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Using technology to support new forms of patient engagement in times of uncertainty

Estimated read time: 5 minutes

by Cerner Corporation

Published on 6/8/2020

From remote classrooms and offices to virtual happy hours, workouts and holiday gatherings, technology has become essential to our professional and personal lives amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Just as we’re relying more on video and audio tools to continue school, work and play while practicing social distancing, we’re also embracing virtual health care options at a greater rate during this unprecedented time.

Video and other online solutions are essential parts of the health care industry’s rapid transformation in response to the pandemic. In fact, Cerner is collaborating with telehealth company, Amwell, which reports a significant surge in remote visits as the COVID-19 outbreak expands across the globe. Government initiatives, such as the COVID-19 Telehealth Program, are making it easier for organizations to connect patients and providers via smartphones, tablets and computers.

Under the 1135 waiver authority and Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is temporarily expanding access to Medicare telehealth services so that beneficiaries can receive a wider range of services from their doctors without having to travel to a health care facility. The agency is also encouraging states to relax licensing laws to allow in-state and out-of-state providers to offer telehealth options during the pandemic. 

Health care organizations across the globe are using technology to help limit the spread of the virus and ration personal protective equipment (PPE) while still efficiently screening, testing and engaging with consumers. For example:

Patient education, triage and screening

The influx of patient questions related to COVID-19 is a challenge for many health care organizations and technology is helping to meet the demand.

For instance, Salesforce is offering six months of free access to its COVID-19 Care Response Solution that empowers organizations to engage patients, members, employees and partners with real-time safety and wellness information. Truman Medical Centers, a Cerner client in Kansas City, Missouri, rapidly deployed the solution to manage inbound COVID-19 inquiries from patients and employees. Now they can pre-screen patients for COVID-19 before they arrive at the medical center. 

HealtheLife℠, the Cerner web-based patient portal solution, incorporates educational content from Healthwise, Staywell (Krames) and more as well as a COVID-19 self-checker chatbot from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help people make decisions around seeking appropriate medical care. Patients can also use the portal to manage appointments and access their medical records.

In collaboration with GetWell Loop, Cerner is offering new COVID-19 digital care plans based on CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines to help mitigate health system overload. The plans facilitate self-monitoring and management of symptoms, and automatically identify patients in need of intervention.

Virtual health

Indiana University Health (IU Health), the largest health care system in the state, quickly launched a virtual clinic in early March to offer residents free COVID-19 screenings using the IU Health Virtual Visit app. Within the first couple of weeks, they saw over 10,000 interactions on the platform and now have 1,000 outpatient visits scheduled per day ─ 100 times the number pre-COVID-19. The organization’s specialized surgeons, who have patients across the state, have increased patient satisfaction by conducting follow-up visits through telehealth. Clinicians at IU Health have also used the technology to connect chaplains with patients and their families for virtual end-of-life care.

“Our collaboration with Cerner has been critical to deploying solutions, documenting the care we’re delivering and keeping that care connected to the health record in a virtual worldWe’re able to bring our providers an integrated solution where they can live within the Cerner platform and connect to a patient virtually, allowing us to capture the value of virtual interactions without increasing clinicians’ workloads.”  ─ Ian McDaniel, executive director, virtual care, IU Health 

St. Joseph’s Health recently transitioned its scheduled and on-demand visits to the Cerner and Amwell platform. The Paterson, New Jersey-based health system implemented scheduled and on-demand telehealth visits in less than a week.

ChristianaCare started using Cerner scheduled video visits in the fall of 2018 for a small, employee-only virtual primary care practice, averaging around 70 visits per month. In the first few weeks of its COVID-19 response, ChristianaCare converted most of its non-employee practices to telehealth offerings and served over 2,000 patients remotely in the month of April.

“COVID-19 accelerated the work that we had already begun to transform care and deliver radical convenience to our patients through virtual visitsAs our clinicians and our patients experience the ease and effectiveness of virtual care, there’s clearly no going back. We’re delivering the right care, at the right time, at the right place.” ─ Sarah Schenck, MD, FACP, clinical director, practice transformation for primary care and community medicine, ChristianaCare 

Patient monitoring 

When patients are hospitalized, clinicians can use virtual tools to keep a safe distance while still delivering high-quality care. Providers at Jackson Health System, a nonprofit academic medical system in Miami, Florida, are using Cerner Patient Observer to help limit unnecessary staff exposure to the virus and conserve PPE. The solution allows clinicians to monitor vital signs and treatment progress in real-time and communicate with patients in multiple rooms using cameras and microphones.

A new normal for patient engagement 

While tech is being employed at an exponential rate to handle the demands of COVID-19, it’s likely these services will remain mainstream beyond the crisis. As consumers, we’ve long wanted greater access to convenient, affordable and personalized health care. Post COVID-19, we’ll expect organizations to provide virtual health care and engagement solutions to ultimately deliver a seamless patient experience.

From virtual classrooms to video or telephone facilitated clinician visits, the COVID-19 pandemic has touched every area of our lives. Technology is playing a crucial role in helping us adapt, and even thrive, in the face of a new normal.

Cerner is working closely with WHO, CDC and other global and regional health organizations to align guidance and response for our clients. Learn more here 

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