Melissa Szkil

Oct. 13, 2022
A photo of Melissa Szkil
Melissa Szkil

Preparing for the next pandemic

Back in 2017, Melissa Szkil, an analyst on the clinical decision support team, could not have seen the COVID-19 pandemic coming, but she was preparing for it anyway.

Working with the infection prevention team under the leadership of Dr. Michelle Barron, senior medical director of infection prevention and control for UCHealth, Szkil had applied lessons learned from the Ebola scare to a project called Special Pathogen workflow in Epic.

The team developed a toolkit that was ready to be deployed in the event another infectious disease emerged. Well before the COVID-19 outbreak became the unprecedented pandemic we know today, the Special Pathogen project was in place. The toolkit includes a set of alerts with language about isolation that incorporates screening questions asked during appointment check-in. Questions initially pertained to travel but evolved to include questions about symptoms as the pandemic progressed.

“We had an infrastructure in place to capture the information you would need to identify who is at risk,” Szkil said. “We planned out some of those pieces in advance.”

Szkil says work done to plan and ready the toolkit kept UCHealth ahead of the game and agile enough to adapt to the ever-changing information associated with COVID-19. The toolkit was implemented with the right education, training and communication for users.

Szkil felt honored to be a part of the Special Pathogen project and to be prepared and ready to go when it was most needed.

“The COVID-19 project felt like the biggest moment in my entire career,” Szkil said. “It felt like all the things I’ve done over the years were all a bit of a preparation for taking on a challenge like this one. For the IT team as a whole, we were able to show off to anyone who was watching what we were capable of, which was a lot.”

IT leadership said this about Szkil: “She brought a level head, cool intellect, and creative problem solving skills to her actions and interactions, and she managed to shine as an extraordinary resource amidst an amazing crowd of outstanding analysts, clinicians and leaders.”

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About the author

Christine Freer joined UCHealth as a communications specialist in 2022. Prior to joining UCHealth, Freer served as the lead public information officer at the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County. She spent the last 11 years working in public health, program management, and health care marketing and communications. Freer earned a Bachelor of Arts in public health promotion from Purdue University and a Master of Public Health in social marketing from the University of South Florida. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband, Jim, and their German shepherd, Lincoln.