Hennepin Healthcare takes a pulse of the pandemic

COVID-19’s rapid arrival in Minnesota in March 2020 created myriad changes across the community – and a snapshot of that impact is now available in a report from Hennepin Healthcare.  

A collaboration for quality improvement between Hennepin Healthcare and Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute (HHRI) emerged to design and collect a phone-based survey between May 11 and June 12, 2020.

“This survey, in the midst of a novel pandemic, offers us a unique, real-time view of what our community was experiencing,” explains Kate Diaz Vickery, MD, MSc, Co-Director of the Health, Homelessness and Criminal Justice Lab at HHRI. “Our goal was to assess the needs of our primary care patients – especially those at highest risk of poor outcomes – and generate discussion about addressing concerns.” 

“We believe that this report shares the ‘pulse’ of the community during a time of uncertainty that will lead to positive work at both ends: the care for COVID and Basic Needs at the same time, as this is, in reality, a syndemic: two pandemics at one: the viral and the health inequities,”  said Maria Veronica Svetaz, MD, MPH, Medical Director of Aqui Para Ti/Here For You, an Eliminating Health Disparities Initiative/MDH Grantee, who was also on the project’s committee.

Nearly 400 adult primary care patients reflected on their experiences with the arrival of COVID-19 and its resulting social and economic impacts.

Key findings include:

  • 35% of respondents worried about affording food. Spanish speaking (58%) and Black patients (42%) were disproportionately food insecure
  • 14% reported being homeless at the time of the survey and 32% were worried about being able to pay their rent/mortgage or other housing costs. Non-English speakers were the most likely to report worry about paying housing costs, with 53% of Spanish speakers and 62% of Somali speakers reporting concerns.  
  • The majority of respondents reported access to internet-connected smartphones (89%) and email (81%). Patients varied in their access to an internet-connected computer (57%), and 1 in 4 expressed challenges paying their phone bill (26%).
  • Respondents were generally willing to use video visits (72%).  Qualitative feedback from patients indicated that many would need support to learn how to use necessary technologies. 

The entire report is available at www.hennepinhealthcare.org/basicneedssurvey.

Hennepin Healthcare expands community testing for COVID-19

Glen Hansen lab c
Dr. Glen Hansen (left)

One of the first testing labs in the state to offer COVID-19 testing has expanded to more clinic locations and is now supporting testing in long-term care, shelter and other settings by deploying teams of paramedics and nurses to do onsite collection. This expansion is vitally important to bring testing to underrepresented populations in our community and reduce transmission and outbreaks in long-term care facilities, group homes and other types of congregate care settings.

“This information will help us identify where the virus is, how prevalent it is and where it’s going,” explains Dr. Glen Hansen, Director of Hennepin Healthcare’s Clinical Microbiology and Molecular Diagnostic Lab.

When it began testing for COVID-19 in March, Hennepin Healthcare was one of the largest laboratories at the time to offer testing for the virus. More than 200,000 tests have been secured and Hennepin Healthcare now has the capacity to test more than 1000 patients daily – helping to meet to Governor Tim Walz’ request that 20,000 daily tests to be completed in Minnesota.

Hennepin Healthcare offers testing to symptomatic patients from the community at its Viral Screening Clinic in downtown Minneapolis, as well as at its clinics in Whittier, Brooklyn Park and Richfield. Testing is also conducted on patients admitted to HCMC and the lab processes tests for several other healthcare systems, community clinics and correctional facilities.

“We’re getting rapid turnaround from our lab – literally getting results within 6-7 hours, which is crucial not only for screening asymptomatic inpatients but also for those with symptoms whose course of care is determined by this diagnosis,” said Dr. Hansen.

The lab also has capability to conduct rapid COVID-19 testing that turns around results within 67 minutes, and it’s the only hospital in the Twin Cities to offer a full respiratory panel that can rule out 16 viruses (including COVID-19).

Dr. Hansen says that the ability to simultaneous detect COVID-19 while examining other circulating respiratory viruses will become “even more important if the outbreak extends past the summer into the traditional respiratory virus season.”

The Microbiology Laboratory at Hennepin Healthcare provides a full range of services including diagnosis of bacterial, viral, mycotic, and parasitic infections, as well as extensive testing and reporting of antimicrobial susceptibility results.