CIOs looking to expand telehealth and make it part of the permanent workflow
Photo: Joseph DeVivo
During the last two years, U.S. hospitals and health systems have very quickly deployed a lot of telemedicine systems to take care of patients during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these systems were not planned in great detail, and not planned with a great deal of permanence in mind.
Telehealth took hold, though, and now healthcare provider organizations face a future of hybrid care – part in-person care and part virtual care. As such, providers are starting to give more thought to their telemedicine technology deployments.
CIOs and other health IT leaders are pondering how to implement systems that span the health system or hospital and enable physicians to pull the technology into their permanent workflow. Further, many executives are even considering how to extend the technology deeper within the hospital, into all departments.
To dig deeper into this pivot point in telehealth, Healthcare IT News interviewed Joseph DeVivo, president of hospitals and health systems at vendor Teladoc Health. We obtain DeVivo’s expert views on the subject to help health IT leaders better understand where telemedicine is at and where it may need to go.
Q. Hospitals’ technological needs shifted rapidly during the pandemic, and many quickly implemented patient-facing systems to meet the demand for video visits. You have said that many hospitals now are looking at permanent systems that are part of their workflow. Why is this?
A. What took place across the country in a matter of months was astounding and raised telehealth out of the basement for most health systems. What was once considered a “nice to have” on the use-case level quickly became a “need to have” on the enterprise level, throughout the entire patient journey.
And I think many are starting to recognize that successful, integrated telehealth solutions are more than just a doctor on a screen – when deployed holistically, they serve as a digital front door to the health system, provide a positive patient and clinician experience, and ultimately improve patient engagement.
We’ve also seen telehealth emerge as an enabler of risk management – something particularly of note as more health systems are increasingly looking to enter into risk-based contracts. Integrated whole-person care has proven to prevent and mitigate health risks, and virtual care technology can be used to improve care beyond the hospital setting.
Telehealth is no longer a differentiator or competitive advantage for hospitals and health systems – it’s a requirement, and one that will provide financial, reputational and care improvement benefits.
Q. How can CIOs and their teams embed system-wide telehealth technology that every physician can use that is seamlessly part of the permanent workflow?
A. Streamlining technology and administrative processes associated with providing virtual care through a modern, unified platform will not only simplify workflows but ultimately improve the care experience.
The unification of both elements under a single umbrella reduces the administrative burden on those using the platform, mitigating that dreaded “swivel chair” effect for clinicians, and strengthens communication and collaboration among the care team.
A single platform means fewer log-ins, screens and applications, and extended capabilities like viewing appointments, accessing current patient information, and integrating chats and video visits with colleagues.
The ability to access curated data delivered as actionable insights via that same platform is just as necessary. This is what enables hyper-personalized care when and where it is most needed throughout the patient journey.
Q. How can CIOs and their teams take that technology and extend it further within the four walls of the hospital? For example, in every department, or even on every TV screen in every patient room.
A. Equipping every patient room with telehealth capabilities and virtual access provides caregivers with immediate access to patients for a variety of use cases.
Virtual nursing units are a great example of this notion in action. About two-thirds of nursing tasks, such as medication verification and certain paperwork, are non-touch activities that don’t necessarily require the caregiver to be physically at the bedside.
By enabling every patient room in the virtual nursing unit with telehealth devices, bedside nurses can focus on delivering high-quality patient care by lifting the load of non-hands-on care and administrative functions. We have seen virtual nursing units able to discharge patients within two hours of receiving the discharge order nearly 20% more than the traditional nursing units.
Furthermore, some of these units are discharging patients before noon 44% more than their traditional nursing counterparts. These metrics help with throughput in opening rooms faster to take more patients and improving patient satisfaction because those patients have less time to wait in the ED for their room.
It’s also important to remember that patients often interact with individuals other than the clinician and caregiver in the hospital setting. In-room virtual care, often via the hospital room’s television or another in-room device, can open the door for others such as social workers, chaplains or family members to connect with the patient safely and efficiently while still hospitalized.
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Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.
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