At its core Alameda Health System (AHS) is committed to delivering patient-centered care to the most vulnerable. This unwavering commitment was recently demonstrated by the systemwide response for MPX testing. Under the coordination and leadership of Sunny Lai, MD, associate medical director of the Adult Immunology Clinic at Highland Wellness Center, AHS was able to quickly develop effective and efficient protocols to test patients for MPX.
Dr. Lai shared that the journey began in late June 2022 during their morning huddle when Medical Assistant Teresa Hernandez reported that they had a patient presenting with MPX symptoms including a fever and painful rash. “We had a small team that day including Teresa and Ambulatory Nurse Yanling Hu, so we had to quickly strategize and develop a treatment plan for a patient who was understandably anxious and confused.”
Dr. Lai began reviewing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health advisories on MPX, while Hu and Hernandez were responsible for coordinating the necessary supplies. “It was truly a team effort inside and outside of the exam room,” said Dr. Lai. “The key was staying constant communication to determine the right steps to take as we moved forward,” said Dr. Lai.
The team’s first step was navigating the process to get the patient tested for MPX by contacting the County for approval. This included filling out a series of request and documentation forms and then finally gathering the specimen collection kits for testing. The patient tested positive for MPX, and it took several weeks for the patient’s rash to go away along the other symptoms but has fully recovered.
The entire testing process took over three hours. “From this patient experience, we knew we had to streamline the process for future patients, clinic staff, and the system at large,” said Lai. “The medical assistants, nurses, and clinic pharmacist all stepped up to make it happen.”
Every week the team began making improvements to the MPX testing process. The nurses and medical assistants created testing kits containing everything a provider may need including swabs, lubricants and blood drawing supplies. The nurses also put protocols in place to draw blood in the exam rooms instead of sending patients to the lab to maintain infection control. In addition, all the necessary reporting forms were ready and accessible to save time.
Finally, spreading these best practices throughout the Immunology Clinics at Highland and Hayward Wellness Centers was facilitated by nurses and medical assistants training their colleagues in MPX testing. Dr. Lai shared that their dedication, leadership and resourcefulness are admirable and undoubtedly contributed to the overall success of the new testing process.”
The Adult Immunology clinics at Highland Wellness Center and Hayward Wellness Center provide primary care services to all AHS patients They are staffed by interdisciplinary teams that include physicians, nurses, medical assistants, specialty pharmacists, social workers, data analysts, and community health outreach workers.
“The MPX epidemic is critically impacting our LGBTQIA+ communities and as a team we feel privileged to be able to provide specialized testing and care to those most vulnerable to the MPX virus,” said Dr. Lai.