Virtual patient care has existed as long as there have been doctors willing to give verbal orders over the phone. Telemedicine technology has come a long way, however, evolving from the telephone to pagers to smartphones that use text messaging and HIPAA-compliant apps.
We can trace the first instance of telemedicine in hospital-based settings to the 1950s and early 1960s when closed-circuit television was used in psychiatric consultations. Its clinical value quickly expanded to include ancillary services, such as teleradiology, tele-ICU, and telestroke.
Now, telehospitalist programs take center stage—and they are no longer reserved just for overnight shift coverage.
How Telehospitalist Programs Change the Game
The telehospitalist program’s impact on healthcare has been a game-changer—and that is no truer than now. Telemedicine in the COVID-19 era enables providers to provide inpatient care to any facility remotely 24/7.
Besides that, telehospitalist programs benefit hospitals and patients by easing the burden on recruiting (the telehospitalist can work from home), reducing physician burnout, providing backup support for surges, coordinating patient care, and improving patient experience and provider satisfaction.
Traditionally, telehospitalists have been thought of as a nighttime service to supplement in-person, clinical care and coverage gaps, but that is changing. Jackie Newman, Senior Vice President of eHealth at SCP Health, explained, “The 24/7 model of telehealth support is a game-changer in innovative Hospital Medicine staffing.”
SCP Health, which launched a telemedicine program in 2015 to cover overnight shifts, is now offering a new 24/7 telehealth physician service to help hospitals and health systems achieve more efficient physician scheduling at significant cost savings.
Benefits of 24/7 Telehospitalist Services
The shift to the 24/7 telehospitalist model offers several benefits to a hospital.
Provides Dedicated Support
The telehospitalist is dedicated to a single facility. That means patients receive the doctor’s full attention, care, and time investment with no distractions. Sadye Nichols, RN, MSN, a Regional Vice President with SCP Health with extensive experience implementing and managing telehospitalist programs, said, “This ensures that the daytime telehospitalist program meets the patients’ needs and exceptional care is delivered, just as an in-person clinician delivers. The collaboration with the onsite team is seamless.”
Facilitates Real-time Communication
The daytime telehospitalist is accessible to speak with the family—whether they are at the hospital or remote (as is the case during COVID-19)—to bridge communication gaps more effectively, proactively update family members daily, and be more available for incoming questions.
Improves Patient Experience
The 24/7 telehospitalist availability improves patient experience at the hospital because it breaks up the caseload for an in-person physician, offers an equal standard of care, and allows all providers (in-person and remote) to be more focused on each patient.
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