Telemedicine: Connecting Patients and Physicians Using Technology

Telemedicine: Connecting Patients and Physicians Using Technology

COMPILED BY JOHN JOSEPH PARKER, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

WHILE “THE TOTAL TIME involved in a physician visit often involves several hours, including travel time, waiting time and completing paperwork, a 2017 Medscape survey found that 56 percent of all physician visits included 16 min­utes or less of actual face-to-face time with patients.” This analysis, as cited by First Stop Health, included visits to spe­cialty and primary care physicians. To address this issue and the value of time, many healthcare leaders are incorporat­ing telemedicine or telehealth into their patient care portfolios. COMMERCE asked some of New Jersey’s top health­care CEOs to discuss what they are offer­ing to connect doctors and patients using the Internet, mobile devices and technology.

Atlantic Health System By Brian Gragnolati, President and CEO

Telehealth services support our mission of reaching patients wherever they are—even beyond the walls of our facilities. Atlantic Health System was the first in the nation to use portable TeleStroke technology in ambulances for routine pre-hospital assessment of stroke patients. This lifesaving technology has reduced critical “time to treatment” by 15 minutes. We also offer on-demand virtual visits, connecting patients with our caregivers anytime, anywhere through any mobile device. Virtual visits also make it easier to access care from more remote locations and receive follow-up care in specialty areas. Atlantic Health System offers remote patient monitoring for individuals with chronic conditions like COPD and con­gestive heart failure. Viewing patients’ vitals in real time empowers clinicians to provide intervention when it is needed the most.

CarePoint Health By Natasha Deckmann, M.D., CEO

CarePoint Health utilizes multiple telemedicine plat­forms in our hospital Emergency Depart-ments via the CarePoint Connect app and for urgent care visits through our CarePoint Health Medical Group. CarePoint Connect offers virtual visits one to two days after a patient is dis­charged from our emergency room for follow-up, to review tests and sched­ule additional appointments. The pro­gram has documented more than 7,000 video visits—resulting in patients sched­uling follow-up visits ranging from car­diology to weight loss to mental health counseling. Building off the success of CarePoint Connect, we piloted this win­ter a unique program leveraging new technologies to the triage portion of emergency care, helping load-balance resources in real-time among separate Emergency Departments across a multi-hospital system. The virtual providers would see patients simultaneously across sites thereby addressing clinical needs more fluidly. While still in devel­opment, the goal is to lower wait times and improve patient satisfaction. Our Medical Group physicians also use telemedicine for urgent care exams, whether the patient is at home or traveling. This program allows patients to have a video visit with their trusted doctor wherever they are and receive immediate care. There are currently plans in development for expanding this technology for non-urgent care as well.

Hackensack Meridian Health By Robert C. Garrett, CEO

Telemedicine is a major advance in healthcare, and we are dramatically expanding its use at Hackensack Meridian Health. We have connected with more than 5,000 patients through telemedicine in the last two years and 15 percent of our physicians are using telehealth, a percentage that will dou­ble in the next year. We use telehealth in many areas: physician offices, urgent care centers, pediatrics and to monitor joint-replacement patients. In pediatrics, we helped create the Pediatric Psychiatry Collaborative, which screens and diagnoses children with behavioral health needs throughout New Jersey and connects them with effective treat­ment. Telehealth is a big part of the program and it is expanding. A dearth of psychiatrists means patients can wait for care, but telemedicine provides faster access. New Jersey received a fed­eral grant this year of $2.3 million over five years to enhance pediatric behav­ioral health care through telemedicine and education programs. Through our merger with Carrier Clinic, we are dra­matically expanding telemedicine in behavioral healthcare. We will open the state’s first behavioral health urgent care center this year which will use telemedicine. Additionally, Carrier is preparing a pilot program that includes facial recognition technology to enhance diagnosis in behavioral health patients via telemedicine.

Holy Name Medical Center By Michael Maron, President and CEO

Holy Name Medical Center’s Primary Stroke Center utilizes telemedicine to save lives and help prevent permanent disabilities from stroke. When every second counts, our “telestroke” technology has reduced vital door-to-needle treatment time for a stroke from an average of 60 min­utes to 45 minutes. Within five minutes of a patient entering Holy Name’s Emergency Department, the patient is connected via technology with a specially trained stroke management neurologist so there is no waiting time. The physician works with Holy Name’s acute stroke team to evaluate the patient during what resembles a high-tech Skype call. A CT scan is done, and if appropriate, the patient is treated with a clot-busting medication or mechanical retrieval of the clot. Research shows that the faster a clot is treated…the more function can be preserved in a patient. Within the Holy Name Medical Partners network, pri­mary care physicians use telemedicine apps on their mobile devices to connect with patients and interact with them face to face from places all over the United States. Holy Name Home Care uses remote telemonitoring to connect high-risk patients, such as those with congestive heart failure and other chronic illnesses, with home care nurses and care managers. They use wireless equipment to check vital signs and review dashboard data to assist in med­ical decision-making, and, if necessary, to refer patients to their physicians or the ED.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey By Kevin P. Conlin, Chairman, President and CEO

As healthcare evolves, the needs and expectations of consumers are also evolving. Today’s health consumers want the kind of convenience and quality they’ve come to expect from their digi­tal shopping, entertainment and ride-sharing experiences. Our members rely on Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey to help them navigate the healthcare system and connect them to the right care at the right time in the right setting. To achieve that, Horizon envisioned everything a per- son might need in order to achieve their best health and is pulling it together in a digital assistant that delivers a seamless, one-stop user experience. The new Horizon Blue app empowers members to not only manage their benefits, see their claims, or find a doctor, but helps them sched­ule an appointment, chat with a nurse, or have a video consult with a doctor in real time 24/7. Going forward, we will be layering on additional capabili­ties and integrating other well-known digital service platforms to deliver a highly coordinated and intuitive set of tools that empower our members, enhance their healthcare experience, and continue to set the standard for what a healthcare app should be.

RWJBarnabas Health By Barry H. Ostrowsky, President and CEO

RWJBarnabas Health has various systems in place for remote patient monitoring, virtual patient visits and patient texting appli­cations to evaluate and monitor patients off site and via mobile devices. Remote patient monitoring equipment, pre-loaded with patients’ medical informa­tion, is primarily used for individuals with congestive heart failure and chron­ic lung disease. The observations are sent in real time to a caregiver portal to enable remote monitoring and a virtual visit through the device, if needed. Another technology, used in patients’ homes, enables urgent care tele-visits to our employees and to the community. More, a patient texting application, sends patients their discharge instruc­tions and health information directly to their personal mobile device, which they can download or send to their primary care physician. Telemedicine is used intra-hospital between a doctor and patient/doctor at another of our hospi­tals for specialist expertise in thoracic oncology, stroke, behavioral health, and ED pediatrics, among others. In the future, RWJBarnabas Health will contin­ue to grow the telemedicine program to enhance the reach of healthcare. The goal is convenience for patients— meeting patients where they are—and enabling faster treatment, access to spe­cialists and, in many cases, the ability to evaluate immobile or underserved patients.

Trinitas Regional Medical Center By Gary S. Horan, FACHE, President and CEO

Currently, Trinitas Regional Medical Center operates with a growing number of techno- logical advantages. For instance, we have implemented an application that significantly benefits both patients and providers by enabling real-time remote communication. InTouch Health provides us with Telestroke, which facili­tates communication from patients in the Emergency Department to neurol­ogists off-site. The doctor can diagnose and treat a stroke patient or potential stroke patient in the Emergency Department from a distance. Telehealth is another source of remote communica­tion, a need that often arises when patients come to the Emergency Department in need of immediate attention. Dialysis patients have the benefit of a monitoring device made by Baxter. The device transmits clinical information via Sharesource software using a modem as opposed to an Internet connection. In the future, our Telehealth strategy will support programs as the need arises.

UnitedHealthcare of New Jersey By Paul Marden, CEO

Consumers are not only accustomed to accessing everyday services through smartphones and other technologies, they expect it. Access and convenience also rank high on people’s wish lists when it comes to healthcare. UnitedHealthcare continues to expand its portfolio of telehealth services to make it easier for people to get the care they need while giving physicians additional ways to connect with their patients. Care from Personal Physicians. Pre-scheduled, secure and interactive video visits help people con­veniently follow up on chronic condi­tions or routine health concerns with the care providers they know and trust. 24/7 Virtual Visits to Deal with the Unexpected. Members can tap into a national network of clinicians through their computer, tablet or smartphone. Behavioral Health. Members with behav­ioral health coverage can seek virtual consultations through a network of clinicians licensed in the state.

By using live video and other tech­nologies, telehealth continues to spark innovation that benefits consumers, care providers and employers through expanded access to care, a superior care experience and greater efficiency. In the end, it adds up to improved health for individuals and a healthcare system that works better.

Valley Health System By Audrey Meyers, President and CEO

Valley Home Care (VHC) and Valley’s Snyder Center for Comprehensive Atrial Fibrillation offer telemedicine technology— a remote, streamlined and innovative approach to care—to patients. The goal of VHC’s telemedicine program is to pro­vide exceptional care to patients, such as those who are recovering from a med­ical procedure or managing a chronic medical condition, while allowing them to safely heal at home. The program includes wireless, Blue-tooth and video chat capabilities, which greatly improve a patient’s quality of life by allowing for freedom of movement and enhanced, personal contact with the nursing team. The Snyder Center launched an online consultation service to make it easier for patients newly diagnosed with AFib or those whose AFib has not adequately responded to treatment to access the expertise of Valley’s electrophysiology practice. The goal of the consult is to review a patient’s current treatment strategy. If a patient requires further follow up, there may be an opportunity to enhance their care through access to The Snyder Center’s multidisciplinary team and robust resources. An added bonus of online consultations is that there is no need to travel or take time off from work or other obligations.

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