Back to the Future II didn’t fully predict everything that would happen in 2015 (Sorry, Cubs fans!)—but there are some forms of technology it hit right on the nose. Who ever thought we’d be able to hold tablet computers in the palms of our hands or host meetings via videoconferencing? These were “pie in the sky” ideas in 1989 when this popular movie was released.
But nowadays, you’d be hard pressed to find someone walking down the street without some sort of mobile device. Videoconferencing has become the norm in many business offices whether it’s with large monitors or smaller computer tablets. Plus, more and more wearable technology devices continue to be introduced into the mainstream.
OSF HealthCare utilizes this growth in technology as an opportunity to better serve our regional population. We’ve incorporated telehealth across the Ministry to better serve our rural communities, expand access to services, improve quality of care, and reduce inefficiencies.
Better Serving Patients
Telehealth isn’t a new concept to OSF, but it has definitely evolved and continues to do so. The Ministry launched OSF ConstantCare or the eICU three years ago. This hub, on the campus of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, consists of critical care physicians and nurses who use videoconferencing to communicate with clinicians in their respective ICUs.
ConstantCare uses the latest technology to collect vitals on these patients and alerts medical staff when further assessment is needed. This service provides an extra set of eyes for medical personnel taking care of patients with intensive care needs.
The eICU has become an invaluable tool for OSF Mission Partners. Data shows the service has resulted in a 24% decrease in ICU length of stay and a 20% drop in the mortality rate.
Improving Quality of Care
The success of ConstantCare has prompted OSF to expand our telehealth capabilities to provide even greater access and quality of care across the system. This is a necessity as rural populations continue to see shortages in physicians and specialists.
OSF has made it possible for smaller hospitals to utilize neurologists, pediatricians, and cardiologists out of Peoria for consultations over videoconferencing. This has reduced the need for patients to drive long miles to seek specialized care. It’s also prevented these hospitals from unnecessarily sending patients to the emergency department at OSF Saint Francis.
Let’s face it; people don’t always have the time to access a primary or urgent care facility when they or their family members are feeling sick. Telehealth services make care more convenient for our patients.
OSF OnCall is a 24/7 virtual urgent care service that allows patients to visit with a doctor or nurse practitioner over a smartphone, tablet, or computer without making an appointment. The consultations can result in diagnoses, treatments, and prescriptions for medications if appropriate.
The service launched in June and has exceeded our expectations. 422 people have utilized OSF OnCall since its inception and a majority of them have been pleased with the care provided.
It’s not just convenient for patients; it’s also a way for OSF to free up precious resources at our Prompt Cares and emergency departments. A recent survey of OSF OnCall participants found that 60% of users would’ve sought assistance at an urgent care facility while 11% would’ve gone to the emergency department if the videoconferencing service wasn’t available.
Expanding Telehealth Services
OSF continues to evaluate innovative ways to incorporate telehealth into the system. We’re working with ReGroup Therapy, a member of Chicago-based MATTER, to offer more behavioral health services to our patients using videoconferencing capabilities. This is huge need across the world, but there are just not enough providers to do the work. We can make sure our patients have direct access to these services.
Jump also continues to research the viability of using sensor technology through the Intel-GE Care Innovations projects to better monitor at-risk patients in their own homes. The idea is to better manage chronic conditions and decrease hospital readmissions.
The Need for Telehealth
The truth is hospital systems don’t have the luxury of having providers where and when we need them, especially in our rural populations. This problem will be exacerbated by the aging population who will likely need of a fair amount of care in the future, and an increase in patients with chronic conditions.
Telehealth gives OSF a way to bridge those gaps in care and ensure our regional populations have convenient access to the best services we have to offer, regardless of community size.
This is also a service our patients want. A recent report from the American Hospital Association says 74% of U.S. consumers are willing to use telehealth services while 76% prioritize access to care over the need of human interactions with their health care providers. According to Forbes, the number of households expected to use virtual care is projected to skyrocket 220% by the end of 2018.
This use of advanced videoconferencing technology to deliver health-related services and information is just another way OSF is integrating innovation to change the way we deliver care.