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Health System Resiliency and the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Case Study of a New Nationwide Contingency Staffing Program.

Cannedy S, Bergman A, Medich M, Rose DE, Stockdale SE. Health System Resiliency and the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Case Study of a New Nationwide Contingency Staffing Program. Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland). 2022 Jan 27; 10(2).

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When COVID-19 emerged, the U.S. Veterans Health Administration (VA) was in the process of implementing a national contingency staffing program called Clinical Resource Hubs (CRHs). CRHs were intended to provide regional contingency staffing for primary and mental health clinics experiencing staffing shortages primarily through telehealth. Long-term plans (year 2) included emergency management support. Early in the implementation, we conducted semi-structured interviews with CRH directors and national program leaders (n = 26) and used a rapid analysis approach to identify actions taken by CRHs to support the resiliency of the VA healthcare system during the pandemic. We found that the CRH program was flexible and nimble enough to allow VA to leverage providers at hubs to better respond to the demands of COVID-19. Actions taken at hubs to sustain patient access and staff resiliency during the pandemic included supporting call centers and training VA providers on virtual care delivery. Factors that facilitated CRH's emergency response included hub staff expertise in telehealth and the increased acceptability of virtual care among key stakeholders. We conclude that hub providers serving as contingency staff, as well as specialization in delivering virtual outpatient and inpatient care, enabled VA health system resiliency and recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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