UW Medicine Telehealth, Seattle
UW Medicine Telehealth has provided services for more than 40 years, but a focus on innovation began in 2013. Services now involve 14 programs in more than 20 specialties at more than 100 sites in five states. In the past year, they’ve helped more than 18,000 patients in provider-to-provider interactions or provider-to-patient teleconsults. Services even reach jail psychiatry and post-acute care. Its 24/7 Virtual Care Clinic volume increased by 26 percent since 2013, with physicians and nurse practitioners supporting simple urgent care for patients via video or phone.
Project ECHO — for Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes — uses secure videoconferencing for physician mentoring and training of rural, low-volume health providers. The online interactive clinics offer a short didactic program on a specialty topic and consultations. It allows doctors to present cases to a multidisciplinary panel of experts in infectious diseases, psychiatry, family medicine, pharmacy, nursing and case management. John Scott, M.D., UW Telehealth Services medical director, says the mutually beneficial interaction spreads knowledge and innovation. “In rural and underserved areas,” he points out, “many doctors are retiring.” As well, a provider’s sense of isolation decreases when he or she feels supported.
The UW eConsults program, begun in 2016, means primary care providers can consult via electronic records with specialists regarding patient care. The specialists can see patients’ records, labs or imaging to respond through the electronic system with guidance and teaching. It has enabled more than 5,000 eConsults across 14 specialties.
Overall, Dr. Scott says UW Telehealth Services is improving patients’ access to health care, meaning they don’t have to miss work or make separate appointments.
CHI Franciscan Health Virtual Hospital, Tacoma
Monitored by doctors and nurses, CHI Franciscan Health’s Virtual Hospital brings another layer of patient support to its hospitals and clinics. In Virtual ICU, nursing staff provide extra monitoring with AI-assisted data feeds and audio-video technology. A Virtual Hospitalist program has teams answering routine calls for faster response time and extra hospital coverage. A telemetry program offers surveillance of lead cardiac rhythms from a central monitoring unit. The Virtual Companion program has audio-video monitoring and immediate response from certified nursing assistants, an approach that significantly reduces patient falls. Another service provides patient health care video chats, thus lowering wait times.