How a Pivot to Telehealth Saved a Hospital at the Epicenter of Covid’s Wrath

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Telehealth

By Peter Ianace, Sr.

The story of what happened here in a three-month span from March to May is a testament to the value and impact of telehealth, telemedicine, and digital care. From a hospital administration standpoint, the facility reacted like most facilities when Covid-positive patients began filling wards to the breaking point. A task force was established whose members quickly swung into action to address PPE shortages, staffing levels, rapid diagnosis, and clinical care.

They also made a critical decision that changed the trajectory of what could have produced a tragic outcome for patients and staff alike. They decided to expand an underutilized pilot program, a remote patient monitoring (RPM) service that tracked the recovery of approximately 60 chronic cardiac home care patients. Holy Name Medical Center fixated on a fast-tracked RPM solution that would provide the same level of remote care for Covid patients, sending home those who didn’t require hospitalization in the first place and others on their way to recovery. It was an all-digital solution, scalable and flexible enough to roll out with ease—even integrating patient updates directly into the provider’s electronic medical records system.

The digital RPM platform capabilities allowed the physicians leeway to screen and diagnose who was admitted, hospitalized, and discharged. Patients who no longer required acute care were sent home to quarantine and recuperate, receiving three specific remote monitoring levels. The pivot to dependence on a digital platform for providing remote-patient care allowed the facility to sharply reduce the strain on available beds and staffing resources. In addition, patient surveys revealed that Holy Name Medical Center’s strategy significantly reduced exposure to further infection, enhanced patient trust, decreased the need for follow up visits, and established a lifeline of security and reassurance for highly contagious Covid patients. The massive reduction of patients requiring around-the-clock care onsite also provided cost savings for providers and patients alike.

By the numbers, Holy Name Medical Center implemented a total of 350 virtual care platform kits, which helped 5,000 patients remain connected to care through remote patient monitoring. In all, over 20,000 remote telehealth sessions played a vital role in sustaining the hospital’s staff and resources, previously strained to the breaking point. The digital monitoring platform undoubtedly prevented the large-scale spread of infection while allowing for fast, responsive, and reassuring care. In three months, the hospital pulled itself back from the brink of disaster. During the hospital’s crisis, Holy Name’s CEO and President, Michael Maron, received a positive diagnosis for COVID-19. After recovering, he credited the digital health platform’s benefits stating, “I contracted the virus, and the remote patient care technology allowed me to stay at home, instead of in the ICU.”

What happened at Holy Name Medical Center isn’t unique. Facilities all across America, stressed to the breaking point, increasingly turned to digital health platforms and remote patient care to alleviate the strain on their resources and staffing. But what has happened through this process is the widespread trial and adoption of telehealth and telemedicine. It was a baptism by fire, no less, but the results from surveys and data show this facility’s use and implementation of new technology isn’t an outlier. Instead, it’s becoming the norm.

The acceptance rate of patients willing to participate in a remote care visit has increased from a pre-pandemic level of 55% to 62%. And the value and dependence on digital health platforms and remote patient care solutions are expected to grow exponentially over the next five years. When faced with a crisis, Holy Name Medical Center indeed responded accordingly. In turning to telehealth and telemedicine, the facility went from Ground Zero to become a model for other health care providers to emulate.

About the Author

Peter Ianace, Sr. is the chief operating officer for VitalTech Affiliates, a rapidly growing provider of fully integrated digital health solutions and smart biomedical wearables that provide real-time remote patient monitoring. Peter can be reached at [email protected].

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