COVID-19 Email ‘Hotline’ Serves as Source of Truth for UPMC Employees

By: Taylor Andres

For the past year, the world has been living in uncertain times. Information and guidance about COVID-19 has changed constantly, leaving many people in a state of confusion. Fortunately for UPMC employees, the answers to their most pressing questions can be found by sending a simple email.

Using email accounts that are essentially a “hotline” managed by members of the UPMC Wolff Center, UPMC staff regularly ask questions about all aspects of the pandemic and COVID-19 vaccines.

Deborah Pesanka

The team at the Wolff Center, UPMC’s quality improvement hub, then sorts through employees’ issues and questions, connecting them with clinicians, human resources and other sources of information.

“We received our first question on February 17, 2020. It was regarding the closure of schools, and an employee expressed concerns over childcare,” said Deborah Pesanka, senior improvement specialist at the Wolff Center and one of the people who manages the COVID-19 email accounts. “We supported this employee with information about activating emergency preparedness plans during the pandemic and flexible work arrangements. We also connected them to a Yammer group that links employees with one another to help find childcare options and support.” Yammer is an internal social media platform for UPMC employees.

In response to questions from two email accounts, the Wolff Center team has answered over 13,000 emails since last year.

Rachel Troyan

“The focus has always been to keep the bus moving,” said Rachel Troyan, a project manager for the Wolff Center. “We’re giving people answers during such an uncertain time and serving as the conduit to clinical experts, human resources and others. The email accounts have also been a great tool for addressing rumors. People read things from social media or hear conflicting information from family members, and we’re the source to provide the clarity our employees need.”

The questions that come into the COVID-19 service accounts impact the type of information shared with all UPMC employees through weekly leadership updates and the employee intranet, known as Infonet.

“Within UPMC, Infonet has served as a source of truth for employees throughout the pandemic,” said Troyan. “Our partnership with UPMC’s internal communications team has been so important. I’m constantly collaborating with them.”

For many UPMC employees, Wolff Center staff provided peace of mind and comfort.

“A lot of people emailed us with extremely specific or personal questions and concerns,” explained Pesanka. “They would ask things like: ‘Is it safe for our family to travel to the beach in July if we cook in and avoid restaurants?’ or ‘My family member died, and I need to go out of the country for her funeral. I need a COVID-19 test to travel, where can I go?’”

The COVID-19 email accounts will continue to exist as long as there is a need for employees to access information related to the pandemic.

To learn more about quality, safety and innovation at UPMC, visit the UPMC Wolff Center website.