Around the Clock On-Demand Virtual Care: The Benefits of a Telehospitalist Program
Helping Hospitals Better Manage Their Patients in the Middle of the Night
Patients need care 24 hours a day but managing and caring for patients in the middle of the night can be a challenge for some healthcare facilities. With few overnight staff members on hand, these facilities may have to delay care until the morning or risk bringing the physician in during off-hours, which can lead to staff burnout and poor patient outcomes.
InTouch Health partnered with Providence St. Joseph Health (PSJH), one of the largest not-for-profit health systems in the country with 119,000 caregivers and 51 facilities across Alaska, Texas, Montana, New Mexico, and Oregon to address this issue. Together, we developed a state-of-the-art telehospitalist program to help providers better manage their patients during off-hours and the results speak for themselves.
Below we explain more about our recent collaboration with PSJH and how telehospitalist systems can improve patient outcomes, reduce costs, and improve employee satisfaction.
The Challenges of Nighttime Care
Medical emergencies do not respect traditional office hours. Many patients need emergency medical care in the middle of the night when many staff members are at home and asleep. Hospitals traditionally manage late-night visits and calls using an on-call physician from home. As this provider fields incoming calls throughout the night, they will either come into the facility to treat and admit the patient, tell them to hold off until the morning or admit them to the hospital unseen. Some hospitals may have a nocturnist physician make in-person house calls during off-hours.
Both methods can lead to staff burnout, delayed care or poor patient outcomes, as well as unnecessary healthcare costs, including transportation and non-essential hospital admissions. Accidents and health issues tend to emerge in the middle of the night. In fact, many hospitals see more than 60% of ED patients between the hours of 7:00 PM and midnight.
How a Telehospitalist Program Can Help
To address the causes of provider burnout, PSJH partnered with InTouch Health to create a nighttime 7:00 PM – 7:00 AM telehospitalist program in 2014. This program now covers six healthcare facilities across three states. Instead of relying on late-night phone calls and nocturnist physicians making house calls, the program connects local patients seeking emergency medical care with on-staff nurses that have been trained on this new system.
Staff members can use the virtual care system to quickly triage patients using live video and audio. These tools make it easier for care providers to determine whether the patient can wait until morning, whether they need to be admitted as soon as possible, or whether it’s best to treat them remotely. Nurses will not have to second-guess themselves when deciding whether they should wake up the on-call physician. They can also use the included web portal to learn more about the patient’s condition and available treatment methods.
Providers no longer have to worry about traveling as much to see patients in-person. PSJH operates in some of the largest and least-densely populated states in the country, including Alaska, Texas, Montana and Oregon. Providers and patients may have to travel hundreds of miles to see one another in-person. The telehospitalist program reduces the need for in-person care without replacing it entirely.
Staff burnout remains all too common in the healthcare industry as staff members are forced to make difficult decisions and work around the clock. Telehospitalist programs reduce the need for on-call physicians and late-night house calls, thus reducing staff burnout rates and increasing provider satisfaction. Nurses on the night shift can quickly field incoming calls, so their colleagues can get a full night of sleep.
Patients will no longer be admitted to the hospital unseen by a provider, which decreases the rate of medically unnecessary care. Nurses can choose to participate in the overnight telehospitalist program if they would like the opportunity to develop their clinical skills. This participation gives nurses the chance to further their careers and learn more about the latest telehealth technology.
Selecting a Telehealth Partner
When creating the telehospitalist program, PSJH knew the program would only be a success if both patients and providers felt comfortable using these new tools. The program had to mimic in-person care as closely as possible using clear live video and audio so providers can easily diagnose the patient’s symptoms. The system also had to be easy to use with an intuitive interface so nurses can quickly acclimate themselves to this new technology.
PSJH chose to partner with InTouch Health for its commitment to healthcare technology innovation. InTouch Health is known for the reliability of its virtual network. Staff members are also familiar with these tools and creating custom telehealth solutions for systems like PSJH. The technology behind the telehospitalist program is also scalable, so PSJH can quickly implement this system at additional facilities when needed.
Click here to read the full case study on InTouch Health’s partnership with PSJH. If you want to improve late-night care without overworking your staff members, consider investing in a telehospitalist program today.