The times necessitate virtual versions of just about everything: from school to play dates, board meetings to cooking classes, concerts to book clubs, birthday parties to workouts. And healthcare. For hospital workers who care for patients with infectious diseases, every shift is fraught with risk — for patients and providers to contract a virus or pass it on.
In fact, healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) affect one in 25 US hospital patients annually.1 When a virulent virus is present, that number is sure to increase. Every shift requires several changes of personal protective equipment (PPE), and the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that we don’t begin to have enough of this potentially lifesaving gear.
In the meantime, care teams know that every routine has a purpose, and it’s important to try to maintain all of them — in ordinary times and crises. One of these routines is rounding. Making hospital rounds is a valuable opportunity for providers to check in with patients and their families, discuss diagnoses and care plans, and answer questions.
Provider-patient interactions have been shown to increase the perception that patients are more cared for by their medical team and significantly enhance patient satisfaction.2 These rounds need not be limited to a physician-patient exchange. Many hospitals have implemented joint care team rounds, nurse-physician rounds, or hourly nurse rounds. And patients’ families are increasingly involved.
Amid the pressures of heightened infection risk and critically low PPE supplies, a technology solution is emerging that lets care teams conduct rounds without entering patient rooms. The connection is made by videoconference, enabling an experience that’s close to being in the same room. In addition to patients and providers hearing each other, they can see body language and emotion.
One such solution was implemented by Florida-based Nemours Children’s Health System. They use devices on carts that can be wheeled into patients’ rooms or moved around the emergency department. Another solution uses Lenovo ThinkSmart™ View, a compact device purpose-built for Microsoft Teams videoconferencing.
These solutions allow providers to connect with patients from any location using a network-connected device like a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop. And, since providers are not bedside, there’s no PPE requirement for them. Most importantly, virtual rounding keeps patients and providers safe from infection. Microsoft Teams and other platforms allow additional people to join the virtual visit, so more of the care team and specialists can participate if needed.
A range of use cases exists for connecting patients and providers by video at various points along the continuum of care. Although many virtual patient encounters don’t take place in the hospital, interest has now spiked in remote access, remote patient monitoring, and virtual care of all kinds. These new care models are delivered more efficiently, allowing organizations to maximize resources — both during a short-term crisis and for the longer term in an era of healthcare professional shortages. Increased acceptance and adoption of virtual care will open the door to new technologies and continuing innovation.
Lenovo Health’s "Trends to Track" series highlights news and industry reports impacting healthcare decision makers, with a fresh look at current topics and trends. Be sure to check back for new stories.
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