Much like many health systems in the united states, COVID-19 created an urgent dependence on MaineHealth to deal with patients far away to help keep patients and care teams safe.
“This is highly relevant to patients in the outpatient setting, who had a need to stay linked to their primary care and specialist providers for acute and chronic needs, in addition to for patients in the inpatient setting, who have been in a position to receive a few of their care virtually,” said Lizzy Mulcahy, director of telehealth at the Portland, Maine-based health system.
“To be able to solve for the necessity to provide care virtually, MaineHealth integrated virtual care services into its care ecosystem, which required identifying and purchasing the program and hardware solutions, implementing large education efforts for patients and care associates, and developing a process for quality assurance and analytics,” she explained.
MaineHealth wanted telemedicine technology which could easily integrate into its care models and that might be highly accessible for patients to utilize.
“Because of the rurality of Maine, the answer would have to be in a position to operate well in low-bandwidth areas,” said Patty VonIderstine, IT director forclient services and telehealth at MaineHealth. “Selecting a solution that has been simple to use for both patients and care teams was a higher priority in order never to exacerbate digital access and digital literacy barriers.”
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MEETING THE TASK
The telemedicine technology MaineHealth selected has been found in the inpatient and outpatient settings.
“In the inpatient setting, Vidyo was used for connecting care teams virtually with patients in isolation areas,” said Tom Winchell, telehealth technical architect at MaineHealth. “In the outpatient setting, there is initiation and wide deployment of Zoom service access for direct patient care.
“Approximately 1,000 licenses were implemented in an exceedingly compressed time period,” he continued. “The Zoom services were useful for direct patient care between providers either in office or from remote sites, with patients who have been located in their house environment and with time, built-into MaineHealth’s EHR.”
To be able to take part in virtual care, MaineHealth also purchased care team set-ups, including desktop PCs, iPads and web cameras.
“At the moment, utilization has been the principal success metric that is achieved with the implementation of the solution,” VonIderstine reported. “Care team adoption had not been isolated in a single area rather, primary care, specialty and behavioral health services all showed high amounts of utilization.
“Given that we have been coming to another side of the pandemic, we have been still seeing high amounts of utilization, particularly in the behavioral health space,” she added. “Additionally, the virtual services have already been seen as quality value in group sessions, such as for example for healthy lifestyle behavior change or chronic disease management.”
USING FCC AWARD FUNDS
MaineHealth was awarded $803,268 from the FCC telehealth award program for telemedicine carts, laptops, tablets, and videoconferencing equipment and software with which providers can conduct virtual rounding for inpatients, that may enable patients to see specialty care and primary care providers from the patient’s home, therefore patients in the hospitals may use tablets to see and talk to family who they otherwise cannot see because of the significant restrictions on visiting due to the risk of COVID19.
“The resources afforded via the FCC CARES program allowed an instant rollout of new work processes, modalities and structures for the delivery of healthcare for the patients of MaineHealth,” VonIderstine stated. “There’s now a robust, extensive and dynamic virtual care option for MaineHealth patients that didn’t exist before the pandemic.
“This is planned, purchased, tested, deployed and activated in a consolidated timeframe,” she noted. “The financial support from CARES allowed the original phase of the COVID response build out to unfold with greater effectiveness and efficiency than could have otherwise been possible.”
Given that the virtual care framework is set up, MaineHealth looks forward to continuing to create out its omni-channel offerings for patients and care teams to be able to improve quality of care, improve patient experience and improve the care team experience, she concluded.