The telehealth industry is growing across the continuum of care, spurred on by COVID-19’s impact on society. But COVID was only the catalyst. The access to broader care for patient populations that telehealth offers is one of its most salient benefits.
Hospitals should take note of the trend and look for ways to leverage telehealth solutions to extend the impact of their care, positively influence metrics, and prevent clinician burnout.
Telehealth Industry Trends
Since the initial outbreak of COVID-19 and its subsequent variants, more patients and clinicians are getting comfortable with delivering care virtually. Although numbers vary, Fortune Business Insights estimates the global virtual health market will reach more than $266 billion by 2026.
Forbes recently listed the following eight digital health industry trends moving into the future:
- Smartphones will be used to access clinical care.
- Digital health is becoming more mainstream.
- Care delivery will expand into the home.
- Financial ROI will be tied to telehealth quality metrics.
- Consumers will look for ‘one-stop shop’ digital health platforms.
- Chronic diseases will be treated and monitored virtually.
- Geriatric medicine will evolve by leveraging digital health.
- Prescription Digital Therapeutics (PDT) will become more mainstream.
Related Resource: What COVID-19 Means for Telehealth in the U.S.
Telehealth Within EM, HM, and ICU
Telemedicine is being utilized across the entire hospital continuum of care.
Telehealth in the ED will include NP/PA oversight to support admissions or transfers, virtual triage, and surge support capacity. That includes medical screenings completed by a virtual ED physician supporting sister facilities during peak volumes. These initiatives will help hospitals capture LWOTs and AMAs, resulting in net new revenue.
According to Felixia Colón, FACHE, Senior VP of eHealth Solutions, for SCP Health, virtual triage is one of the most critical elements.
“We’re trying to optimize virtual triage because it’s key,” she said in a presentation during SCP Health’s MLC21 conference. “If you move people through triage, then your throughput for the rest of the day can be deemed a lot easier.”
Colón cites surge capacity as another telehealth advantage, “If I’m at a facility that is not as busy, I can support the system facility that is receiving a number of med screenings, and I would get paid per patient for all the med screenings we do throughout the day,” she said.
Hospital medicine has been telehealth’s standard-bearer for years. Typically, that meant virtual hospitalists serving evening shifts as nocturnists. That’s changing.
Now, HM physicians can cover day shifts for rounding, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. They can also provide fragmented coverage for peak volumes, cover a specific position (e.g., Admissionist or swing shift), and even cover particular units, such as OBS or Cardiology.
Virtual hospitalists can also offer NP and PA oversight for admissions, transfers, and step-down decisions and be paired with an NP or PA to manage clinical units.
Critical Care is a newer area where telehealth is making inroads to augment different staffing models during all shifts, days (for rounding, surge, and backfill needs) and overnight. Board-certified virtual intensivists can perform on-demand vent management and support admissions transfers and step-down decisions.
Download This Free Guide: 3 Tips for Adding Telehealth to Your Surge Plans
Leveraging Telehealth as a Solution
With the ever-changing impacts and developments by COVID-19, health care needs to meet technology to advance care delivery. Telehealth is proving its worth as a viable alternative to in-person clinicians, providing solutions that positively affect metrics, staffing, and clinician burnout. By leveraging health care technologies to meet current demands, the health care industry will continue to improve patient experience, improve the health of populations, and reduce per capita cost of healthcare (The Triple Aim).
To give you an example of the impact telehealth can make on hospital metrics, we placed a tele-nocturnist in one of our HM sites and saw measurable increases in just a few months. These included:
- 3 percent increase in HM census;
- 8 percent increase in HCAHPS scores;
- 11.5 percent increase with completing “Discharges by Noon;”
- 30 percent decrease in patient transfers;
- 33.4 percent decrease in throughput time.
Impacting clinical staffing is another area where telehealth delivers added benefits. Artificial intelligence has become a critical component in telehealth, allowing for dynamic staffing to meet the changing needs of a flexing workforce. It supports surge planning and augments staffing needs rapidly to facilitate smooth transitions.
“I know many sites are trying to find boots on the ground — NPs and PAs and additional physicians,” Colón said. “At some point, we’re just challenged with trying to get people there in time and to work the extra shifts. However, if you leverage telehealth as part of a solution to approach your surge plan, then that clinician can be based anywhere in the United States.”
An especially significant benefit afforded by telehealth, particularly in the COVID era, is helping prevent clinician burnout by scheduling fragmented time virtually to offset peak volumes in EM and HM departments.
Virtual nocturnists can extend coverage beyond 12-hour shifts and provide bridge coverage with virtual shifts for onsite clinicians taking extended leave.
Telehealth is no longer just used for evening HM shifts. It now encompasses the entire continuum of care. If your hospital is trying to hit its metrics, you have staffing challenges, or are experiencing clinician burnout, SCP Health has a solution that can work for you.
Contact the SCP Health team for more information on how we can help with telehealth solutions.