Bluestone Physician Services clinical leader Sarah Keenan has overseen rapid development of a COVID-19 testing system that has expanded from the assisted living communities the on-site medical practice serves to state and several metro county facilities.
Keenan is chief clinical officer and president of integrated care at Stillwater-based Bluestone, which offers physician-led health care services to 20,000 patients in nearly 600 group homes and assisted living communities in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia. Bluestone, which has 450 employees, describes itself as the country's largest provider of residential primary care.
Bluestone secured supplies to test its own patients for the novel coronavirus, Keenan said. But that didn't make sense if other patients in the same facility who weren't under Bluestone's care weren't being tested. Keenan's solution was creating Bluestone's Community Systemic Testing program, launched in April to test all staff and residents in sites it serves.
The program grew rapidly, Keenan said, leading the Minnesota Department of Health and Anoka, Dakota, Carver and Washington counties to contract with Bluestone in July to do testing in their sites.
Bluestone, which is doing up to 15,000 tests a week, has registered to offer COVID vaccinations to patients and staff at locations in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Florida, Keenan said. Bluestone will do vaccinations in the same counties where it already does testing.
In response to the pandemic, Keenan also helped lead Bluestone's switch from on-site to telehealth services, development of best practices for treating COVID patients, management of patient transitions between hospitals and residential sites. She also led rollout of Project Hope, which engages higher-functioning patients to counter anxiety and depression resulting from isolation during the pandemic.
Keenan, a registered nurse with more than two decades of senior care industry experience, joined Bluestone in 2011. She has a nursing degree from Montana State University and a master's in integrated health care management from Western Governors University.
Dr. Todd Stivland, Bluestone's chief executive, founded the company in 2006.
Q: What do your COVID-related responsibilities include?
A: I'm coordinating our testing and vaccination. Our normal course of patient care is teams of providers and care managers and care coordinators who go into assisted living and group homes on a regular schedule to deliver chronic care, serving high-risk patients. When COVID hit, we pivoted — it took us about three days — almost entirely to telehealth. That was a big lift.
Q: What prepared you to respond to the pandemic?
A: My background is building clinical programs. I came out of the long-term-care community, as director of nursing, and then ran some programs at Medica for a long time. Rolling up programs and bringing in the operations side, the clinical side and the billing side is comfortable for me. I would prefer not to do it at quite the speed we've done it this year but many parts of it were very gratifying.
Q: What has contributed to Bluestone's growth?
A: It's the patient-centered model of care, taking care of folks that aren't cared for well through traditional health care and the ability to take that model of care and apply it to wherever those patients are. We're really thought of as an assisted-living practice because that's where most of our patients are. But we also serve a lot in the group-home setting and folks in their homes. It's a very scalable movable model of care that can really grow.
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His e-mail is email@example.com.