Our Level of Preparedness in Minnesota

Dr. Claire Neely

By Claire Neely, MD, FAAP, ICSI President and CEO 

In our Board of Directors meeting last week several of our ICSI leaders were discussing how grateful we are to reside in Minnesota during this time. As the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread in our state, our Minnesota healthcare community of providers, clinics, physicians, plans and partners are prepared for a biological emergency like COVID-19.

First, however, as a physician I am glad to see so many persistent and widespread messages around protecting ourselves and others. Sharing messages around social distancing, hand washing, paying attention to symptoms and other steps to prevent illness are crucial. We can’t stop the spread of the coronavirus but as individuals we can do much to slow the spread of infection. Doing everything we can to reduce and slow transmission rates will prevent our healthcare system from being overwhelmed with sick patients and, ultimately, save lives.  I encourage everyone to continue to share all these messages on a consistent basis and to stay vigilant in your practices. It will surely have a great impact on our healthcare workers’ ability to take care of those who become very ill, and ensuring emergency beds, ventilators, and other resources are available when needed. Read more about “flattening the curve” here.

There are several reasons why, as Minnesotans, we can take comfort in our state’s ability to face the impacts of the coronavirus. This is not to say we aren’t facing an extremely challenging situation. But there are a few reasons why we can be assured of Minnesota’s level of COVID emergency preparedness, even in the face of this unprecedented healthcare crisis.

  • State Government. The choice of Governor Walz to issue a state of emergency is spot on, and the guidance and the work that Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is doing to conduct investigation, lab testing, and provide guidance is excellent. We can be proud and confident that Minnesota is treating this epidemic with appropriate speed and seriousness. I’ve known Jan Malcolm, the Commissioner for MDH for many years and along with Governor Walz, she is well-trusted in the healthcare community. Commissioner Malcolm has led us through some challenging and difficult times already and I have complete confidence in her ability to lead us now. Both she and Governor Walz have a history of transparency when it comes to providing up-to-date, factual information, that is delivered in a straightforward manner and not through the lens of politics. In these times when difficult decisions need to be made, they are using the best available evidence to keep Minnesotans safe and support the health care system, as they have done in the decision about school closing.
  • Organization. 70% of Minnesota’s physicians work in a larger system, compared to an average of 30% in other states. With fewer smaller entities and independent practitioners, our ability to evaluate data, create shared processes, and disseminate information in a systemic way is very strong. Plus, our strong relationships between care systems, and care systems and plans, helps us ramp up faster in times of crisis.
  • Knowledge. We are extremely fortunate to have world-class epidemiologists working at organizations like the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic. Our epidemiology departments here in this state include some of the best minds in the world, with experts like  epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, PhD, MPH are experienced in leading, not only locally and nationally, but in global crises like this current pandemic.
  • Technology. Partly due to our highly networked healthcare community, Minnesota has been able to implement the most advanced and sophisticated tools available in healthcare today, to robust patient portals, to high quality virtual care. For example, our commitment to working together to solve problems has enabled us to increase the use of telemedicine rapidly in Minnesota.
  • Collaboration. Minnesota’s healthcare community is a model of strong collaboration. Our health systems work together on many issues, not just emergencies. This history of collaborative effort means that the relationship between plans, providers and our state government are long term and very strong. Minnesota healthcare leaders place value on working together to solve the issues facing us today. That carries over into times of crisis like we’re experiencing now.

This situation will continue to change over the upcoming weeks.  We need to stay informed.  We need to remain flexible in the face of changes we will be facing in our daily routines.  And, importantly, we need to continue to support out healthcare workers and our leaders.  Stay healthy.

Dr. Claire Neely is the President and CEO of ICSI. Along with her work as a healthcare leader over the past three decades, Dr. Neely maintained a practice in Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine for over thirty years and has been a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics since 1995 and a board-certified Pediatrician since 1985.