my introduction, I mentioned that obviously the pandemic had an impact on the hospitality industry thus impacting your members.

So what were some of the unexpected impacts to your organization that you saw?

I'd say that the pandemic hit us enormously, more or less a triple whammy for us. Not only are we a healthcare organization we are so closely tied to the hotel association and our revenue comes directly from contributions from the employers, the hotel.

in New York City in March of:

andemic, March, April, may of:

I wish not to relive. So we certainly had to pivot very, very quickly. Not only. For the healthcare Covid response to our members we still needed to operate and serve our membership providing them treatment and case tracking for those COVID cases. As well as pivoting our operations to survive generally from such a drastic revenue change.

So we had to work very agilely. And I think that it was a big learning experience for me and our team as well on being able to a produce application change. Very quickly ahead of the E H R vendors to produce covid documentation, tracking the cases the vaccine. All of that had played into us developing solutions within our E H R.

On top of it the health plan operations had a quickly pivot for more consumer facing. Remote friendly access to things like their eligibility within the health plan. So we stood up a self-service portal on our website for checking eligibility. We stood up a Cobra application electronically on the website so that they can apply for Cobra if they had been laid off from their hotel.

Really trying to provide the utmost service to these, to the hotel workers during that, that time of crisis. And then , a huge. For me was Looking at the finances and budget of the IT department I was able to work with our vendors renegotiate several contracts with covid relief telling the story and consolidating applications.

As well to save our organization over $2 million during the first two years of the pandemic. So that was just one example of the way I was able to pivot the department to help us get through that tough time.

nd. It is priorities for:

Right. That's amazing. It's amazing how you were able to approach your vendors and renegotiate the contracts.

And I would imagine that the vendors were also impacted in other ways and they were understanding, so that's great. You were able to bring that to their attention. You mentioned how the pandemic impacted your members, but can you talk through how it impacted your team members?


Sure. Absolutely. It happened so quickly. I think that we, like everyone else were scrambling personally to try to figure out how am I going to still. Be normal during the first part of the pandemic a lot of my team members immediately went remote work environment. We still were operating, so we still needed onsite IT staff.

the subway in March, April of:

Walking through Times Square, which is one block from my office, was extremely disturbing, having no traffic, no tourists. It was, we were entering into another phase, and now that I look back at it, it's something that I, I will never forget. As far as our team, I think that it was a real test of the agility and flexibility of the team members.

izations in the later part of:

ight away. Right in spring of:

Fortunately I think we were able to come out of the, pandemic on a better note we had to downsize, so we closed health centers. During the pandemic and unfortunately had to layoff staff members. But as we became a smaller organization, it was a good time to address longstanding infrastructure issues and aging equipment.

So. One big project that we deployed as a, smaller organization, which was actually very handy, is replacing the wide area network. We'd moved from MPLS to SD-WAN during Covid. Worked out pretty well when you had two of your bigger sites off the network so you know, less chances of things going wrong.

here we. were Before March of:

So we turned the crisis into an opportunity to better serve the organization and ultimately the members, themselves

Right. That's great. Where you saw an opportunity to be able to optimize some of your technical processes. And now that the pandemic is I think we're past the critical stages, obviously, and so you're able to translate that over to the long-term pieces of working into the.

And build on top of that. So I'm so glad to hear that you have opened up your health centers again and continue to provide those services for your members. Now, your organization, addresses the holistic needs for all of your members. Healthcare is only one piece of the services you provide, so I'm interested to hear.

your perspective on the evolution of the access and delivery of healthcare services , toward that more holistic approach. Can you share some of your insights on that piece?

Absolutely. I mean, it is incredible to be part of a truly value-based care organization. There's no monetary incentive for our providers to provide value-based.

We do it. because We believe in our membership. We want the membership to be healthy and to be working members of the hotels themselves. And being both the plan and the provider provides an enormous opportunity. To send data and information to the right places. Inter-operating between the health plan and the provider side creates enormous efficiencies for the membership and reduces that administrative burden.

That you feel as a patient yourself entering into new health systems or changing insurances? We have all felt that pain. So we're doing our part in setting up a model to exemplify how value-based care can be delivered. And the model's working. We've been at it for 70 years. And we survived a pandemic It took away all of our revenue, so it is working. And we're just, we know that we're providing the best healthcare for our members. So I would certainly think that it could be a model for other health systems to look at as a, , bigger picture strategy.

Right. That's great insight. And obviously at the end of the day, it's the members, the patients who will benefit most from that, model. Mm-hmm. . So yeah, Erin, thank you for your insight. And is there anything additional that you'd like to add before we end the show?

This has just been a real pleasure and honor to be speaking with you today.

Linda, thank you so much for the opportunity and come to New York, stay in a hotel that directly supports those hard worker, hardworking hotel members, and tourism is back. New York City is back, so come on.

It certainly is in New York City. It's certainly a destination to go, right? All right.

Well, thank you, Erin.

Thank you.

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