Disclaimer: At UPMC HealthBeat, we strive to provide the most up-to-date facts in our stories when we publish them. We also make updates to our content as information changes. However, education about COVID-19 can shift quickly based on new data, emerging variants, or other factors. The information in this story was accurate as of its publish date. We also encourage you to visit other reliable websites for updated information, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and your state and local governments.
Dr. Richard Beigi, President of UPMC Magee Womens Hospital explains the hospital’s new protocols to keep you safe while delivering world-class care.
Never Miss a Beat!
Subscribe to Our HealthBeat Newsletter!
Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!
Read The Full Podcast Transcript
– [Host] This podcast is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not medical care or advice. Clinicians should rely on their own medical judgments when advising their patients. Patients in need of medical care should consult their personal care provider.
– [Tonia] This podcast is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not medical care or advice. Clinicians should rely on their own medical judgments when advising their patients. Patients in need of medical care should consult their personal care provider. On the forefront of care as we all adjust to this new normal. Hi, I’m Tonia Caruso. Welcome to the UPMC HealthBeat Podcast, and joining us right now is Dr. Richard Beigi. He is the president of UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital. Dr. Beigi, thanks so much for joining us.
– Thank you for the opportunity to speak.
– So as we all began to prepare for COVID, you made lots of changes at Magee to try to keep patients safe.
– Well, you’re absolutely right. There have been a lot of changes, and early on, a lot of the changes were done really out of an abundance of caution, and a lot of those changes have continued. We’re also screening everybody that comes into the building with clinical screening questions and taking their temperature. That includes all the health care workers and people that come into the building that work here every day. All the employees are masked, and we’re asking for patients to be masked as well when it makes sense. And we’ve also changed the way we’re doing food delivery: We’re doing really little catering right now in the hospital, we’re doing mostly packaged meals, things of those sorts. So we really have done a lot of things here to transition to this situation, really for safety of our patients and of our health care workers.
– And so during this time of preparation, you delayed some appointments for patients. Why do you think it’s important now that patients start to come back in?
– Well, that’s exactly right. So at the outset, we just didn’t know what we were going to be facing exactly, so out of an abundance of caution, we did delay a lot of appointments and some procedures as well. But it’s really important that people start to come back, and the starting point of that is speaking with your physician. Because a lot of the things we delayed, while they weren’t potentially immediately necessary, they certainly are essential parts of your care, and we need you to be thinking about how to come back and work with your physician along those lines. Things like cancer screenings, whether it be a mammogram, which is designed to pick up problems in women’s breasts before they become a cancer, or at least early in that, things like pap tests, which also are designed as screening tests that pick up things early in the process so that we have an opportunity to prevent cancer from developing. So those
tests are done on people that, in general, mostly lack symptoms, so by definition, it’s important to come back and start to get those tests ’cause we don’t want to have the downstream effects of that. A lot of people have health conditions that, while they’re still on their medications, haven’t been monitored necessarily as closely as they’re used to, and so we also worry about that. So for all those reasons, it’s important to come back. On the procedural front, we delayed some procedures that people had scheduled, again, out of an abundance of caution. But now, based on local prevalence data which we know, the virus has very low prevalence in our community. We’re very fortunate in that way. And we’re also monitoring that, literally daily, at UPMC, and we’ve seen little to no COVID-positive patients when we’ve been offering it to pre-procedural patients. So it’s important for people to come back and be getting those procedures that they had scheduled because there’s major impacts on their quality of life and their disease course that we need to get back to some semblance of normal here.
– And from screenings to areas like prenatal care, you made changes there as well.
– So, it’s very interesting. Even before COVID, we had started to have some real forays into the use of telemedicine in prenatal care. And we’ve been doing telemedicine across Pennsylvania for almost a decade in some of our high-risk patients that allows them to stay in their community, get the high-risk care via telemedicine, and then, in some cases, come here to deliver, but, in many cases, stay in their local community to deliver. So we were already doing some of that, and this just accelerated that. So within a week or two of figuring out that this was going to be an impact to our region, we rapidly scaled up our ability to do telemedicine for all of our prenatal care patients, and we rapidly deployed blood pressure cuffs so they could keep an eye on their blood pressure and let us know those values because blood pressure is one of the many things that we pay close attention to when people do come in for their prenatal care visits. And it’s been extremely successful, and we have not had any problems that we know of, and in fact, it’s been very well-received by our patients. So at this point, realizing the impact and the importance of telemedicine and the role it’s going to have going forward, we really feel like the telemedicine is here to stay in some way, shape, or form. So we’re spending a lot of time, right now, trying to figure out what that exactly looks like going forward. So, for instance, what percentage of your prenatal care visits could be done via telemedicine, or should be done via telemedicine? Some of that depends on whether you have high-risk conditions or not because some conditions do need to be monitored more in person. And we’re spending a lot of time figuring this out, as are many places across the country. And that’s not only in prenatal care. It also extends to other fields, like general internal medicine and other fields where we’re trying to figure out what exact role telemedicine has going forward. I think we all agree that it has a role.
– But there are some patients that really do need to come in.
– There are, and again, some of that depends on what conditions are being treated. Some of that depends on the willingness and ability of the patients to do the telemedicine as well. And I am a firm believer that some care is best delivered face-to-face, and there is the physician-patient bond and the
power of one-to-one interaction, not only in helping to understand what’s going on with somebody, but especially in patients that are ill, there’s a lot of value in face-to-face interactions and things of that nature. So I don’t think anybody believes that it’s all going to be telemedicine. I think we’re all striving for kind of a new balance and a new happy medium that makes sense for certain patients and certain specialties, and this is going to play out over the next months and years to try and really fine-tune the balance that we’re looking for.
– So you touched on this earlier when talking about the visitors policy. Walk us through what a new mom can expect when she comes in to deliver her baby.
– So when they come here, we will screen them when they come in. And for patients that are in labor, they’re staying regardless. We want everyone — we’re able and willing and ready to take care of everybody as they come in. But we’ll be screening the person that comes with them as well and asking them to wear a mask. And while they’re here, they’ll have that one support person with them in the room, and then, as I mentioned before, we’re also strongly encouraging the use of their own devices to connect with other loved ones while they’re here, or if they don’t have that opportunity, we have some iPads that we’re distributing out to patients so that they can connect with their loved ones while they’re here. And that continues into the postpartum stay. In addition to that, for roughly 80 percent of our patients, they have desired going home faster than what we had traditionally been doing before COVID came. So for all those women that deliver vaginally, we’re actually able to get women out about 24 hours faster for the ones that want to go home, and it’s safe for them to go home medically. And the same for C-section: We have been able to cut down the length of stay for about 24 hours. Again, this is in patients that want to go home early. It turns out, right now, that a lot of patients do want to go home early, both those that have had surgery or had a routine vaginal delivery. So that’s also a change, so in order to do that, our nurses and our docs have mobilized around that idea in order to be able to meet those patient’s desires and needs to get home early. And we’ve been very successful at doing that, and I have to tell you, most patients have been extremely pleased with that approach.
– And of course, these days, Magee offers so much more than just care for women. Walk us through how some of the other areas of the hospital are functioning.
– So beyond obstetrics and newborn health, Magee is really a full-service hospital. So we have a very large and active medicine service, we have a general surgery service, we have lots of cancer services, we have a vibrant orthopedic service, we have a cardiology center, we have a GI service, we have a urologic service. So we have a lot of other services above and beyond the traditional perinatal health. And each service is also trying to get back to a new semblance of normal, spending a lot of time trying to get through some of the cases that were delayed and doing that in a clinically stratified manner that really balances the need to get back and have your procedure done in a more timely fashion, depending on what the clinical condition is. So each service is doing that. We’ve asked every service lead to prioritize their patients, and they’re doing that extremely effectively. And over the next handful of weeks, we
should be back up to normal operating procedures in our operating room. But this is also the case for patients coming to the emergency department and patients that get admitted on the medicine service and other services; everyone’s adjusting to a new normal.
– And I know you’re familiar with the UPMC “Here’s to the Heroes” campaign. Talk about the heroes in your hospital and what your staff has been through and what they’ve been like through all of this.
– Before all this, we’ve always had a great culture, and we’ve always had a great staff. And what has been remarkable to me to watch is the way that people have rallied around this problem and taken it to a next level of excellence, of just compassion. And, really, I am seeing our staff put patients first. As I said, we’ve always done that, but it has been remarkable to watch how well and how natural this has occurred for our staff to really put our patients first. I think that everyone recognizes that it’s an anxious time in the country, it’s an anxious time in Allegheny County and Pittsburgh, and it’s an anxious time for our health care workers. But importantly, it’s a really anxious time for patients coming into the hospital. And while we have everything we need to ensure safety and we’ve talked about all the things that we’ve done here at the hospital, we still know that patients are anxious. And I have just been blown away by the compassion and the dedication and the selflessness of our hospital staff to put patients first, which, at the end of the day, that’s why we’re here. So it’s been really a nice thing to watch. And again, our mission is to serve our community, and our hospital staff has taken that to heart. In addition to what they’ve always done, they’ve just taken it to a next level, so I feel really great about people coming in here and getting care.
– And as we close, what message do you want to give to patients?
– The message is that we are here. We are prioritizing your safety and your care. We’re also prioritizing the safety and care of our health care workers so that they can be here for you. It’s a safe environment. We are doing everything possible to continue to make it a safe environment. We’ve been here for 109 years serving the community, and we feel very passionate about our need to do that, and we are here to continue that mission and put our patients first. So that would be my main message for everybody.
– Dr. Richard Beigi, thanks so much for joining us today.
– Thank you very much for the opportunity.
– And thank you for joining us. I’m Tonia Caruso; this is UPMC HealthBeat.
If you are over 40 years old, a prescription is not required for a screening mammography.
For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. UPMC Magee is long-renowned for its services to women and babies but also offers a wide range of care to men as well. Our patient-first approach ensures you and your loved ones get the care you need. Nearly 10,000 babies are born each year at Magee, and our NICU is one of the largest in the country. Our network of care – from imaging centers to hospital services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland, giving you a chance to get the expert care you need close to home. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes UPMC Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and the Magee-Womens Research Institute is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology.