COVID-19 Invokes Transformative Telemedicine in Hospitals Nationwide

By now, everyone has seen the impact the Coronavirus pandemic has had on both a national and global scale. From the toll it has taken on patients, to healthcare providers, to the system as a whole, particularly in the United States.

And although COVID-19 continues to accelerate history and will unquestionably be ingrained in our minds as a horrific event for years and even decades to come, it has been a catalyst for significant change, whether embraced immediately or not. Thankfully, the majority of these systemic changes and advancements have been for the better, especially in the healthcare industry.

Keep reading to learn how the Coronavirus pandemic has invoked transformative telemedicine in hospitals nationwide.

Increased Use of Telehealth/Telemedicine Services

One of the most notable advances the Coronavirus pandemic has been responsible for is the use of telehealth and telemedicine services. In a matter of months, telehealth and telemedicine went from investments that were nice to have (if your hospital or practice had the budget for them) to necessities.

What was once complicated and difficult to get institutions to invest in is now an essential feature of budgets everywhere thanks to extensive reimbursement programs and changing business models. Before the onset of COVID-19, many hospitals and practices were operating with reactive business models. Now, thanks to added emphasis on the importance of being proactive, telehealth and telemedicine have gone from very limited subsets of the population to anyone with an internet connection or cellular service and a device.

There are different types of telehealth and telemedicine being used as well. For patients who continue to seek in-person treatment, tele-triage has proven particularly impactful on improving efficiencies and more effectively managing volume fluctuations. Tele-triage substantially reduces the time to provider and allows patients to receive a swift direction on how to proceed to the next step in their care journey, directly impacting the reduction of LWOTs. Tele-triage will undoubtedly lead to transformational changes in ED operating structures around the world. In addition to tele-triage, there are also direct-to-consumer telemedicine companies facilitating a stay-in-place option that accommodates the patient’s risk aversion to coming to an ED and/or satisfies their need for greater convenience. Consequently, higher acuity patients experience lower wait times and have higher levels of satisfaction.

The field of Community Paramedicine has experienced significant transition as a result of the evolving legislative and statutory conditions. HHS’ Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation is recognizing the value of these programs by creating new payment models. This includes supporting first responders within the Emergency Medical System for care delivered via telemedicine, even if patients are not taken to a hospital. These changes will challenge hospitals to deploy creative new avenues using mobile care teams and Emergency Medicine clinicians to support the needs of their patients and communities.

Telehealth will absolutely outlast the Coronavirus pandemic, as greater than 80% of doctors say they “expect to use telehealth at the same or greater” levels than they are currently, amidst the pandemic. And while it isn’t expected to completely replace traditional in-office visits, the majority of doctors anticipate that it will complement in-person visits moving forward, as patients have embraced it. Rather than waiting for an issue to arise and then scheduling an appointment, both providers and their patients are seeing value in proactively managing their health and health issues.

Innovative New Technologies Used

Prior to the onset of the pandemic, many doctors and healthcare workers knew that innovative technology was essential to their practice, but their hospitals and practices often lacked these valuable components. As the demand and need for virtual care continued to grow, healthcare workers everywhere began embracing innovative new technologies like electronic patient health records (ePHRs), personalized mobile apps that allow patients to request appointments, and chatbots providing everything from customer service to the potential for minor diagnoses.

Another innovative technology that has transformed hospital environments and patient care is Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI has many different applications in healthcare, but perhaps the most important is how it can positively impact the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS). The HCAHPS is a standardized survey tool that’s used to measure patients’ perception of the care provided using multiple choice questions. This survey is a critical part of the patient experience, because as patient satisfaction increases, so too, do quality and compliance. Data from HCAHPS surveys is used to improve quality of care and to give patients the ability to compare hospitals so they can make informed decisions regarding their care.

New AI technology allows hospitals to get feedback on perceived patient satisfaction in real-time, using aggregated online reviews. By leveraging AI and other innovative technologies like Natural Language Processing, hospitals can have access to patient satisfaction data that wasn’t previously available. They can then use this data to better determine how patients actually define quality care.

Added Focus on Attracting and Retaining Top Talent

The Coronavirus pandemic has also had a profound impact on how hospitals and other healthcare facilities prioritize attracting and working to retain talented professionals, or don’t. Over the last few months, we’ve seen examples of healthcare workers throughout the nation exceeding expectations in order to provide the best care possible for patients. Work that often went unrecognized by the general public is now being acknowledged far and wide—with “Thank You” signs displayed on lawns in rural areas and cities alike.

While it may take time for hospitals and other healthcare facilities to truly reevaluate their hiring practices, the pandemic has brought to light the importance of attracting and retaining talent and addressing burnout and other issues healthcare professionals may face throughout their careers. Physician staffing and management companies can also add value by attracting and retaining talented physicians on behalf of hospitals, allowing their leaders and staff to focus on what’s most important: patients. While some management companies perform better than others, Keystone Healthcare Partners boasts a 98% retention rate for all clinical staff.

From Turbulence to Transformation

The pandemic, while unexpected for all and devastating for most, has undoubtedly affected many areas of the healthcare industry. From patient care, to operations, to enhanced safety protocols for staff and patients alike. All of these advancements are only proof that, in some cases, crises can actually encourage positive outcomes and improvements. However you choose to handle all these transformations, always ensure that you’re considering the needs of those most important: your patients.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to efficiently deliver high-quality, patient-centered care in and to allow your hospital to thrive in the current health care environment, Keystone Healthcare is ready to help. Contact us today.