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McCormick Place Converted into a COVID-19 Alternative Care Facility in Chicago

Epic, Rush University Medical Center, DuPage Medical Group, and the City of Chicago work together to close the gap between hospital capacity and the peak of the outbreak

Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center is being repurposed as an Alternate Care Facility (ACF) and will use Epic—the medical records systems used in the majority of Chicago’s healthcare facilities—to provide clinicians with immediate access to their patients’ chart. The new ACF, one of the largest in the nation, is designed to help address an anticipated surge in hospitalizations around the state related to COVID-19. It accommodates low to moderate acuity COVID-19 patients so that Chicago’s existing hospitals and healthcare workers can serve more severe cases. Epic is providing software and services at no cost.

“This coordination between public and private partners is on a massive scale,” said Leela Vaughn, an Epic executive leading crisis services. “Think of the coordination that goes into building a hospital—from constructing patient rooms, to rolling in beds, to sourcing devices and getting them set up. That typically takes months or years, but together we’re making it happen in a matter of days.”

The Chicago Department of Public Health contacted Epic in the early stages of their planning process. Epic’s team worked with CDPH to assess capacity and find a partner, and Rush University Medical Center joined the team.

“The decisions we make are driven by our I CARE values, which include innovation and collaboration. Our contribution to this effort puts those values into practice, working together with the community to provide patients the care they need.” said Dr. Shafiq Rab, senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Rush University Medical Center.

Many private and public partners are tackling the task of turning a convention space into a 3,000-bed ACF. One area of focus has been staffing the clinicians needed to support the hundreds of beds placed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the center’s 2.6 million square feet.

“Ensuring that clinicians have access to patient records is a critical component in creating an Alternate Care Facility that provides the full patient experience,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health. “Because patients will be transferred from acute care hospitals to McCormick, we want to ensure that clinicians at McCormick can seamlessly access their medical records to continue their care plans. We are pleased to be announcing this partnership with Epic that will allow us to build upon the robust system of care available throughout Chicago for COVID-19 patients.”

The ACF will operate under the direction of a veteran team of hospital administrators. Led by Dr. Nick Turkal, a former Advocate Healthcare CEO and newly named Executive Director of McCormick Place Alternate Care Facility, the team will be charged with mobilizing a unique clinical setting, overseeing its day-to-day operations, and ensuring the safety of all patients and workers under their care. Dr. Turkal will be joined by Martin Judd, who will serve as chief operating officer, and Dr. Paul Merrick will serve as clinical advisor for the facility.

“When Mayor Lightfoot’s office contacted me, I had two priorities: recruiting clinicians and getting Epic,” said Dr. Turkal. “Clinicians need critical information about their patients regardless of where in the city or which healthcare system they’re coming from—Epic provides that instantly.”

Phase One of the project created 500 10′ X 10′ patient rooms, furnished with beds and basic healthcare items, 14 nursing stations, and support rooms for medical supply storage, pharmacy, and housekeeping services. It will be the first operational section of the facility to use Epic. The full site will bring up to 2,500 additional patient rooms online by the end of the month.