Digital Minute: Telehealth Expansion and Enhancement Reach Record Levels

Premier Pulse     May 2024

P-W-EMS62057-Via_MandyBy Walter Reiling, MD, system chief medical information officer, Premier Health; and Mandy Via, system director of access, referral management, and telehealth, Premier Health

As we navigated the many waves of the pandemic, there was a general thought that we would never see the volume of telehealth encounters witnessed during those times.  As we think through that time, the public health emergency (PHE) allowed less restricted use of telehealth, and it became a lifeline for care. Many were cautiously guarded about the ending of the PHE and how the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) and payors would respond. Would things go back to the way it used to be?

I’m happy to say there is no going back.  Even with the PHE ending in May of 2023, certain flexibilities remain intact, allowing patients to continue accessing care through telehealth. Last year, we surpassed our peak usage during the pandemic, with more than 160,000 encounters in 2023. While patients did venture back into physical locations for care, many shifted their expectations of how they prefer to receive care.  This trend can be visualized over the last three years as volumes shift and patients seek new ways of care delivery.

Another intriguing note involves telehealth usage and how we as an organization are leveraging it differently.  We’ve leaned into utilizing our current technology to support staff and programs to create operational efficiencies.  This has allowed us to think differently about how we are delivering care and connecting to patients. By continuing to build on our telehealth framework, we’ve continued to add programs that may augment workflows to create outcomes for patients and staff. In May 2023, we embarked on a journey around virtual nursing. Our approach was different than other health systems that engaged with vendors and had a narrow scope of possibilities around use cases. By leveraging our own equipment and bringing together an agile virtual nursing team, we were able to successfully launch multiple units across our system. We began to immediately see results in documentation compliance, throughput, and staff/patient satisfaction. Patients have shared that they appreciate having the undivided attention of the virtual nurse throughout their admission and discharge process.

Since its inception, we’ve reallocated more than 200,000 minutes back to the bedside RN as some admissions and discharges have shifted to the virtual nurse. 

In a previous article, we discussed the interconnectedness of people, process, and technology and the synergies that emerge when all align. The expansion and enhancement of telehealth serve as a prime example of the positive outcomes achievable through sustained collaboration and connectivity.

Through strategic positioning and alignment within our organization, telehealth will continue to grow and evolve to support our patients and staff. 

Back to the May 2024 issue of Premier Pulse

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