Sunny Eappen welcomes Brigham staff to the virtual forum.

Collaborating more closely across the Mass General Brigham (MGB) system presents an opportunity to significantly enhance the patient experience, explained Sunil Eappen, MD, MBA, the Brigham’s interim president and chief medical officer, during a virtual forum for all staff on June 17.

“Across MGB, we need to integrate our health care delivery so that we can provide the best experience for our patients with the easiest access,” Eappen said. “For the first time in nearly 25 years — from when Partners was first formed to now as Mass General Brigham — we are really making strides to accomplish this.”

The topic was one of many covered during the virtual forum, which also featured presentations on the Brigham’s new brand and logo, COVID-19 situation updates and policy changes, and the latest developments in diversity, equity and inclusion work at the Brigham and across the system. Staff also had an opportunity to ask questions on these and other topics.

Eappen emphasized that while working as a fully integrated system will reshape some aspects of how work gets done, the Brigham will retain its unique culture and values, as well as its international leadership in patient care, research, education and community outreach.

“As we do this work to integrate better and work better together, it will not change the Brigham in the sense that we’ll remain a phenomenal place to work — where we are kind and compassionate both to each other and to our patients,” Eappen said. “The quality of care that we deliver and the research and innovation we do won’t change.”

To underscore this work, Lori Schroth, interim vice president of Strategic Communication, introduced the new Brigham brand and logo, which were announced earlier in the day in a message to all staff. As one of the founding hospitals of Mass General Brigham, the new logo is embedded within the system’s brand identity. (Visit PikeNotes for additional information and resources.)

“This represents our vision for enhanced collaboration with our colleagues throughout the system, and it indicates to patients that we’ll be one system working together,” Schroth said.

COVID-19 Updates

The forum also featured a series of updates about the pandemic. Declining case counts at hospitals across the system and in the local community, along with high vaccination rates among staff and patients, recently prompted Mass General Brigham to announce several changes to the Visitor Policy, Facility Density and In-Person Gatherings Policy and Universal Mask Policy.

Julia Sinclair, MBA, senior vice president of Clinical Services and Critical Response Operations, reviewed the policy updates and shared some details about how these are being implemented locally— including the removal of capacity restrictions in elevators, the implementation of distanced and non-distanced dining areas, and the option for clinics to eliminate plexiglass distancing dividers in their waiting rooms.

Sinclair also took a moment to acknowledge that 505 days had passed since the Hospital Incident Command System was first activated in response to the pandemic and paused to reflect on the extraordinary teamwork that has taken place over that period.

“Together is where we are,” Sinclair said. “You’ve all contributed, and we all did it together. I’m so proud of what we have done and know that whatever we have to face in the future, we will all succeed.”

Nationally and locally, COVID-19 cases are dropping dramatically, with Massachusetts now averaging about 100 new cases per day — a far cry from the peak of 6,000 new cases daily, said Michael Klompas, MD, MPH, hospital epidemiologist. The Brigham now has approximately two to four patients hospitalized with COVID-19 each day.

While these gains can largely be attributed to vaccines, Klompas noted that the U.S. still has a considerable population of unvaccinated people. And with more contagious variants of the virus spreading throughout the world, including in the U.S., Klompas cautioned that it’s possible U.S. cases may rebound particularly in areas of the country with low vaccination rates.

Recent studies have shown, however, that mRNA vaccines, including Pfizer’s and Moderna’s, are highly effective against the new variants, Klompas added.

United Against Racism

Hospital leaders also provided an update on the United Against Racism campaign and local efforts at the Brigham to advance diversity, equity and inclusion.

Zara Cooper, MD, MsC, chair of the Executive Advisory Committee for Diversity, Inclusion, Health Equity and Community Health, emphasized that it is vital to integrate the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion into the Brigham’s broader goals and strategy.

“We recognize that this really is fundamental to everything that we do as an organization, a health system and a national and international leader. We can’t go forward until we start to deal with these things,” Cooper said. “It’s been an exciting journey thus far. We have a lot of work to do, but I think we’re started some important conversations. I’ve had the pleasure to be a member of the Board of Trustees, and I can tell you this is a conversation that’s happening at the highest levels.”

Paula Squires, MBA, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, senior vice president of Human Resources, highlighted the development of Know the Line, a systemwide program to prevent discrimination, sexual and other forms of harassment abusive conduct in the workplace. This program includes mandatory training called Common Ground for senior leaders, managers and staff and a new incident reporting platform that will be introduced this fall.

Squires also discussed the systemwide priority to increase diversity at the highest levels of leadership, including the Brigham board, as well as in administrative and faculty leadership roles across the Brigham. All new leadership positions at the Brigham have diverse search committees and new processes to improve recruitment, including a new “de-biasing” tool that is used to remove unconscious bias from job descriptions for these roles, Squires added.

“Diversity and inclusion really matter,” she said. “The key is diversity of thought. When we all bring our perspectives to the table — when we bring that thought together — it leads to better decision-making and better outcomes for our patients and each other.”

Another forum, focused entirely on the Brigham’s work in support of our United Against Racism initiative, is being planned for later this year and additional information will be forthcoming.