- Health IT integration will factor into new pilot programs at Southeast Michigan’s Beaumont Health aimed at improving patient communication and interaction.
Beaumont, Michigan’s largest health system in terms of inpatient admissions (178,000 in 2015) and net patient revenue ($4.1 billion), announced on Feb. 4 the launch of a “virtual visit” program instituted at about 10 physician offices in Royal Oak, St. Clair Shores, Troy and other cities.
Beaumont said virtual visits are among a number of technology initiatives under assessment “to meet the growing demand for easier, more convenient ways for patients to connect with healthcare providers, eliminating the need for an office visit for non-emergent medical concerns, such as allergies, a cough or cold.”
Here’s how the e-visit pilot works: A patient logs into Beaumont’s patient portal, selects his/her condition from a list, and then answers condition-specific questions. Eligible conditions include back pain, sinus issues, chest cold, cough, pink eye and urinary problems. The physician logs in, evaluates the patient’s medical condition, allergies, health issues and symptoms to recommend the most appropriate treatment. The physician can order medication or lab work to complete the visit.
“This really complements what we’re already doing and provides the ability to see patients in a whole new way,” said Trevor Ripley, MD, of Troy Family Medicine. “If you know a patient well and already have a relationship with them, this technology will make things easier as far as time is concerned.”
Richard Cooke, MD, a physician at St. Clair Shores Family Medicine, added, “As time goes on, technology is enhancing our ability to communicate. This is another avenue that helps make the delivery of medicine more efficient and, in many cases, it’s better for patients.”
Beaumont reported that it is preparing to test additional features that would enable patients to connect with their physician via remote video conferencing and streamline the online bill-paying process. The health system hope to establish convenient access points for patients — especially those with limited mobility, those living in rural areas or those with a condition that does not require physical interaction.
“In today’s tech-savvy world, patients want more information at their fingertips more quickly,” said Subra Sripada, chief information officer at Beaumont, in a public statement. “The e-visit and video technologies are an innovative and secure way to meet those needs. It allows patients to remotely communicate from anywhere in order for us to manage their care and overall health.”
Beaumont said there are no additional costs associated with the technologies and services available during the pilot projects.
Last year, four Beaumont hospitals (Dearborn, Grosse Pointe, Royal Oak and Troy) were recognized in U.S. News & World Report’s Most Connected Hospitals list. All eight of Beaumont’s hospitals use the same EHR system, enabling staff to communicate across all facilities.
“Advanced technology and electronic medical records are critical to ensuring patients receive the best care,” said Sripada at the time of the list’s publication. He added that the recognition demonstrated the health system’s commitment to being a technology leader.