How technology guides care and comfort during a health crisis

March 18, 2020 Providence News Team

With public health concerns prompting the cancellation of the HIMSS20 conference this week in Orlando, Fla., one healthcare leader offered advice — via video — for keeping patients and providers safe.

The spread of coronavirus underscores the value of collaboration tools and telehealth during high-risk events, said Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, chief clinical officer at Providence St. Joseph Health, who spoke Wednesday at a virtual session sponsored by HIMSS

Her advice: Clear communication and care options for concerned patients are key, even as news changes. “The best thing you can do for your organization and the people depending on you is to be the voice of reason and calm,” Compton-Phillips said.

Providence, the nation’s third-largest healthcare system, was the first in the United States to treat a patient with the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. In January, the Renton, Wash.-based system used a remote-controlled robot to take an infected man’s vital signs with a stethoscope and to communicate via screen within the same facility.

Speaking to about 1,000 webinar attendees about Providence’s care strategies in the face of COVID-19, Compton-Phillips shared takeaways for providers.

1. Educate and Engage Patients Before They Arrive

To identify at-risk or potentially infected patients (and to keep others at home), Providence looked to its IT teams to develop a coronavirus assessment chatbot that allows users to input symptoms. The chatbot helps users determine the best next steps, possibly avoiding a hospital or clinic, especially for nonurgent cases.

One option is to select an on-demand virtual visit with Providence’s Express Care. “A nurse practitioner can go through your symptoms,” said Compton-Phillips, noting that the organization’s “incredible” telehealth infrastructure has helped handle an influx of queries across 100-plus participating sites. 

2. Promote Knowledge Sharing Between Clinics and Employees

With 51 hospitals and 120,000 employees across seven states, Providence teams communicate early and often. A pre-existing partnership with Microsoft offered an edge: “We have an array of tools to manage documents,” Compton-Phillips said. “We have hour-to-hour [coronavirus] updates … the information available to everyone in our entire footprint.” Virtual grand rounds for staff are held as new information becomes available.

Additionally, coronavirus-specific updates to the organization’s two electronic health record platforms were implemented to help spot symptoms that necessitate testing and to track new cases. IT teams were able to build and implement an alert within eight hours. 

3. Leverage Predictive Analytics to Anticipate Workflow and Needs

The arrival of COVID-19 in Seattle, a global business hub, wasn’t a surprise. Using predictive analytics, Providence used relevant data to inform a game plan before any U.S. cases were diagnosed. An analytics tool designed by Providence teams is allowing clinicians to map predictive models of likely new cases and to inform other healthcare organizations. 

“We need to be a step ahead and know where we need to reposition our PPE [personal protective equipment], where to put ventilators,” Compton-Phillips said. "There has been a dramatic improvement in our ability to predict what’s coming."

4. Deploy Mobile Tools in Care and Recovery Settings

Tablets are helping facilitate doctor-patient communication to minimize contact with contagious people, said Compton-Phillips. They’re also helpful for providing information and entertainment for those in extended quarantine.

“We have a very strict isolation protocol; it’s incredibly isolating,” Compton-Phillips said. “We’ve been deploying iPads into our facility so people can keep that connection to stay sane while undergoing acute therapy.”

5. Track Progress with Remote Patient Monitoring After Discharge

Some coronavirus patients may show signs of decline after symptoms improve, Compton-Phillips said. Providence, then, is using remote patient monitoring tools — such as digital pulse oximeters and thermometers — to keep tabs on high-risk individuals after discharge. 

“Having the capacity to monitor patients at home is a huge win for us,” she said. Those who are sent home also may connect throughout their recovery with Providence staff via video check-ins to discuss the recovery and determine the next steps if needed.

How technology guides care and comfort during a health crisis,   HealthTech

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