Ob/Gyn Dispatches During COVID-19: Daniel Hill

Each day during the COVID-19 crisis, we'll share an update from a member of our team in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Today's note is from Daniel Hill, IT support in the Department of Ob/Gyn at NYP/CUIMC.


Daniel Hill, on his way to provide IT support for the Ob/Gyn outpatient practice at 51 West 51st St.
Daniel Hill, on his way to provide IT support for the Ob/Gyn outpatient practice at 51 West 51st St.

I wanted to share my perspective as an IT person during this crisis. Although not on the front lines, I have worked along with the rest of our team to contribute to the department during these unprecedented times. 

As a member of the IT team, we always have one goal: to give the department the tools necessary to accomplish the work that must be done, and then to provide on-going support for those tools. That goal applies whether the work is being done on site, at an outpatient facility, or elsewhere. 

In the weeks leading up to the shelter-in-place order, our team discussed and determined the best way to help everyone access the necessary systems, based on factors like our available system resources, and whether staff were utilizing Medical Center issued equipment or personal devices. We set up a process for personal devices to access physical desktops in limited situations, ensuring security standards were met. The biggest component of this was to keep our staff connected without negatively impacting our available infrastructure. If our infrastructure was overtaxed, no one would be able to work effectively. 

In the days leading up to the shelter-in-place order, our team focused on helping everyone get all manner of devices set for working from home, like laptops that had not been used recently, as well as personal devices that had never been used for work. As we helped staff, we refined our processes to help as many people as possible in the limited time available. 

Once we began working from home, we fielded calls with all sorts of questions, helping staff adjust to working in a new environment. We spoke to users that had only worked one way for many years, but now had to think in new parameters about their workflow to accomplish their necessary tasks using a completely new set of tools. 

For instance, a Remote Desktop within Citrix is not a physically accessible desktop PC – but it is a working environment which can be used securely from a personal computer for almost everything (except not Zoom calls!). To add to the complexity and ensure security, we have two-factor authentication using Duo Mobile, with four different Duo Mobile passcodes required to connect to all our different systems (one from NYP for Epic, CUIMC for VPN, CUIMC Ob/Gyn for Citrix, and Columbia University). 

As complex as our variety of systems can be, it was encouraging to hear about our colleagues finding creative ways to work from home. We have received calls from a staff members trying something advanced to continue working effectively (shout-out to those who connected their laptops to their TVs to use as a second monitor, or asked for help setting up their personal printers!) as it reminds us that technology can help us accomplish more than it has ever before. 

Now that we’re beginning to look at the other side of this situation, our team is discussing how we will continue to support our colleagues as everything slowly ramps back up. We will, of course, provide the same level of support, but we also want to be able to help our department to work effectively from anywhere, at any time – ensuring that everyone has the knowledge and tools in order to do so. 

The most important thing I’ve taken away from this experience is how the patient-facing team has truly shown phenomenal strength, courage, and fortitude. In a world where  many only look out for themselves, they have sacrificed time and connection with their families to continue working during this crisis. In doing so, the members of our department who continue to work with patients during this time have reminded me that there are still people out there willing to sacrifice their comforts for the well-being of others. Through those efforts, they have become a wonderful inspiration to me of what human resilience can be. 

Daniel Hill