Dalton-Norman featured on Becker’s Healthcare discussing the Conduit Patient Transfer Center

The pandemic has changed many aspects of how we look at patient transfer service processes.

Listen to this recent Becker’s Healthcarepodcast featuring Conduit’s President, Cheryl Dalton-Norman and Jeffrey DiLisi, MD, President and CEO of Roper St. Francis Healthcare, who discuss how Conduit’s unique service offerings transformed care at Roper St. Francis Healthcare.

Cheryl and Dr. DiLisi also discuss their partnership and how collaboration is key to helping alleviate pain points.

Jeff Dilisi, MD, MBA

Transcribed Version of the Full Becker’s Podcast

Sony Kassam: Hello everyone. I’m Sony Kassam, director of multimedia and content strategy at Becker’s Hospital Review. Thank you for tuning into the Becker’s Healthcare podcast series. Today, I’m pleased to be joined by Cheryl Dalton- Norman, President of Conduit Health Partners, and Dr. Jeff DiLisi, President and CEO of Roper St. Francis Healthcare.

As president and founder of Conduit Health Partners, Cheryl was instrumental in the development of Conduit services, including transfer center, nurse triage, virtual care and healthcare call center scheduling services. Under Cheryl’s leadership Conduit has grown from caring for 22,000 people in 2017 to an anticipated 4 million in 2021. Conduit Health Partners is a unique healthcare services organization that takes an innovative approach in partnering with health care organizations to improve care. The experienced team at Conduit develops high-quality concierge-level solutions tailored to help individuals, communities, health systems, and employers.

Dr. Jeff DiLisi, an established leader who has attracted national attention for advancements in healthcare quality and patient safety serves as president and chief executive officer of Roper St. Francis Healthcare in Charleston, South Carolina. He spearheads the private not-for-profit healthcare system’s efforts to provide superior access to quality care while carrying out its mission of healing all people with compassion, faith, and excellence. Roper St. Francis Healthcare has four flagship, hospitals and 6 ERs. With more than 6,000 teammates. The healthcare system is the largest private employer and the low country of South Carolina with nearly 1,000 doctors representing almost every medical specialty across five counties.

Cheryl and Dr. DiLisi, Thank you so much for being here today.

Cheryl Dalton-Norman: Thanks for having us.

Dr. Jeffrey DiLisi: Thank you.

Sony Kassam: Of course. So, we know the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated an already stressed transfer service process. So, I’ve got a multi-part question here for you. Cheryl, can you share the realities in the patient transfer process that did not exist pre-pandemic and how will they impact health systems and the care of patients into the future.

Cheryl Dalton-Norman: That’s really a great question, Sony. And when I think about what COVID-19 and the pandemic have really done with transfer center services, pre-pandemic, there were already challenges with making sure that health systems understood the volumes of patients and the kinds of patients that were seeking care or seeking transfer into their systems.

Likewise, managing those outbound transfers moving to other places. Those were already challenging things for many organizations, because sometimes organizations don’t have a really great handle on that, or really understand deeply the kinds of patients that are moving in and out of their health system. But with COVID, it just escalated all that because we have constricted resources now.

So, with nursing being challenging from a staffing perspective, we know that our healthcare professionals, our physicians and our nurses and others, respiratory therapists, you name it in the healthcare systems. Those folks have really been working so hard for so long and the staffing realities are truly staggering.

So, while an organization may have beds available, do they have staffed beds available? And when you listen to things in the media, you hear the stories about hospitals trying to call 40, 50 other hospitals to try to get patients moved to the appropriate level of care or to a place that can best serve their needs.

And that just really wasn’t the case pre-pandemic. And I think even as we move on into the future, COVID, isn’t over, we are still seeing waves like the one we just come through. Still impacting many areas of the country. And I think we’re going to continue to see that be a challenge, particularly as our healthcare professionals who are working so hard and doing such a great job are really they’re tiring.

And so, we have to find ways to make sure that we have adequate resources for our patients and that we can get them to the right location where care can be delivered.

Sony Kassam: So, the pandemic has truly disrupted the way healthcare systems function from here on out.

Cheryl Dalton-Norman: In my career. I’ve never seen anything like it. And I’ve been a nurse for 38 years, and I have never seen anything stress the health care system for this length of time, like COVID and I think organizations are trying to load balance and create space for appropriate and really great patient care. That’s going to be a challenge into the future

Sony Kassam: Thanks for sharing a little bit about your background, knowing that you’ve been in this field for decades, it really shows the magnitude of what’s going on right now.

Dr. DiLisi, I’d love to turn to you. Can you outline what is happening in your health system and others surrounding your market relative to getting patients to the most appropriate level of care?

Dr. Jeffrey DiLisi: It’s a great question. And, you know, as Cheryl just commented on, you know, I think the pandemic and the surges of COVID have really, it’s just put a light on how important it is to get patients to the most appropriate level of care.

So, this last surge that we just saw here come through in August and in September, we had upwards of 200 patients with COVID that were in our hospital beds. Cheryl, I think you very astutely pointed out. We may have had some beds somewhere. But, did we have the staff at that hospital to be able to put patients in that bed? Or is it better to take care of them at a different location? When you get that surge of patients and you’ve got, you know, staffing at each of these hospitals, getting patients to the right hospital, again, level of care is, is really critical. So, it’s really transformed how we look at patient transfers, getting patients into the right location at the right time. And I think it’s just made it all the more important that we get it right.

Sony Kassam: Absolutely. So, what drew you as a CEO of Roper St. Francis Healthcare to look to Conduit as a partner?

Dr. Jeffrey DiLisi: Well, Conduit was formed by experienced healthcare operators. You know, Cheryl’s got a tremendous reputation, and talking to her previously, and as we got to know her and got to know Conduit, it’s clear that, you know, again, they’re not just people that came into the healthcare field for this type of opportunity. They’re healthcare operators that have a lot of experience. And so, we were excited about partnering with them on something like this. Secondly, I think, you know, one of the big things that conduit really brings to the table is just their data analytics. And I think using data to help us solve some of these transfer center issues is really important.

And we thought that they really had sort of the background and the infrastructure to be able to help us use data, to solve these problems really effectively. So, we’ve been really impressed with the depth and the breadth of the experience of the Conduit team and the value that they could bring to the table to help us.

Sony Kassam: Awesome. So, Cheryl, I’d love to get your thoughts here, too, about this partnership. What does your team do to help clients and what is the process you take to alleviate their pain points?

Cheryl Dalton-Norman: And I appreciate everything that Jeff just said, you’re very gracious. And we’ve been excited to work with Roper St. Francis and Jeff and his team who are just outstanding healthcare leaders.

We’ve been excited to work with them. We first started working with them in the nurse triage space, followed by the scheduling space. And then we’re really excited now to move on, you know, in the coming months into the transfer space with them. Because one of the things that we hope to do and find that we do with all of our clients is we really want to deeply understand what the reality on the ground is, in their service area.

So, in Charleston, what, in that service area what’s really happening, what really goes on, what are the pain points within various hospitals? What do different specialists or hospitalist or ED leaders, what are they feeling as a burden given COVID 19, given all the demands that are coming onto the health system.

So, we first seek to understand, and then we work collaboratively to develop a plan to say, okay, here’s where we are now. And we understand these pain points. So how do we get to this ideal state? And my hope is that Jeff and I can come back in a year from now and talk about what has our journey been. And in that transfer space, how have we been able to alleviate pain points? Make sure patients are really well taken care of, mitigate risk, and then really bring about growth for Roper St. Francis.

Sony Kassam: Sounds like a beautiful partnership. Dr. DiLisi, how do you anticipate Conduit helping your organization and your patients?

Dr. Jeffrey DiLisi: You know, I think back to maybe, an anecdote that happened during this last surge. There was a patient that was in a Florida hospital and needed some tertiary care.

And every hospital in Florida was filled with COVID patients and they couldn’t take care of the patient and the hospital called other hospitals in Georgia and Mississippi, and they couldn’t find anyone. And they got through to one of our doctors here and you know, that doctor was able to help, you know, kind of push the issue and were able to get this patient into our health system.

And the doctors and nurses and staff here saved this person’s life. And if we weren’t able to accommodate that patient and get them into the bed and get them into the right level of service, they wouldn’t be with us. So, I’m so proud of our team for doing that, but where I’m really excited about working with Conduit is to be able to make sure that we can replicate that all the time.

And it’s not just family of this patient got ahold of a doctor that knew who to get ahold of here. That we can have something hardwired within our organization so that anybody can get in and, you know, whenever they needed so that we can continue to meet our mission, which is healing, all people with compassion, faith, and excellence.

So, we certainly try to live by that, but we’re excited to work with Conduit and Cheryl and her team to make sure that we can deliver that care to everyone.

Sony Kassam: We’re looking forward to seeing how this marriage pans out and hopefully getting the care that everyone needs. Now, Dr. DiLisi, you’ve shared a lot about how Conduit is helping Roper St. Francis healthcare. So, Cheryl, I’d love to ask, what else is your organization doing to help other hospitals who are struggling with effectively transferring patients?

Cheryl Dalton-Norman: Yeah. Great question. So, depending on the circumstances and or the market where our partnering organizations are their needs can be very different.

So, when we work with a level one trauma center, we’re making sure that is part of a system that we’re getting the people who need level one trauma into that high acuity facility and also optimizing the other hospitals that are a part of that system to make sure that where the most appropriate level of care is that we’re getting those patients to that location.

While another organization, perhaps a small community-based hospital as part of a system, may not be the final destination for really high acuity patients. However, the opportunity for them is really retention. Retention of appropriate patients who elected to come to that facility, seeking care there, really wanting to remain in their community and making sure that by understanding that hospital, understanding their physician makeup and their capabilities, making sure that whenever it’s possible or at all, we are keeping those patients in that facility. And then when it’s not appropriate, that we are safely and effectively getting patients wherever they need to be.

And then finally, one of the things that we do that I think is unique is we understand that people, when they are moving a patient, when they need to transfer a patient, they need help right now and taking the time to call 2, 3, 10, 20, 40 different hospitals searching for care is not sustainable. It’s not something that’s going to ensure the best care for patients. So, what we do as a partner to any health system we work with is that we manage any patient that calls. So, if a patient or actually a physician provider calls needing to transfer a patient in, and our partnering organization doesn’t have the capability or capacity to manage that patient.

We will find another location for that patient because we feel it’s important to be a really good partner to anyone who’s calling in with a need. And we want to be sure that patients get the right care at the right time where they need to get it.

Sony Kassam: Thank you so much for walking us through how Conduit works. Final question for both of you.

Anything else you’d like to mention to our listeners?

Cheryl Dalton-Norman: I think it’s important for health systems to take the opportunity, to really try to deeply understand how easy is it for a transferring patient to access care in your system. I think Jeff shared a really great story about the patient from Florida.

And I can tell you that that is. Every day where people are taking every path they can to try to find, you know, care at wonderful organizations like Roper St. Francis. And Conduit we really just want to be a partner and helping organizations be able to do that.

Sony Kassam: Terrific. And Dr. DiLisi any last thoughts from you?

Dr. Jeffrey DiLisi: You know, I’ll just reiterate, we’re really excited to be partnering with Cheryl and Conduit on patient transfer. And again, it’s become so important with the pandemic and just especially with these surges and how they put a strain on our healthcare resources and staffing and available beds and being able to use advanced analytics to be able to drive, getting patients to the right place at the right time as quickly as possible is just so important.

Sony Kassam: Thank you so much, Cheryl and Dr. DiLisi for your time and this great discussion today.

Dr. Jeffrey DiLisi: Thank you.

Cheryl Dalton-Norman: Thank you.

Sony Kassam: I’d also like to thank Conduit Health Partners for sponsoring this episode. You can tune into more podcasts from Becker’s Healthcare by visiting our podcasts page at BeckersHospitalReview.com.

Contact us today to learn how Conduit Health Partners can help your organization.