Two from Durham VA Health Care receive national awards

Friday, September 18, 2020
Dr. Goldberg and Dr. Kessler

The National HeRO Award, given by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), is the highest level of recognition available for a “high reliability organization” (HRO) within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

High reliability aims are those for a health system that strive to continuously improve processes. These seek to maximize safety and minimize harm to achieve the goal of ensuring every patient receives excellent care every time.

We are especially proud to learn that two of the eleven recipients recognized nationally for employing these highly reliability principles are faculty members of the Department of Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine – Kenneth Goldberg, MD, and Chad Kessler, MD. The awards event took place Friday, September 18, 2020, during a virtual ceremony by VA Secretary Robert Wilkie and VHA Executive in Charge Dr. Richard Stone.

Mobile app solves efficiency gap

Kenneth Goldberg, associate professor of medicine (General Internal Medicine) and DVAHCS Chief of Staff, received the 2020 Q2 National HeRO Award in the category for a Clinical Individual from a VISN or Facility.

Dr. Goldberg led a mobile app innovation that began early in the COVID-19 pandemic when trying to determine how best to make symptom screening efficient as people all came into the hospital at once. He asked his son who was sent home from college to develop a phone app to do the screening. A requirement was linkage to a code so the questions could be answered and the gatekeepers could tell quickly who to let through with tagging, and who to send for additional screening. Goldberg told us “the Durham crew incorporated that into our screening SOP at our 15 sites in our part of NC, and then exported this toolkit VA-wide.” This tool is currently in use at more than 100 VA systems and has passed 1.5 million uses so far.

As of a month ago, this was a kind of heat map of its use. Goldberg says he usually gets the updates on its use over the weekend and hasn’t updated the map recently, but this is the general idea:

Goldberg modestly tells us “It’s not ‘big science’ at all. But, it met a common need. My son of course is slightly disappointed that his only payment was a pizza. I did extend to him the thanks on behalf of a grateful nation. It may be the single most widely used such app in the country right now. So, net cost to taxpayers was zero.”

Learn about the announcement from the Durham VA here.

Accolades for Goldberg

From David Simel, MD, vice chair for veterans affairs in the Department of Medicine:

Dr. Goldberg, working closely with our hospital Director Mr. Paul Crews, has created a leadership team that has been second to none during the Covid pandemic.  They have put safety of our patients and employees as paramount. Dr. Goldberg’s simple technological innovation to speed the process for safe entry to the hospital is only one example of how he has leveraged the expertise available to him, to create an environment that lowers risk and enhances the confidence that employees feel protected.

From Ebony Boulware, MD, chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine:

This national recognition of Dr. Goldberg is just one of many impressive achievements he has accomplished, and it is a testament to the innovation and excellence he brings to veteran care here and across the nation.

"Lessons from the field...for the field" COVID in 20

Chad Kessler, professor of medicine (General Internal Medicine), consulting associatein surgery, and director for Emergency Medicine for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, initiated a VA-wide CME educational opportunity. 

As COVID-19 surged in New York, New Orleans, and Detroit Dr. Kessler and Mr. Josh Geiger, executive officer for emergency care, identified a need to quickly communicate lessons learned through first-hand field experience. The outcome was “COVID in 20” a biweekly virtual roundtable discussion consisting of Q&A and sharing practices and knowledge related to changing the COVID-19 environment. Each session shares lessons learned. Recordings, including handouts and Q&A, become available soon after the live event.

Engaging format and first in class for CME credit!

These trainings start with an uplifting song or video and always end with a guest speaker sharing their personal experience. This commitment to resilience and employee health during a stressful time is likely one of the reasons that keeps program attendance skyrocketing with more than 600 attendees at each session.

Here are a few recent topics:

  • "Let’s Take It from the Top – Dr Stone Joins C20” featuring Richard A. Stone, MD, Executive in Charge
  • “It’s a Hard Knock Life - Make it Easy with The at Home Monitoring App ANNIE” featuring Brian Vetter, Management Program Analyst from the Office of Connected Care
  • We are Family! VBA and NCA Join us in the fight against COVID-19
  • Infectious Diseases Got You Stumped? VA Brings the Experts to Everyone

Future topics will include telehealth emergency management and treating COVID patients at home.

Accolades for Kessler

From Dr. Simel:

Dr. Chad Kessler has combined humor and music with information and education to keep VA clinicians informed.   Dr. Kessler quickly adopted to video conferencing to create Covid updates that had rapid uptake across the Nation.  His ability to stay upbeat while delivering really important content resulted in a highly informative Covid in 20 show that became habit forming, so that hospitalists and emergency medicine physicians looked forward to their daily dose of Kessler and team.

From Dr. Boulware:

This national recognition reflects the tremendous importance of Dr. Kessler’s work to improve the health of our patients during this pandemic.