Teamwork, in a relationship that’s often competitive, is how Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health are responding to COVID-19. As the pandemic threatens Utah’s people, we’re on the same team — and we’re working together in new, powerful ways to beat the same opponent.

© Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Dozens of people line up to be tested for COVID-19 at Intermountain Healthcare’s mobile testing unit at Park City High School on Saturday, April 18, 2020.

We’re rallying with each other, with state and local leaders and with other health systems and community organizations — most notably the Utah Department of Health — to help prevent and treat COVID-19 throughout Utah.

Here are some highlights of the unique and important partnership between Intermountain and U of U Health — and how people in Utah are benefitting:

Expanded lab services

Utah’s two largest lab services providers, ARUP Laboratories (which is owned by the U.) and Intermountain Laboratory Services, are working together with the health department to meet the state’s COVID-19 testing needs. Testing and results are provided quickly and accurately in urban and rural areas. ARUP is ramping up to process 7,500 diagnostic and 30,000 antibody tests every day.

Medication trials

Our researchers are working together in two clinical trials to test the effectiveness and safety of two drugs — hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin — to treat patients with COVID-19. Together, we are enrolling nearly 2,300 patients who are COVID-19 positive or suspected of being positive. The results will help the nation, and the world, determine whether the drugs fight the virus effectively and better understand the side effects of the medications. Clinical trials typically take months or years to launch. But our researchers began these important trials in just two weeks.

Postponing non-urgent services

U of U Health and Intermountain were some of the early health systems in Utah, working with other major health systems, to postpone nonurgent procedures in hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers. Our shared decision was based on recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reserve space in our facilities for COVID-19 patients and preserve personal protective equipment, ventilators, medicines and other important resources. Now, because the curve of Utah’s first wave has been flattened, and under guidance from local and national officials, both organizations are beginning to thoughtfully perform some of these procedures again.

Care for children

Services offered by Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital have always benefited from the close teamwork between Intermountain Healthcare operations and U of U Health physicians — and during the pandemic our partnership is even stronger.

Protective equipment

U of U Health and Intermountain are partnering with Latter-day Saint Charities and other organizations, as well as many generous volunteers from the community, to maintain and expand Utah’s supplies of personal protective equipment, including face shields, gowns and masks.

Curbside testing

We joined together to expand access to curbside COVID-19 testing for Summit County residents who were hit especially hard early in the pandemic. The site offers both screening assessments and testing without physician orders and is available to everyone with or without health insurance.

When the threat of COVID-19 ends, both of our organizations will benefit from our pandemic teamwork — and we’ll continue to find more ways to work together to benefit the community.

Marc Harrison, MD, is president and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare. Michael Good, MD, is CEO of University of Utah Health, senior vice president for health sciences, and dean of the School of Medicine.

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