In a preview of their HIMSS22 panel, the executives describe how doctors at Harvard Medical School at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center set up a "virtual hospital" in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread across the world, doctors at Harvard Medical School at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center had made limited use of telemedicine.

But when the crisis became apparent, Dr. Oren Mechanic, Director of Telehealth at HMFP, in an interview with Healthcare IT News: "We knew we had to develop a company-wide virtual delivery system to withstand the COVID-19 pandemic. 19 and beyond."

"And it had to be done quickly, in a few days," he added.

Mechanic, who will talk about the program with Leanne Harvey, chief information officer for HMFP, at HIMSS22 in Orlando, noted that clinicians were quick to innovate in response to increased interest.

"There were robots, remote devices, telecommunications and hackathons" to treat patients virtually, she said. “Because we were quick to innovate, our CEOs, Dr. Alexa Kimball, the chief of emergency medicine, Dr. Rich Wolfe, and I published our vision for a virtual hospital that would care for patients outside the four walls. traditional.

"This served as a model for us as we focused our system on equity, access, and patient and family engagement to develop a virtual care system that now supports our clinical staff, which consists of more than 2,000 providers," continuous.

"We hope you keep the virtual grooming for many years to come!" she said.

Of course, such a massive undertaking is not without its challenges.

Throughout the system's journey of providing more than 500,000 virtual visits, Harvey said, "we had to consider privacy and security, multiple channels of patient engagement (text, email, phone, chat, video), voice support, physician burnout", staff training. and increased access to care for underserved populations."

"At the beginning of the pandemic, we used different telemedicine platforms, but quickly recognized the need for a single system that could be optimized for all 13 specialized departments," she continued.

After considering numerous third-party providers, the health system has designed and built its own telemedicine platform hosted on BIDMC's Amazon Web Services cloud, through which it currently conducts approximately 4,200 weekly patient visits.

“We had to overcome doctors' time spent solving technical problems with patients, which limited their clinical time. We were also concerned about barriers to patient care, such as patients without broadband access, technical proficiency, and limited English proficiency,” said Harvey.

She also pointed out what she initially described as "problematic" clinical workflows.

“There was a lack of integration with the existing EHR, meaning these visits were separate from the established healthcare IT environment,” she explained.

"Because we've traditionally used telemedicine infrequently, there hasn't been a standard way to coordinate care, especially given the shift in volume of telemedicine visits almost overnight," he added.

Physician commitment was also an important factor in the introduction.

“We conducted multiple needs assessments, medical champion group meetings, and support staff engagement to develop a set of guiding principles that have proven essential,” said Mechanic.

At the height of the pandemic, about two-thirds of outpatient visits were done virtually, and most BIDMC staff and HMFP doctors are still using the telemedicine platform today.

"Not only has the show been incredibly successful, it has the potential to lead other shows in creating their own 'gold standard,'" Mechanic continued.

HIMSS22 attendees will try this guide: Harvey and Mechanic say attendees will end the session with a blueprint for building and implementing a robust telehealth system, developing a needs assessment, and evaluating the results.

"We hope they understand the challenges and solutions involved in launching a successful telehealth system and creating a bespoke platform," said Harvey.