Anyone reading Healthcare IT Today is probably aware that during the first six months of the year, we saw a telemedicine boom unlike any before. This, of course, was courtesy of the pandemic, which closed most offices and made delivering in-person care almost impossible
While most available evidence suggests that the volume of telehealth visits will fall substantially over the next year or so, as the pandemic (hopefully) loses its grip on the world, in some cases delivering telehealth services during lockdown has fostered acceptance of virtual care among providers as a long-term strategy.
If you are among this inspired minority, you’ll probably find the following case study to be of interest. It describes how one UK-based practice created a model for implementing virtual visits and began preparing for a telehealth-driven future.
When COVID-19 hit, leaders at sports medicine-focused Wimbledon Clinics decided to get into telemedicine as quickly as possible. In fact, once they made the decision to pull the trigger, the group transitioned to virtual care in less than a week. The practice’s leaders were motivated, in large part, by insurers being willing to pay for telehealth services during the pandemic lockdown.
The first thing the Clinic’s telehealth team did was to get a comprehensive look at the existing administrative process for handling face-to-face visits. The group spent five days writing down what those processes were and determining how to perform these services in cyberspace. Their efforts touched on every department and required physicians to adopt new approaches to patient management. Members then created a package of information for clinicians on how to handle a video call, record notes, get into online records and share scanned information.
Another step Clinic managers took was to examine what patients might want from telemedicine visits. This involved equipping clinicians to ask questions that would help patients say what they wanted from virtual visits.
Along the way, the group built a team of about 20 practice owners focused on improving telehealth delivery and planning for future efforts.
The group also took care to choose the right video platform for conducting video visits. Project leads checked out Skype, Zoom and Webex, ultimately deciding to go with Zoom, as it worked best for their purposes.
When the Clinic surveyed members about their telemedicine experiences, it got a lot of positive responses, with 95% of those answering reporting that the video consult was worthwhile or very worthwhile. Also, 60% of respondents said that they would value virtual care options at any time, not just during the lockdown. As a result, the group decided to offer video consults as a permanent service.
That being said, many elderly patients said that they didn’t feel comfortable with video visit technology and weren’t sure that they saw value in this approach. This could prove to be one of the remaining obstacles to telehealth adoption in both the UK and the US.
Regardless, the efforts Wimbledon Clinics made to map their offline processes to virtual visits are commendable. I think that if staffers did a good job of translating offline care to virtual care, their efforts will be well worth the time spent.