Healthcare Organizations Are Finding Novel Uses For Virtual Health Technology

The virtual health revolution has been rampant over the past few years, largely fueled by transformative events such as the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever, healthcare leaders, organizations, and policy makers are recognizing the importance of virtual health, both in terms of patient comfort and experience, and the cost savings that virtual health can provide at the system level.

Some organizations have done that leaning in and more in relation to virtual health, technology is being used to go beyond simple patient care encounters. Take for example Penn Medicine’s (based on the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine) Care Connect Program. In a paper published earlier this month in the New England Journal of Medicine, the team writes about “CareConnect: Adapting an Urgent Care Model to Provide Buprenorphine Transitional Care.” The program uses Penn’s urgent care services and substance abuse specialists to provide treatment to patients. As described by the organization, “Trained emergency physicians provide practical assessment and treatment with buprenorphine – a drug that treats opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms – with patients who receive support from drug users throughout their care process.”

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The researchers leading the initiative consider the program to be effective: “Studies have shown that 89 percent of patients in the program filled their first prescription for buprenorphine, and 55 percent continued to have a ‘active prescription’ for the drug 30 days after their initial involvement. , which shows that they were busy with treatment.”

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Dr. Margaret Lowenstein, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, lead author of the study, and research director of the Penn Center for Addiction Medicine and Policy (CAMP), comments: “The numbers are encouraging and it’s possible to underestimate who is in effective treatment, because it doesn’t catch people off guard.” in other forms of care, such as methadone, or those who have entered inpatient treatment.”

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In the midst of a volatile health care landscape and ever-increasing rates of drug abuse, programs like these show new ways that existing technology can be used to solve challenging problems.

Another novel way in which virtual health technology is being used is being demonstrated by the South Dakota State Department of Health (DOH). A federal agency is partnering with a telemedicine company to enable its emergency medical services (EMS) to provide urgent, much-needed care.

The press release explains: “The South Dakota Department of Health (DOH) is pleased to announce the launch of a new telehealth partnership between DOH, Emergency Medical Service (EMS) Agencies, and Sioux Falls-based telemedicine provider, Avel eCare . This program will use telemedicine to transform the delivery of care provided to patients across the country. ” As explained by Joan Adam, DOH Cabinet Secretary, “Telemedicine in Motion will connect EMS agencies throughout South Dakota to onboard Emergency Physicians and Registered Nurses via telemedicine from Avel eCare…Most of the Our EMS agencies receive long-distance travel, where residents need the most care. With Telemedicine in Motion, Avel will provide diagnostic services and consultation to EMS professionals with two-way audio and video from the back of the ambulance. This initiative will improve the coordination of care between to our EMS providers and hospitals.”

Indeed, this is another example of a visual and novel impact driven by existing technology. A virtual health infrastructure will enable EMS faculty to better provide services to patients who need them most, leading to better clinical and community outcomes.

Overall, virtual health technology still has a long way to go, in terms of security, data reliability, and patient safety. However, the applications above are just two examples of many different ways to use healthcare services that can provide significant value to patients.


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