Technology is constantly evolving, and businesses must stay alert to keep up. In the healthcare industry, these advances have been used to expand care for patients through telehealth services, and OSF HealthCare is no exception.
Suzanne Hinderliter, executive director of TeleHealth at OSF HealthCare, works with doctors and nurses to expand and develop telehealth solutions. “Telehealth isn’t a new concept,” she says. “What’s different is all of the new electronic and digital tools we have. It provides us with the ability to do a much better job and give a lot more clinical care to a patient.”
What is TeleHealth?
“Telehealth is providing clinical care from a distance with the use of electronic information and either digital media such as pictures and/or telecommunications via phone or other audiovisual means,” explains Dr. Matthew Gorman, physician champion for TeleHealth at OSF Saint Francis.
Telehealth aims to provide easier access to appropriate levels of clinical care. By connecting patients, their physicians and specialists, the technology provides the right care in the right place at the right time. Telehealth has also been shown to reduce the cost of healthcare as it increases efficiency.
Advantages of TeleHealth
TeleHealth provides improved access for patients and brings healthcare services to patients in distant locations. It also allows physicians and healthcare facilities to expand their reach beyond their own walls. “You are able to get resources to patients in a place that they’re comfortable,” explains Hinderliter. “Using telemedicine technologies reduces travel time and related stresses for the patient.”
“For example, in Bloomington, the emergency department now has access to Children’s Hospital of Illinois pediatric intensivists and hospitalists to assist in the care of pediatric emergencies,” adds Dr. Gorman. “Children, although resilient, can change fairly quickly. With this technology, the intensivists can examine the patient, discuss with the emergency department physician, and the patient’s parents. In some cases, a transfer to Peoria will no longer be necessary.”
Varieties of TeleHealth
There are many types of TeleHealth offered at OSF, the largest being the eICU in the Constant Care program. Vital signs, medications, blood test results, x-rays and other information are monitored remotely in real time from the eICU center in Peoria by a specially trained team of critical care doctors and nurses. Staff collaborates with the bedside care team to determine the patient’s condition, allowing for faster response times and fewer complications.
“TeleHealth is not a replacement for the bedside nurse or the bedside physician; it’s really an extra layer of care. We’re here to decrease potential complications for patients and really decrease the amount of time they have to spend in the ICU,” says Hinderliter.
OSF also offers TeleNeurology, TeleCardiology, TelePediatrics and TeleWellness. These types of telehealth visits bridge the gap virtually, in real time, between patients and caregivers in both inpatient and outpatient settings. The provider best suited to evaluate and collaborate on treatment planning sees the patient virtually. It doesn’t matter where the patient or physician is located.
OSF On Call
The newest telehealth development is OSF OnCall, a 24-hour virtual urgent care clinic. Patients can connect via Skype, FaceTime, video chat or telephone, and the cost is a flat rate of $35.
“We know there are access issues to healthcare. We know it’s hard to get in to see your primary doctor. We wanted to offer another option for people,” Hinderliter explains. “It’s also a matter of convenience for the patient. Sometimes you don’t necessarily have time to make that doctor’s appointment. It’s a way to offer another solution.”
Dr. Gorman believes OSF OnCall will continue to expand where appropriate, and because of the constant technological developments, the organization will be able to make significant advancements in providing better care for the people it serves. “OSF will continue to expand the use of telehealth in the care continuum allowing better access for patients and less driving for patients and providers.” iBi
Meredith Rashid is an intern at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.