Imagine that you’re a surgeon in a large hospital network. A patient has presented to the emergency department with a ruptured ovarian cyst; before you operate, you use the surgical suite’s telemedicine platform to consult with the patient’s gynecologist, who provides valuable history.
However, when the patient visits your clinic for a follow-up appointment, you’re unable to conference her gynecologist at this time – because the clinic uses a different virtual health solution. When you’re scheduled to see a different patient at an affiliated ambulatory surgical center the next week, there’s yet another telemedicine platform in place. But it doesn’t work with the system used by the patient’s primary care provider, even though the provider is in-network. So each office’s staff wind up manually exchanging information and waiting for a response, then following up with the patient – with results lost along the way.
Detached and Divided
Telemedicine is on the rise. Inpatient adoption has risen from 54 percent in 2014 to 85 percent in 2019 according to Definitive Healthcare’s 2019 Inpatient Telehealth Study. While that’s undeniably a good thing, many organizations have taken a piecemeal approach that’s implemented disparate solutions from different vendors across different teams. The clinicians in an oncology program may use one system while the radiology team down the hall uses another solution while the burn unit uses yet another.
The result is a mix of systems and devices that can’t talk to each other – which cascades into other results such as:
- Valuable medical data and clinical evidence is siloed
- Workflows are disrupted, with referrals falling through the cracks
- Staff duplicate each other’s tasks due to lack of visibility
- Providers turn to telehealth apps that don’t integrate with the hospital EHR
- Patients and staff have to learn multiple interfaces, which slows adoption
- Hospitals pay for multiple system deployments
Standardizing for Smarter Care
The above issues are typical of every organization dealing with a complex nest of technologies. But in healthcare, these disconnections can impact patient outcomes. Virtual care is ideally about connecting not just patients to providers, but connecting specialists, pharmacists, therapists and other providers to each other so they can better track medical events, collaborate on treatment plans and address changes in patient needs.
The solution here is fairly obvious: adopting one integrated, enterprise virtual health platform across the organization. By working from a robust provider-agnostic solution of connective devices, software and hardware that enable everything from diagnostic testing to data archiving, health systems can drive stronger patient outcomes and easier collaboration.
To return to our earlier example, this would empower you as a surgeon – and your colleagues and patients – with considerable advantages. You could easily consult with your patients’ other providers, as well as specialists who could share insights into complex conditions. Whether you’re providing services at a hospital, clinic or ambulatory surgical center, you could virtually connect with any staff and stop referral leakage by offering patients greater in-network flexibility for primary care or specialist visits.
Those patients have to learn only one system, which accelerates their comfort with telemedicine; because there’s only one initial integration, deployment schedules are faster and less expensive as different departments adopt the same system. Your hospital network boosts patient retention and revenue and increases ROI.
Strength in Simplicity
The rise in virtual health’s popularity has yielded significant rewards for payers, patients and providers – but a scattershot approach to implementation is wasting many of them. Telehealth benefits are most profound when one integrated system is leveraged across multiple care teams and clinical disciplines. Any organization that’s serious about improving their outcomes with telemedicine owes it to their patients to ensure their connected care is truly connected.