After a surge of COVID-19 patients overwhelmed hospitals in Italy, New York and other hot spots last spring, Sentara Medical Group wanted be ready in case of a sudden rush at its facilities.
Enter Stephanie Zeiber, a Physician Assistant who balances an independent panel of 1,100 patients with administrative roles in risk adjustment and diagnostic coding accuracy.
In late March and early April, Zeiber spent up to 16 hours a day crunching complex data to estimate the number of providers who might need to move from outpatient to inpatient care at Sentara’s 12 hospitals throughout Virginia and North Carolina.
Using the COVID-19 Hospital Impact Model for Epidemics (CHIME) developed by Penn Medicine, Zeiber considered population, infection rates, and Sentara’s market share in the diverse regions served by each hospital.
Her mathematical analyses helped Sentara create a ready reserve pool of 366 outpatient and specialty providers who could quickly transfer to inpatient and intensive care units as needed. Hospital staff then led live virtual training on topics such as ventilator management, common comorbidities in hospitalized patients, and COVID-19 protocols.
“It was exhausting, but also very rewarding to be part of developing a high-quality plan,” Zeiber relates. “We know where to place experienced providers based on good data, not guesswork. We’re much more prepared.”
To date, Sentara has had to deploy just 30 pool providers. “But they’re still ready to go, which is important because they could still be needed at any time given trends in COVID cases and the approaching fall and winter,” Zeiber notes.
A Pennsylvania native, Zeiber had decided on a medical career by middle school, looking to combine her passions for science and helping people. She earned a nursing degree at Old Dominion University and spent three-plus years as a registered nurse in Sentara emergency rooms in Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
In 2015, Zeiber graduated from the Master of Physician Assistant program at Eastern Virginia Medical School and joined Sentara Family Medicine Physicians at Old Hampton. Seeing patients from infancy through geriatrics in-office or virtually, she is the type of provider who schedules home visits if she’s concerned about anyone’s safety.
“I love providing holistic care throughout my patients’ lives,” she says. “I try to really listen and also learn family dynamics to help guide my decision-making. Every individual is unique; a condition affecting one person doesn’t always present the same as in another. My goal is to build trusting relationships so patients can be vulnerable and honest with me, making it easier to provide treatment.”
As health systems move from volume- to value-based care, Zeiber also has stepped up as clinical leader for Sentara Ambulatory Services Division’s risk adjustment program, promoting evidence-based practice guidelines to improve outcomes and lower costs.
In partnership with information technology experts, Zeiber has developed office-based workflow and education programs to support specificity of coding and documentation for both acute and chronic conditions. She manages a team of coders and coaches who work with affiliated hospital and community-based providers in specialty and primary care.
Carefully capturing each individual’s conditions and co-morbidities greatly benefits patients and providers in the long run, especially in communicating and developing a true understanding of the complexity of disease states. “Additionally, you’re much more likely to receive the necessary payments to provide the best possible care,” she states.
Outside work, Zeiber enjoys running, biking, beach outings and spending time with her husband, Jeff, and their black Lab, Bear. She’s happy to be back to her regular roles at work, although she’s ready to pitch in again on COVID-19 tasks if necessary.
“I like to do a little bit of everything,” she says. “Mostly, I feel lucky that I can follow patients’ progress medically but also hear all about the milestones in their lives.”
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