Telemedicine has become a vital tool to deliver timely and effective medical care, particularly in rural areas. One hospital in Arizona, Yavapai Regional Medical Center, is using telemedicine to improve patient satisfaction and treat conditions that would otherwise need the services of a “big-city” hospital two hours away.
How is telemedicine being used in the hospital?
Yavapai Regional Medical Center has two telemedicine programs: one for stroke care, and one for monitoring of congestive heart failure patients. In the case of stroke care, Yavapai contracts with a group of neurology specialists, Axiom Lifesystems Development Group, which partners their emergency department (ED) staff to manage acute ischemic stroke. In the case of ischemic stroke, minutes matter, and a lack of specialists can delay treatment. Yavapai uses a telemedicine cart in their emergency room, which connects with a contracted neurologist. The neurologist then completes a virtual visit from an offsite location, with the assistance of another physician or a physician assistant. The neurologist then communicates a recommended treatment plan to the attending Physician that is caring for the patient. A copy of the evaluation is then faxed to our ED and then scanned into our Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system.
How is telemedicine used at home?
For home monitoring of congestive heart failure (CHF) patients and other patients with chronic disease, Yavapai contracts with Vivify. Patients who qualify for home monitoring take home a kit, including a body weight scale, iPad, blood pressure monitor, and a pulse oximeter. The devices connect, via the iPad and an internet connection, to Yavapai’s chronic care clinic and are monitored by nursing staff. If a reading is abnormal, nurses can contact patients in their homes and provide real-time advice and treatment. A modern-day house call. All data is then incorporated into the patients’ medical record and EMR as if they were at the hospital.
What are the outcomes?
Though these programs are in their infancy, Yavapai is already seeing positive patient outcomes and cost savings. “Our healthcare environment is changing radically and is placing the consumer of healthcare at the center. We are no longer working in a “physician-centric or hospital-centric” model. We are now in a “consumer-centric” model which requires our healthcare system to meet the consumer where they can best receive the care they need,” says Anthony Torres, MD, CMO of Yavapai. “Telemedicine is another tool which will become a vital method to deliver timely and effective medical care in the face of an ever-shrinking physician supply.”
Yavapai isn’t stopping there: they are piloting a telemedicine model with their own employees. YRMC Virtual Care will link employees with physicians for virtual appointments. Using feedback from their employees, they’ll evaluate and assess the program before bringing even more virtual care to their community.
Telemedicine is becoming more and more a part of the typical healthcare experience. As these new tools and resources are integrated into our healthcare delivery system, we will advocate for increased access, high-quality care, and lower costs in Arizona. We would love to hear your thoughts on the use of telemedicine to help achieve our goal of making Arizona the healthiest state in the nation.