By Dipesh Hinduja, Mobile Solutions Architect, Stratix
It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth of virtual care services to mitigate in-person medical visits. According to a recent survey from Blackbook Research, 59% of consumers are more likely to use virtual care services now than prior to the Coronavirus outbreak. 36% would actually switch their primary physician in order to have access to virtual care options. What is not so obvious, however, is that virtual care is transforming both remote and in-person medical visit experiences for patients.
One example is how hospitals like Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia are managing the safety of both their staff and patients with virtual care technology solutions. Upon arrival, at-risk patients are admitted to isolation rooms where they are handed a mask and an iPad for the express purpose of video chatting with a nurse practitioner on the premises that can help diagnose their condition. This “tele-triage” methodology will only become more widespread as we move through this pandemic and beyond. It’s a clear indicator that the age of telemedicine has truly arrived.
This transformation takes place on two fronts:
- Hardware such as Apple’s iPad. iPad units are not only proven to be secure, trusted and easy-to-use, but also easy to sterilize in order to reduce the possible transmission of infectious disease.
- Native mobile device management (MDM) providers like Jamf. They offer customized software solutions such as their Virtual Visits platform to facilitate communication between all healthcare providers, extended care teams, patients and their families.
This is critical in our current efforts to flatten the curve, as well as keeping patients connected where contact with loved ones and their physicians may become difficult. When at-risk patients are admitted to hospitals, they are often not allowed to bring their personal devices and effects with them. Under virtual care platforms like Virtual Visits, however, they are able to use fully configured devices supporting a range of third-party conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype. This coincides with the momentary relaxing of HIPAA privacy standards to allow all patients to leverage this technology (prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual care services could previously only be provided to established patients of a physician who had visited the office in person in the last three years).
The Virtual Visits platform empowers patients to easily connect to the communication channels they need without having to navigate individual logins or setup. For care providers, they can use the platform to search for patients by room number and video call. This puts total communication with the physician just a tap or two away while continuing to observe isolation protocols that reduce risk. Additionally, patients can use the very same Virtual Visit-enabled devices to conference with family members due to Jamf’s deep integration with video conferencing providers. When the patient is discharged, the software makes it easy to safely and remotely wipe the device of customer data before reconfiguring for the next patient’s needs.
Virtual care services are absolutely essential in this time of widespread contagious disease, but the benefits they bring are changing the face and scope of healthcare for some time to come. Individual providers’ success or failure will largely depend on whether or not they have a comprehensive program for deploying, configuring and supporting virtual care use cases going forward. Those that don’t will need to rely on dedicated partners who have the expertise to manage virtual care-related mobile technology.
Ultimately, the devices and services that power telemedicine will help us all to become more engaged in personal health awareness and continue to drive health-related innovation for hospitals and their patients.