In the very first webinar of 2021, Ed Marx of The HCI Group was joined by special guest, Dr. Brian D'Anza MD, Medical Director of Telehealth/Digital Health at University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio. They engaged in an interactive discussion concerning the past, present and future of telehealth. With 2020 as the "past," Ed and Brian considered the following questions: Where are we today and where will we be in the future, one year from now?
How did your organization navigate COVID-19?
Prior to COVID-19 we had dabbled in Telehealth, but it really wasn't anything that was widespread within the organization. Come to mid-March of 2020 and we went from using it for approximately two thousand visits across our entire enterprise in all of 2019, to having to operationalize two thousand providers on to a Telehealth platform. Simultaneously, we had to figure out the day-to-day challenges from a billing and legal perspective. The first thing that we did to address the crisis was establish a multi-disciplinary group of leaders from across the whole system and agreed to meet every day to review. This contributed to our success and our ability to go from to two thousand telehealth patients in 2019 to ninety thousand in April.
We also worked with (as opposed to against) our competitor Cleveland Clinic, to set up drive-thru testing spots throughout the city. The leadership of both University Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic worked together to set up clinics that helped get a handle on what needed to be done. This also allowed us to reduce the initial surge at the start of the pandemic and really ameliorate any effects of it, because of the relationship with and ability to work alongside Cleveland Clinic. This was definitely a silver lining to the pandemic, as we have continued with further partnerships through out the last year.
How are you continuing this path in the present?
We are still going through the transition currently. In March, we were looking for the lifeboat to jump into and that lifeboat was Telehealth. However, we were always looking forward and thinking: Where do we go from here? We knew that the surge in Telehealth and digital health was needed to address the short term circumstances. However, we always saw this as something that was going to be sticking around in one way or another. So, as we've been working through the day-to-day, we've also been planning for the future.
We initially opened up to allow our professionals to use any platforms that will allow them to see patients. Anything that they felt comfortable with and allowed them to communicate was allowed. That was a great tactic during the emergency, but as we emerge from it, we need start thinking about the benefits to our system and how we integrate some of the technology we established during the crisis. How do we maintain that connection with the patient? How do we improve on the quality of the care we are providing? That really gets to the goal of Telehealth long term. We are are not just replicated seeing the doctor in the office, but we are going to improve the quality and value of care. That is our goal presently, as well as deciding how we integrate with the systems that we already have.