The following is a guest article by Donna Gudmestad, Clinical Program Manager, Caregility.
COVID-19 thrust telemedicine into the national spotlight. This year, telehealth adoption skyrocketed as healthcare organizations worked to overcome unique challenges brought on by the pandemic, including the risk of clinician exposure, inpatient visitation restrictions, and home quarantine with little to no clinical support.
Early on, personal protective equipment (PPE) was severely rationed. At the peak of the pandemic, about 89 million medical masks were required for the COVID response each month. Failure to protect healthcare workers threatened to further overwhelm healthcare systems. The need to safely deliver care while keeping staff, patients and families connected was immense.
In the scramble to implement telehealth solutions, health systems had to get creative. Many resorted to using Facetime, Zoom and baby monitors as stop-gaps to support socially-distanced care delivery. New telehealth use cases emerged to limit the use of PPE, support secure tele-rounding and virtually connect isolated patients with loved ones. Smart mobile devices have played a pivotal role in quickly scaling those virtual care offerings.
Compared to traditional telemedicine equipment, mobile-based solutions are relatively simple and inexpensive, and pose minimal operational complexity for healthcare organizations. These resources have proven invaluable to providers in the COVID-19 response.
Patients are using their smart devices to remotely connect with care teams from home. Providers are similarly acquiring mobile device fleets to support virtual inpatient engagement at the bedside. This allows at-risk hospital patients to be physically seen without the risk of virus spread. Providers are also using mobile telehealth solutions to safely triage emergency department patients.
Tablet-based video endpoints with a robust telemedicine app can be used across the care continuum, allowing providers to respond to patient surge wherever it’s needed. Mobile solutions can be placed on streamlined carts, remain handheld or be hung on walls to support various clinical workflows. Portability and ease-of-use make mobile telehealth resources easy to implement and scale. A secure, reliable Wi-Fi connection is all that’s required.
The Mobile Solution Value proposition
For providers looking for new virtual care solutions or seeking to replace stop-gap solutions acquired at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, mobile telehealth solutions can be impactful in a variety of ways. Mobile telehealth infrastructure takes significantly less time and fewer resources to implement than dedicated, hardware-based systems. In-home telehealth support can offload overwhelmed emergency service staff and preserve hospital beds.
Mobile telehealth solutions also yield sustainable, long-term use cases—from combating a second pandemic wave to supporting remote, home-monitoring programs. Virtual visits are billable and can replace lost income from reduced brick-and-mortar visits. Mobile-based virtual care can also open new revenue streams such as subscription-based concierge services for patients who want a more intimate relationship with their care team.
What to Look for in a Mobile Telehealth Solution
When developing your mobile telehealth strategy, begin by clearly defining what you are trying to accomplish. When evaluating mobile telehealth solutions, look for:
- A long-term solution flexible enough to support future program expansion
- A platform that is purpose built for healthcare’s unique considerations
- A simple, easy-to-use user interface—preferably one that allows providers to send patients a direct link to sessions without having to download an app
- Clinician involvement in implementation and workflow development
- HIPPA-compliant security features
- A partner company that is a cultural match for your organization—Is your health system more independent or do you prefer a collaborative, long-term partnership?
The pandemic has undeniably changed normal operating procedures for healthcare providers. Advancements and increased adoption in the world of telehealth may change the way consumers prefer to receive care forevermore. As you evaluate your best path forward, mobile telehealth infrastructure represents an ideal avenue for adaptable care delivery today and in the future.
About Donna Gudmestad
Donna Gudmestad, RN, serves as Clinical Program Manager for Caregility. With 31 years of experience as a nurse and operational and clinical implementation director, Donna has assisted in countless telehealth implementations, including tele-ICU, eHospitalist, telestroke, telesepsis, eSitting and remote telemetry programs.