Three Virginia health system executives participated in a virtual discussion about COVID-19 from a provider’s perspective. The hour-long program was part of the 16th Annual Virginia Health Care Practitioners’ Roundtable sponsored by the Virginia Bar Association’s Health Law Section Oct. 22. Here is one summarized excerpt from that conversation.
J. Corey Feist, CEO, University of Virginia Physicians Group
Paul Neimeyer, Chief General Counsel, VCU Health System
Lou Patalano, Chief Legal Officer, Sentara Healthcare
Jonathan M. Joseph, Christian & Barton
[Jon Joseph] How has COVID changed the way that your department works on a daily basis and the way you work with your legal staff?
[Lou Patalano] I've only been in my role for 10 months, so it's been a combination of adapting to a couple of different things, COVID being one of them. I inherited a new staff and they inherited a new boss, and we’re trying to figure out how best we can work together. And by the way, right at the beginning of that, let's send everyone home and try to figure out how to work remotely. The challenge is how to form trust and build a relationship with the staff while being the new guy, and working remotely, and trying to figure out how we can provide great client service. Because you also have to build trust and a relationship with clients while at the same time we're trying to build relationships with each other, which we're doing by computer, video and cellphone.
[Corey Feist] Although we're working in our own silos, the biggest challenge is how to stay in touch across the organization and with each other. We need to know what's going on so that we can anticipate needs from a legal perspective and help advise our customers and clients in real time. Overall I think it's gone very well. We have a daily huddle that occurs with our legal team and general counsel to monitor what's going on.
There have been a lot of changes from a regulatory perspective, such as various loan programs, and our legal team has had to jump into that dynamic early and stay as closely abreast with that work as possible so that we can make quick decisions that are aligned with the organization.
I would also just add that with the concept of moving to a daily huddle, we've been able to stay in very close contact. We had already moved to a virtual signature process for all of our contracts, and that process didn't really skip a beat. I will say organizationally, we have about 400 administrative employees that we sent home in about a 48-hour period and we really didn't miss a beat, which has been very, very helpful. And from a productivity standpoint we've stayed very current.
[Paul Neimeyer] We have dealt with a lot of the same issues, such as how to maintain relationships with the team and clients. One project affects another project, and many meetings are not necessarily driven by legal but legal may need to raise their hand and say, ‘there's a legal issue here.’ So how do you continue that remotely? Also, making sure that legal is involved on a call because again, the laws are changing constantly. This is especially true for HR matters so connection was key. In terms of how we've operated, we've gone to meeting every Friday to maintain connections.
Other conversations in this series:
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