The word “hospitalist” is clear and concise. It declares that this type of physician is directly tied to hospitals, as much of a fixture as emergency departments, ICUs, and cafeterias. But what if a hospitalist appears on a screen instead of standing at bedside? Is that still hospital medicine?
Absolutely, according to hospitalists Ameet Doshi, MD, MBA, of HealthPartners in Bloomington, Minn.; and Ryan Brown, MD, FHM, and Brian Schroeder, MHA, FHM, FACHE, of Atrium Health in Charlotte, N.C. In an interview before the session, Dr. Doshi said telemedicine can help hospitalists and health care organizations address patient care challenges, ranging from staffing in rural hospitals to handling cross-cover surges, but telemedicine can help providers in any kind of care environment or location.
Currently, he said in the pre-session interview, “many groups are using real-time video capabilities to deliver hospitalist care where in-person providers are not available. This could be for nocturnist coverage at rural hospitals or even providing cross-cover services at larger hospitals where the in-person providers are at capacity.”
During the session, the presenters gave several use cases for telemedicine in rural health, critical care, and acute care environments. Dr. Doshi is a telehospitalist with HealthPartners, which provides inpatient telemedicine services to five hospitals across Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Dr. Brown, whose group provides telemedicine services at 12 facilities, said they allow hospitalists to interact virtually with patients, conduct physical exams, and perform many more duties.
As he explained, “we do nighttime cross-cover, perform admissions and consults, supervise NP/PAs in low-risk units, handle census surge situations, provide care in rural and critical-access hospitals that find recruiting difficult, use subspecialty support to keep patients at hospitals closer to their homes, triage transfers into our health care system, and see postdischarge patients for follow-ups in their homes from our transition clinic. Done correctly, telemedicine can be effectively used in many different care scenarios.”
Patients love telemedicine, he said. “The increased access to care where and when they want it is very attractive.” While objective data is not yet available, he noted in a survey of 124 patients in his institution, 37.1% of patients rated their overall care through telemedicine as a 10 out of 10, while 26.6% of patients and 20.2% of patients rated care at a 9 and an 8 out of 10, respectively.
During the HM19 session, Dr. Doshi and colleagues discussed several of the drivers behind the advent of telemedicine, including specific health care situations in which it can be applicable as well as the structural and financial requirements that will help an organization create a viable telemedicine service.
In the big picture, he said, “the biggest take-home we can give to our audience is the idea that telemedicine is not an esoteric, flight-of-fancy program that is only a niche issue. There are a plethora of situations where patient care can be optimally delivered with telemedicine, and we want to outline these situations as well as give the framework for how telemedicine can be organically grown within any organization.”
Randy Dotinga contributed to this report.
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