National Hospital Association Honors UTMB for COVID-19 Work


GALVESTON, Texas – America’s Essential Hospitals has recognized the University of Texas Medical Branch for its work to craft and continuously maintain a compendium of expert interpretive commentary regarding SARS-CoV-2 testing and a novel supporting technology that applies these comments and delivers them to physicians and patients.

America’s Essential Hospitals, which represents more than 300 hospitals that care for low-income and other marginalized people, recognized UTMB with a 2022 Gage Award for COVID-19 Innovations. The association presented the award June 23 during a luncheon at its annual conference in Boston.

“Throughout a pandemic where more seemed to be unknown than known, the UTMB pathologists created over 170 different COVID test interpretations to help primary care physicians better understand and explain COVID test results to patients in straightforward, easy-to-understand language,” said Dr. Tim Harlin, executive vice president and CEO of UTMB Health System. “The pathologist’s efforts were timely, patient-centered and ground-breaking. It is a great example of how UTMB scientists upheld our mission during extraordinarily difficult times.”

The Gage Awards, named after association founder Larry Gage, honor and share successful and creative member hospital programs that improve patient care and meet community needs. Gage Awards in the COVID-19 Innovations category highlight innovative practices, projects, and programs related to the coronavirus pandemic. This temporary category captures creative solutions for the current or potential future pandemics within the hospital or in its community.

“The Gage Award from American Essential Hospitals signifies UTMB Health’s commitment to its mission to best serve the need of the community that has trusted us for more than 130 years,” said Dr. Gulshan Sharma, chief medical and clinical innovation officer for UTMB Health.

UTMB’s project delivered patient-level guidance throughout a rapidly evolving pandemic. Moreover, it also kept providers synchronized in their approach to ordering and understanding COVID testing. This is important for care equity because disparities in demographics and socioeconomic factors often correlate with locations where medical care is received. UTMB’s goal was to ensure that there would be no clinical areas where variable COVID-related care was delivered.

UTMB continues to monitor the number of cases interpreted every day, the diversity of clinical sites where these interpretations are delivered, and the prevailing opinion of patients and providers as to whether these interpretations are clinically useful. This project has driven significantly improved COVID outcomes and established UTMB as a destination where patients can receive expert guidance regardless of where or how they interact with the health system.

“Even with the challenges and heavy costs of COVID-19, our hospitals found ways to innovate, improve care, and target upstream factors that affect health,” says Kalpana Ramiah, DrPH, MSc, America’s Essential Hospitals’ vice president of innovation and director of Essential Hospitals Institute. “We are proud to recognize UTMB and our other awardees for their dedication to reaching marginalized people and overcoming barriers to care.”