Telehealth: Necessity Today, and Here to Stay

Hospital systems are using telehealth platforms powered by Intel® technology to enable physical distancing for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic while providing personalized, distributed, and intelligent care.

Behind the scenes, healthcare facilities have swiftly scaled up their telehealth tech to reduce risk of infection for both healthcare workers and their patients. Its utility will far outlast the crisis.

For most people, social distancing is a difficult reality of daily life. But inside hospitals, it’s nearly impossible. Every bedside visit raises risk of infection and lowers precious stockpiles of personal protective equipment (PPE). Ever resilient in the face of crisis, clinicians looked to telehealth—typically used for applications like telestroke—to reduce rounds without compromising care.

What they achieved was remarkable. Since the novel coronavirus swept across the globe, telehealth has become a core competency for health systems; the number of telehealth claim lines shot up 4,346.94% between March 2019 and March 2020.1

Hospitals moved quickly to adapt regular rooms to ICUs or isolation rooms. Telehealth solutions made the switch easy, allowing doctors and nurses to safely attend to their potentially contagious patients without compromising their quality of care. Inpatient telehealth allows medical professionals to interact with patients admitted to the facility and monitor their vitals from a distance, minimizing unnecessary contact and use of medical staff’s limited PPE supplies.

Intel has worked alongside telehealth companies to respond at the speed and scale demanded by crisis, moving at a blistering pace to set up solutions in hospital systems built on existing infrastructure.

Your Next Check In: Coming Soon on a TV Near You

Banner Health, a nonprofit health system with 28 acute-care hospitals in six states, saw an influx of COVID-19 positive patients flooding into its hospitals and emergency rooms. Banner Health, VeeMed, and Intel are working together to deploy a telehealth solution to over 1,000 in-room televisions across all 28 facilities, combined with advanced telehealth software.

This has allowed specialists in areas including infectious disease, pulmonary, critical care, cardiology, and nephrology to provide critical consultative support for COVID-19 patients—allowing staff to see more patients without risking transmission of disease.

Each set up only requires a small Intel® NUC Mini PC device, easily mounted to an existing television in patient rooms, along with a camera and speakerphone. Medical staff simply call into the room to check on patients, who can respond from their beds, with no need to interact with a cart, keyboard, or other equipment. Doctors and nurses can talk with the patient and view in-room monitors that show their oxygen levels and other vitals. The advanced camera even makes it possible to zoom in clearly enough to see a patient’s pupil.2

Telehealth solutions provider VeeMed makes sure physicians can treat patients regardless of location: at home, a clinic, hospital, urgent care, or a skilled nursing facility. VeeMed’s device-agnostic platform helps Banner Health and other healthcare facilities continually improve patient care and increase patient satisfaction.

Set up for Success (and Security)

In the past, telehealth systems might take months to deploy. But because of the equipment’s small size, deployment of these solutions have been extremely fast and easy, with each installation requiring just a few hours. Beginning at Banner Health hospitals in Arizona, VeeMed teams were able to launch more than 100 units a week. Banner Health plans to extend these systems to emergency rooms in the near future.

It may come in a small package, but it’s not to be underestimated. The Intel® NUC Mini PCs used at Banner Health facilities can do everything a full-size desktop computer can do, while taking up only a few inches of space.

This small form factor compute device easily integrates naturally with HIPAA-compliant software like VeeMed’s telehealth software, offering hardware-enhanced security as part of Intel vPro® technology to help protect networked computing assets. When it comes to the quality of video, powerful graphics performance ensures that both patients and caregivers experience chop-free streams. It also can be managed by technical support remotely, helping IT avoid exposure during trips to patient rooms.

An Industry Ready to Rise to the Occasion

Telehealth doesn’t always mean being tethered to the TV.

InTouch Health, one of the world’s largest telehealth technology companies in over 3,500 care locations, has allowed health systems to adapt in crisis conditions. While it also can turn any HDMI-equipped TV into a portal for clinical care, the company has a range of other solutions, including tablets and futuristic self-driving robotic carts. Physicians and nurses have stayed safer with remote appointments, scaling their services to more patients without travel.

The benefits also extend beyond the frontlines of the pandemic: those with non-COVID-19 illness or elective surgeries have been able to get telehealth consultations.

With clients including Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University, Bon Secours Mercy Health, Jefferson, Providence St. Joseph Health, Kaiser Permanente, Pinnacle Health, Mission Health, and Hospital Corporation of America, Intel has supported InTouch Health’s growth with technology across the board, from in-device processors and specialized AI chips, to computer vision software and backend data center processing.

The Growing Appeal of Remote Care

While the industry has steadily matured, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the value of telehealth. It’s abundantly clear in the acute care settings, where staff seek to avoid contagion and reduce the use of PPE equipment. But this is part of a much broader trend across healthcare, extending far beyond the hospital to homes and private practices across the country. Mental health services represent a third of all telehealth claim lines, according to a study by FAIR Health.1

The process is streamlined to maintain efficiency in our existing workflows, while preserving vital PPE supplies. More importantly, the physician-patient relationship has gotten stronger along the way.

Syed Ismail A. Jafri, MD, physician executive for hospital medicine, Banner Medical Group.

As social distancing and public health measures led to 70% of in-person medical visits being cancelled, a McKinsey survey shows that three-quarters of people say they are likely to use telehealth, with 74% of current users reporting high satisfaction.3

That number goes up with seniors: 91% of telehealth users reported a favorable experience.4

The feeling isn’t unique to patients. On the other side of the equation, 57% of providers view telehealth more favorably than they did before the pandemic, and 64% are more comfortable using it. It turns out that there is a considerable upside in terms of cost, efficiency, and convenience.

It may have taken a crisis to realize it, but there’s a reason remote care has become enormously popular.

For more information on Intel’s telehealth partners, visit InTouch HealthBanner Health, and VeeMed

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