“Awesome sauce.” That’s how coworkers describe Mary Jean McKeveny, director of clinical innovation for the Gurwin Healthcare System.
Her role at the company goes well beyond researching and implementing the next big piece of homecare technology or innovative service model.
“Central to my belief about what makes a clinical program/service innovative is to determine if a program or service is empowering patients and caregivers with the knowledge, skills and confidence to care for their health and wellness needs and goals,” McKeveny said.
This belief has led her to create several innovative programs in her four years at the company, including a successful care transition pipeline.
Gurwin Healthcare System includes a range of programs for seniors and people with disabilities, including independent living, skilled nursing, home health and an adult day program. McKeveny primarily works with the system’s two skilled home health agencies. In creating the care transition model for the system, McKeveny focused on when patients were transferring their site of care.
She also works to ensure the transition is smooth and all of the patient’s needs are met. This can mean working with other home health agencies if a patient chooses a different agency to ensure their needs are met.
During the pandemic, McKeveny took her usual creativity for solving patients’ problems to another level. In 2020, she spearheaded an effort with a physician’s group at nearby Stony Brook University Medical Center to create a telehealth program for seniors who did not want to risk exposure to COVID-19. The program, Gurwin’s first foray into telehealth, included Bluetooth technology to monitor blood pressure, heartbeats, blood sugar, weight and oxygen levels, helping seniors stay connected to their care teams during the pandemic. The telehealth program has seen 300 unique visits.
And when McKeveny noticed that nursing students were having a hard time completing hands-on work due to COVID restrictions, she partnered with St. Joseph’s College Nursing School to create virtual clinical rotations with the health system’s skilled nursing facility.
McKeveny has also been instrumental in creating a virtual senior center for people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. Seniors are given a tablet and supported as they enroll in classes and take virtual tours.
Beyond that, McKeveny is constantly creating champions for the homecare programs at Gurwin. Coworkers say she talks to anyone who may interact with a resident to help improve patient care and staff morale.
“COVID-19 reminded us that innovation demands that we re-imagine and redesign new ways to support our frontline staff in caring for our most vulnerable patients and caregivers,” McKeveny said.
To that end, she has led meditation groups for stressed-out staff members, and also worked to help relieve tension as the company started a new independent living facility. Kennedy said it was like pressing a reset button, allowing people to connect with each other.
It’s all part of her love for helping patients remain at home.
“I loved every role I had in nursing but the moment I started working in home health care, I knew this was my passion and I would never leave it,” she said.