Why telemedicine will be part of the post-pandemic healthcare ecosystem
Although the surge in telemedicine caused by COVID-19 has slowed, Baptist Health Kentucky continues to improve the services it offers, given patients’ enthusiasm for using technology, to help patients better communicate with their doctors. We recognize the need to ensure that the connection tools we use are reduced. rather than exacerbating health inequalities.
Brett Oliver, M.D., AMA Health System Program Member and Chief Medical Information Officer for Baptist Health, Kentucky, said:
“Patients have tasted this. Whether you’re a small clinic or an organization, it’s really easy to say ‘I’m glad it’s over,’ and move on,” Dr. Oliver said. “But I think it’s wrong.”
Non-traditional players in healthcare are showing patients what is possible with telemedicine and other remote digital health tools. So even if a doctor or health system doesn’t offer these options to their patients, many will find someone else to provide them.
“If the patient is choosing it, you should learn to play the game,” Dr. Oliver explained.
Telemedicine support is an integral part of the AMA Recovery Plan for American physicians. You took care of your people. It’s time for the country to take care of you. It’s time to rebuild. And we are ready for the AMA.
Telemedicine is important to the future of healthcare. As such, the AMA continues to proactively expand telemedicine policies, research, and resources to lead efforts to ensure the sustainability and fair payment of physician practices.
Baptist Health’s telemedicine trajectory matched that of many other healthcare systems. Prior to the COVID-19 public health emergency, as Dr. Oliver and his colleagues slowly ramped up their capacity, less than 0.1% of his visits to the system were virtual .
“Certainly, there were some emergency care video visits available pre-COVID,” he said. There was one designated (non-physician) provider Monday through Friday from 9 to 4. That was really the only availability.”
By the end of 2019, Baptist had a goal of rolling out video visits to primary care physicians who wanted to try video visits.
“Then when COVID clearly hit, it probably just hit through the roof like everyone else,” said Dr. We have reached our peak.
“We literally rolled out over the weekend what would take nine, twelve, fifteen months to test,” he said.
The pandemic has forced a delay in newly launched pilots seeking to use remote patient monitoring devices to reduce readmissions for patients with congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The pilot was discontinued so that the device could be used for COVID-19 patients.
Baptist Health’s telemedicine capabilities were enhanced by an $873,982 Federal Communications Commission grant that was part of the $200 million COVID-19 telemedicine program. The program was included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The grant helped pay for equipment to remotely connect critical care physicians and caregivers with COVID-19 patients in any of the system’s eight hospitals or in home-monitored hospitals . In addition, all Baptist Health Medical Group offices were equipped with video cameras and loudspeakers to facilitate video visits of patients.
In promoting telehealth, Dr. Oliver said Baptiste Health is fully aware of technology’s ability to mitigate and exacerbate health inequities.
“There’s already an injustice in that if you don’t have access to broadband, there are many things you can’t access,” he explained.
“It’s a concern for us because it undermines our plans to achieve equity,” Dr. Oliver said. “Some of the less resourced patients have bigger challenges.
Baptist Health’s work in this area includes advocating for ongoing payments for voice-only visits and working with vendors to try other technologies where high-speed broadband Internet access is not available. This includes creating cell phone “hotspots” for remote patient monitoring over cell phone connections and installing fiber optic internet “hubs” where patients can connect to doctors for video consultations. It involves creating a space where you can
Baptist Health is also working to avoid creating a digital divide with older adults who can mitigate the inequities exacerbated by transportation challenges.
“There is certainly a bell curve with 20 to 40 age groups using digital services more frequently, but patients over 100 are using video consultations,” Dr. Oliver said. .
The first video visit can be difficult regardless of the patient’s age. Therefore, Baptist Health will contact new users the day before their scheduled visit to walk them through the process.
“Once set up, they will have more users,” says Dr. Oliver.
Baptist Health offers three types of virtual visits. Scheduled video visits, unscheduled emergency care video visits, and electronic visits in which patients completed questionnaires to help assess their status on 25 different conditions.
“We found that 52% of those who had e-visited in the last 90 days had previously e-visited, which surprised me,” says Dr. Oliver.
“It exceeded my expectations,” he added. “We’ve only been using him for just under a year, so it’s great to have 15% repeat customers. It means that we may be at risk of growing rapidly.”
The AMA will support greater funding for telemedicine infrastructure, such as broadband internet and internet-connected devices, to improve health care equity, quality and cost of care, patient satisfaction, implementation science, and clinical relevance. We continue to advance research on the impact of telemedicine on
The AMA Telehealth Immersion Program offers a comprehensive curriculum to help physicians navigate the world of telemedicine alongside their peers through a series of webinars, interactive peer-to-peer learning sessions, and bootcamps.