Threads of Light: Reflecting on the Past Year
Written By Farzad Mostashari and Mat Kendall
This Friday, one year ago, was the last time our Aledade team was in the office together.
Today, that office space is dark and empty. Magazines from a year ago are sitting on the coffee table by the door. The desks across the office still hold various books and trinkets where our team members left them a year ago, probably thinking at the time that we’d be back in a few weeks to collect them.
It’s a somber reminder of this past year. Of all that we’ve been through. Of all that we’ve lost.
It’s hard to wrap your mind around more than half a million lives. We, as a nation, have not had to wrestle with that scale of suffering and loss in more than a generation. And we’ve had to deal with it mostly alone - isolated with only our immediate family or friends, consigned to grieving six feet apart or through our computer screens. Together, we have been through so much. And here at Aledade, the suffering and service that have defined this year brought us together and bonded us.
Half a million lives means that we have all been touched. At Aledade, we work with thousands of primary care professionals on the front lines as they care for their community. It has been dangerous work. We know physicians that spent time in the ICU. Practice managers who had to be intubated. A husband lost to the virus. Our staff in nearly every state across the country shared stories of themselves losing friends and family members.
We pride ourselves in not just working with physicians, but in being a part of the communities they serve - being present. So this year, we have felt the pain of those communities, too.
Like so many people and organizations around this country, we channeled that pain into service. When we heard that practices across the country couldn’t find personal protective equipment for them and their staff, we navigated international supply chains and brought more than a million dollars in PPE to practices in Aledade ACOs. When we heard that primary practices were seeing plummeting in-person visits as their patients stayed home, we quickly integrated telehealth into the Aledade app and brought hundreds of practices online in a weekend. When we heard from practices that the sudden drop in patient visits meant they’d have to lay off staff or risk shutting their doors, we helped them navigate the wilderness of financial aid programs and advocated to policymakers for more funding and support for primary care. And today, as this historic vaccine rollout speeds up across the United States, we’re speaking out that policymakers need to rebuild trust by engaging community-based primary care practices.
Through all this work, we were humbled, inspired, and motivated by the commitment to service that Aledade ACO practices showed. They found new ways to care for patients in parking lots and with porch-front home visits. They worked extra hours to reach patients who they hadn’t heard from. They shared their stories, relentlessly communicated public health guidance, advocated for equity, and partnered with groups across their community to ensure as many people as possible stayed safe and stayed healthy. Our partner physicians gave us all so much hope.
Every day they reminded us that, as dark as this year was, there were also so many bright spots. We saw that value-based care programs were resilient in the face of a once-in-a-century pandemic. We realized we have the tools and capabilities to promote public health in new ways. We found out that the relationship between primary care and patients can be maintained over the phone and by video - not just in person. And we learned that independent practices are resilient even under extreme and unprecedented pressure.
Today, our office is still dark and quiet. But the threads of light binding us to our practices, and one another, have never been brighter.
One of our favorite poems says, “the thing worth doing well done/ has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.” Health care is that thing worth doing well done, and that has only become more clear and more evident this year. As we mark one year into this pandemic, we do it with an even deeper commitment to empower the people on the front lines of our health care system and to help them build a new one that works better for patients, for doctors, and for all of us.