Using Virtual Care Inside a Hospital Makes an Impact

In a one-on-one interview with Healthcare IT Today, Wendy Deibert, VP of Clinical Solutions at Caregility, shared a surprising way to use telehealth: internally at a healthcare organization to monitor patients. This helps keep staff safe and reduces workload – top priorities during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Telehealth has been a hot topic in healthcare IT for years and it is particularly relevant as the world struggles to provide quality care during this coronavirus crisis. In recent weeks we have all read numerous stories about the rise of telehealth as an effective way to deliver care to patients who are self-isolating and choosing to stay home. Hospitals and healthcare staff are utilizing the technology in record numbers.

Given all the excitement around telehealth and virtual care, I wanted to write a story about it…but not just any story. I wanted to find someone who could talk about a unique application of the technology. Enter Wendy Deibert.

Deibert, knows a thing or two about telehealth. She led the implementation of the first all-virtual healthcare facility in the US back in 2014. After sitting down with her, it easy to see how passionate she is about the technology and its potential in healthcare.

While working as a beside nurse in the Neural ICU at Barnes Jewish, Deibert saw first-hand how challenging it was to work with patients who were suffering from short-term memory loss (from head trauma or brain tumors for example). These patients were instructed to stay in bed to avoid fall injuries, but of course they wouldn’t remember those instructions and would get up soon after the nurse left the room. The solution was to have someone stay in the room with the patient (called a sitter).

Obviously this solution was not scalable and had a high cost. So Deibert got involved with a project that used high quality audio and video to monitor patients from a central location. With this technology, she found that a single virtual sitter could care for up to 12 patients. For more information about virtual sitters, check out this article written by Deibert.

That was a light-bulb moment.

Now at Caregility, Deibert helps healthcare organizations use their telehealth platform for patients within their facility and external to it.

“We have full pan, tilt and zoom capabilities now,” explains Deibert. “I can scan around the room. I can zoom in on the patient to ensure that they are breathing. I can turn the camera away to give the patient complete privacy. The camera even has infrared capability so it works at night. At all times the patient can see that they are being monitored.”

Bi-directional audio and video allows the person monitoring the patient to talk to them, remind them not to get out of bed, or even just distract them with friendly conversation to decrease their anxiety.

But telehealth solutions can be used for so much more than just monitoring patients. “I think it’s about getting the resource to patients no matter where they are. Clinicians of all kinds and types are spread so thin,” Deibert says. “Being able to scale and see more patients via virtual medicine is huge.”

According to Deibert, one of the biggest barriers to the use of telehealth had been the fear of losing the close patient-clinician relationship that comes by being there in-person. However, once a system like Caregility’s is implemented, the nurses Wendy works with soon realize that they could continue to build meaningful patient interactions and relationships across the camera. Over time, they saw how they didn’t need to be physically present in a room for a patient to recognize their face and be happy to see them and work with them.

Although it would be unfair to say there was resistance to telehealth prior to this current pandemic, it was certainly slow to be adopted. Today, healthcare organizations are embracing this technology to not only keep staff safe, but to help them better use their precious skilled resources.

Watch the full interview with Wendy Deibert to learn more about:

  • How she helped create the first healthcare building with no patients
  • How virtual care can deliver great ROI
  • Equalizing care – bringing the same level of care to patients in rural areas
  • Where to start in implementing virtual care or sitting at your hospital
  • The vital role donuts play in the success of your virtual sitting project

This article is part of the #HealthIT100in100

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About the author

Colin Hung

Colin Hung

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.