As telehealth enters its post-pandemic adolescence, broader use cases are dominating the landscape. And Dr. Stephanie Lahr, president of Artisight, knows this landscape well.

Artisight markets a “smart hospital” platform designed to capture precise, real-time data to optimize operations, reduce costs and help clinicians focus on providing care. Virtual care is part of the equation.

We interviewed Lahr to talk about how broader use cases are benefitting patients with more serious health issues and overburdened providers; how AI-powered remote patient monitoring and virtual nursing can improve health outcomes, reduce burnout and increase efficiencies throughout the hospital environment; and, important for doctors and nurses experiencing burnout, how telemedicine can help bring the joy back to medicine.

Q. You suggest wider applications of telemedicine are benefiting patients with more serious health issues as well as overburdened providers. What are a few of these applications and how is virtual care technology helping?

A. Telemedicine has traditionally played a pivotal role in inpatient care, particularly in bringing the expertise of specialist providers to patients who might otherwise lack access. This includes scenarios where a neurologist remotely evaluates a patient’s stroke severity, or an ICU specialist provides critical care guidance to a facility with limited or no 24/7 ICU physician coverage.

This capability to extend specialized knowledge into various healthcare settings has proven invaluable.

However, virtual care is evolving beyond these traditional applications. With all members of the care team stretched thin by the demands of patient care, the need to use technology to share the work is growing. Telehealth, with its established platforms and technologies, offers a promising avenue for addressing these challenges in a more inclusive and democratized manner.

For example, take virtual nursing, which reimagines the division of labor, allowing nurses to remotely monitor and manage patient care. With real-time access to electronic health records and telemetry data, virtual nurses can provide timely advice and support to their in-person colleagues, enhancing patient care without the need for physical presence.

Similarly, the scope of telehealth now extends to other healthcare professionals such as respiratory therapists and pharmacists. Through telehealth, they can offer specialized consultations and education directly to patients’ rooms without the need to physically travel between different locations. This not only maximizes the efficient use of their expertise but also reduces the time and logistical constraints associated with in-person consultation.

Advanced telehealth tools, equipped with high-quality cameras capable of detailed zoom, pan and tilt functions, further augment these capabilities. Such technology allows specialists to conduct thorough assessments and provide recommendations by closely examining patient equipment and treatment settings remotely.

This level of detail supports informed decision making and ensures expert guidance is readily available to bedside caregivers.

This shift toward a more integrated and accessible model of care via telehealth not only broadens the scope of virtual care but also encourages a collaborative approach among healthcare providers. It invites the entire care team to leverage telehealth’s capabilities, fostering a collaborative approach to patient care.

As virtual care continues to evolve, it holds the potential to redefine healthcare workflows, making specialized care more accessible and efficient, and ultimately enhancing patient outcomes in an increasingly complex healthcare environment.

Q. You further say pairing telemedicine with AI-powered remote patient monitoring and virtual nursing can help healthcare. Please go into detail as to how this can help.

A. Integrating telehealth with AI-powered remote patient monitoring and virtual nursing represents a significant leap forward in healthcare delivery. The foundation of telehealth infrastructure – characterized by high-quality two-way audio/video interactions – necessitates robust technological components.

Devices such as advanced cameras, clear speakers/microphones and monitors are critical for facilitating engaging conversations between patients and providers, ensuring the person on the screen becomes a tangible presence in the room.

This technological groundwork not only provides immediate value by enhancing the immediacy and quality of patient-provider interactions but also sets the stage for a transformative shift in healthcare workflows. The inclusion of such technology in patient care environments paves the way for reimagining the distribution of tasks among healthcare teams – and optimizing care delivery.

In the next five years or so, there will be a camera and a microphone in every hospital patient room – and that’s a good thing.

Integrating AI into this framework presents even more possibilities. Natural language processing and computer vision offer the potential to build upon this foundation. By training AI algorithms in real-world healthcare settings, it becomes possible to streamline and automate high-friction tasks that traditionally consume significant amounts of clinicians’ time.

For instance, AI can take over routine documentation, accurately capturing patient interactions and clinical observations without manual input from healthcare professionals. This automation extends to the communication of critical information, where AI algorithms can efficiently relay important updates and coordinate care activities, reducing the likelihood of errors and delays.

By leveraging AI in conjunction with telehealth technology, healthcare providers can significantly reduce the administrative burden often associated with patient care. This shift allows clinicians to redirect their focus toward more direct patient interactions, improving the quality of care and enhancing patient outcomes.

The combination of telehealth and AI represents a forward-thinking approach to healthcare, where technology not only facilitates but actively enhances the human aspects of patient care, making healthcare more efficient, accessible and patient-centered.

Q. And you believe this wider use of telemedicine can help bring the joy back to medicine for overburdened clinicians while also improving access to care. How will this happen?

A. I’ve never met a doctor or nurse who said patient care was the reason they might leave the profession. It’s the overwhelming administrative tasks that lead to burnout.

The promise of telehealth, augmented by advanced technologies, holds the potential to revitalize the practice of medicine, bringing joy and fulfillment back to clinicians overwhelmed by current demands.

The essence of healthcare – the intimate and impactful interactions between patients and their caregivers – has been overshadowed by an ever-growing list of ancillary tasks. Clinicians are burdened with extensive documentation, communication of findings to various stakeholders, and the meticulous capturing of data, all of which can detract from the core of their work – patient care.

The cumulative weight of the additional responsibilities that providers are saddled with is the root of burnout. The sentiment that there’s always “one more task” can be profoundly demotivating, creating a barrier between the clinician and the patient – not only diminishing quality of care but also eroding the clinicians’ sense of purpose and satisfaction in their work.

By strategically implementing virtual care, we can significantly reduce these burdens. Automating documentation, streamlining communication and efficiently managing patient data can free clinicians from the shackles of administrative overload.

This liberation allows them to concentrate on what drew them to medicine in the first place: the direct care of patients, the passion for diagnosing and treating illnesses, and the rewarding relationships they build with those they help.

As we enable clinicians to focus more on bedside care and less on bureaucratic tasks, we not only enhance their professional satisfaction but also improve patient access to care. By optimizing the use of clinicians’ time and expertise, telehealth can facilitate more patient interactions, reduce wait times and expand the reach of healthcare services, particularly in underserved areas.

The broader application of telehealth and related technologies can transform healthcare delivery. It offers a pathway to restore the joy of medicine for clinicians, ensuring their work is defined by the meaningful connections and critical decisions that impact patient lives, rather than the volume of administrative work that awaits them at every turn.

Follow Bill’s HIT coverage on LinkedIn: Bill Siwicki
Email him: bsiwicki@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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