Covid-19 Response from an IT Perspective

Covid-19 Response from an IT Perspective

Michael Ricci, Chief Information Officer, V.P. Information Services, Massachusetts Eye and Ear

Michael Ricci, Chief Information Officer, V.P. Information Services, Massachusetts Eye and Ear

Welcome to 2020, employee access 2.0, where just in time employee and patient screening and access at an acute care hospital during Covid, literally takes on life and death considerations. That sniffle could be life changing for the individual and the people they come in contact with (e.g., fellow employees, patients, visitors, other commuters, etc…). There has been a tremendous amount of work done over this past year to address the various issues the pandemic has created in all aspects of our work and personal lives. Within the healthcare IT realm, this translated into the rapid creation of new solutions. I believe the key to the success we have had in this area has been a result of great collaboration and great innovation.


Like many other organizations, we at Massachusetts Eye and Ear (MEE) a member of Mass General Brigham, worked closely with our fellow entities to try to ensure that everyone remained safe during these extreme times. MEE worked fast to develop a number of solutions to help address these needs over the past year. Some of our solutions were created entirely locally, due to our specific needs, others leveraged API’s which were made available to us from Mass General Brigham, while others were entirely created and provided to us by Mass General Brigham with input from a cross enterprise group of professionals. This type of collaboration in the past was not always easy. Each entity has slightly different approaches and needs when it comes to a number of areas of operations, even within the IT department. Since this challenge had a large impact on everyone equally, I was pleased to see the great team work and collaboration which quickly developed as the process to find solutions began. A team was quickly assembled, which encompassed resources from the various entities. We met for formal and informal brain storming sessions to identify long term and short term development initiatives. This group of innovative individuals (which I was honored to be part of) bounced ideas of each other and continued to build on each other’s thoughts and contributions. The innovations below are just a few which resulted from these type of cross institution brainstorming sessions and allowed for the rapid development of well thought out agile solutions. Over the months, as we as a country learned more, our approaches quickly adapted to the new directions and the enterprise as a whole benefitted greatly from the efforts.

"There has been a tremendous amount of work done over this past year to address the various issues the pandemic has created in all aspects of our work and personal lives"


One of the first areas of focus for innovation was to ensure that the workforce members who were arriving at work had the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to do their jobs and stay safe. To ensure we had the needed supplies, we developed a browser based tool which we launched on tablet computers at the entrances to the facility. The web page had the ability to read the host name of the device the user interacted with. We maintained a database dictionary of all the host names with additional attributes, such as building, entrance, etc. which we could use for business intelligence visualizations moving forward. To ensure employees wouldn’t have to touch anything and possibly contaminate a surface, we installed USB RFID readers to the tablets. An employee would enter the facility, scan their employee badge and take their PPE. The record of this was stored in a database with a date/time stamp of the interaction as well as the additional user badge information and location information from the device. This was a quick and elegant solution which gave us the ability to understand how much PPE we were consuming and from where it was being consumed. The largest hurdle we faced in IT was to associate the badge ID to the employee network credentials, which was needed to link to multiple systems and allowed us to visualize the information under the appropriate reporting structure (i.e., managers and directors).

Increasing Covid attestation compliance was an initiative where collaboration and building on the work of other groups within the system allowed for an innovative solution. We implemented a solution for when a network user would logs onto or unlock their computer, the system would query an API, which was developed by Mass General Brigham, to determine if the user completed their daily attestation prior to arriving to work. If the API returned a date and time greater than 18 hours of last completion or no result, we prompted the user with the web portal to complete their attestation for the day. Through monitoring of this information through our dashboards, we quickly found this helped to increase workforce compliancewithin the first day the tool was enabled.

Workforce attestation via mobile and/or remote device was another tremendously impactful solution. The tool allowed for the workforce to quickly and easily attest to the status of their health, prior to arriving on-site to start their day. Again, the ideas for this tool came from the cross sectional brain storming session, and was entirely developed by the skilled team from the enterprise. This is just another example of the great work being done to keep everyone safe.

Whether your organization is large or small, creating a diverse team to collaborate on representing dynamic areas of the organization will help to drive effective solutions. This approach will save both time and money, preventing stalled, incomplete workflows and development which could lead to unusable technologies. Collaborative, multi-layered involvement from the project’s onset, is truly the most expeditious and effective way to achieve any goal!

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