SAN LUIS VALLEY—San Luis Valley Health has expanded access to care by adding telemedicine to inpatient care so patients can remain closer to home during their hospital stay. Telemedicine is the term used for remote healthcare services, which allows an off-site provider to be present during the evaluation, assessment, and ongoing care of the patient. The telemedicine technology allows the consulting physician to listen to the patient’s heartbeat and breath sounds, talk to the patient and virtually interact with them and the team of local providers. The efficiency and benefits that result from the additional service is multi-fold but focuses on improved access and cost-savings measures, since SLV Health inpatients are able to receive specialty care, without having to leave the Valley.
Since Nov. 1, 2018, established dialysis patients who require hospitalization are no longer requiring an automatic transfer to facilities outside of the Valley. One of the patients remarked, “I am so glad you can take care of me here and do my dialysis in the Valley - it keeps me close to my family.” Medical transfers outside of the Valley can be very expensive, in addition to the patient’s family having to travel, stay in hotels, and transport the patient back home after discharge.
SLV Health teamed up with Sanderling Renal Services to perform inpatient dialysis and telenephrology consultation. Now dialysis can be performed for established dialysis patients in the hospital setting. Hospitalists can also request a consult and treatment plan for patients who may be experiencing issues with their kidneys. The hospitalist team directs the inpatient care, following the guidance of the nephrologist. “We have had great success so far, in working together to get the optimal care and diagnosis,” commented Oliver de Raet, M.D. hospitalist director for SLV Health. “The providers, patients, and patient family members are all involved in the dialogue with the nephrologist. It’s excellent care for everyone involved.”
Numerous SLV Health departments worked in collaboration to introduce telehealth and ensure a successful “go live.” SLV Health Director of Nursing Shannon Muniz added, “It took process planning and education to familiarize our nursing staff with the clinical expectations and workflow surrounding inpatient dialysis and nephrology consultation. We worked to develop policies, procedures and order sets to effectively treat this patient population. We are now delivering a great new system of care without issues.”
Telemedicine has been used with consultations at the clinic for infectious diseases for over a year. SLVH Clinic Administrator Antonio Gurule adds, “Telemedicine provides access to specialty services in the most cost-effective manner possible. It allows our patients to access an increasing number of specialty services that we would not be able to provide in this rural setting. I think we will see increases in remote visits for patients for regular visits as well as remote monitoring for patients with chronic conditions in the future.”
Another way that telemedicine applications have been in use for many years is in SLV Health’s imaging department. The images are transmitted and read by the Radiology and Imaging Consultants based in Colorado Springs.
According to evisit.com, telehealth will be a game changer for upcoming challenges facing healthcare delivery in the United States. “For instance, the population growth from 2008-2030 is set at 20 percent, that is 363 million people, which is predicted to bring about a shortage of healthcare professionals and the lack of specialists and medical facilities in rural areas. Telemedicine can reduce the impact of such challenges by connecting the right people with the correct resources and expertise in real-time” (https://evisit.com/resources/what-is-telehealth-services/). SLV Health, through the use of telemedicine, is setting itself up to be able to deliver these much-needed services to the SLV community so patients can remain closer to home.