Call it telehealth, telemedicine or virtual visits, one thing is clear: The COVID-19 pandemic has forever altered how we connect, not only with each other, but with patients as well.
What’s more, it’s here to stay. A recent survey of 1,300 physicians found that 90% of respondents were using some form of telehealth and 60% were planning to continue that practice after the coronavirus pandemic subsides.
Remote Patient Care Responds to Need
“As the pandemic began, it became clear that we would need to assess and treat patients remotely,” says Crouse Chief Information Officer Kim Rose. Through its integrated health network, Crouse expanded telehealth capability within our existing electronical medical record system. These telehealth services were already in use but not widely adopted, says Rose. “Providers, nurses and support staff were quickly trained and began to conduct visits immediately via this method for a portion of their patients,” she says.
At Crouse, remote technology has brought patients in recovery closer to their counselors during this time of social distancing. Crouse Addiction Treatment Services began telehealth visits with outpatients with little interruption to their care.
About 85% of counseling sessions are now delivered telephonically or using a videoconferencing platform, according to Monika Taylor, director of addiction treatment services. “Telepractice is saving lives by supporting those struggling with addiction during this time.”
Palliative Care nurse practitioners and Care Coordination staff have been meeting remotely with family members for patient care discussions. “While we are still in our infancy with the technology, virtual interaction is becoming a way of life and the standard of care in multiple areas across our health system,” says Rose.
Telehealth has also been deployed for patients in the hospital setting to limit unnecessary infectious disease exposure to clinicians and staff. Laptops on carts are supplied in the hospital’s Clinical Decision Unit and Emergency Department to allow patients to be seen by providers located elsewhere in the hospital or offsite.
Virtual Visits from Anywhere
“A major benefit of telehealth for patients is the convenience,” says chief operating officer and chief medical officer Seth Kronenberg, MD. “With the current technology, these visits can be done in the home, office or from a patient’s mobile device,” according to Dr. Kronenberg.
When clinically appropriate, telehealth at Crouse is used for chronic condition follow-up visits for established endocrinology, neurology and neurosurgery patients, including those who live in the North Country.
Looking forward, Crouse is working to enhance the overall functionality of telehealth, while expanding capabilities to other areas of the organization, says Rose. “We are redefining our growth strategy, balancing expense with patient demand, taking advantage of grant funding and considering future reimbursement potential.”
Crouse News is reported by members of our Communications Team.