From The Guardian (May 12, 2020):
“Now, everybody is on board,” says Dr Teresa Anderson, chief executive of the Sydney Local Health District. “There is not one clinical department across the district that is not providing care virtually.”
What a difference a pandemic makes. Although RPA Virtual Hospital was well into development when news broke from Wuhan in January, pandemic preparations meant it was scaled up far quicker than had been envisaged.
Anderson says RPA Virtual Hospital opened on 3 February with just six nurses. It now has more than 30 nurses, as well as medical and allied health teams, and 600 registered patients. Operating out of Royal Prince Alfred Hospital campus, it functions in many ways like a regular hospital, with a clinical handover, ward rounds, multidisciplinary team meetings and its own governance structures.
The virtual hospital is part of a wider suite of innovations developed at breakneck speed during the pandemic response, which include providing care in rented hotel and apartment accommodation to Covid-19 patients and others in quarantine, thus freeing up hospital beds.
The Covid epidemic spurred development of an addition to an already good medical care system.
A group of chronically ill patients were invited into the virtual care system. Nurses are used on initial encounter. They direct the enhanced home care, referrals or hospital care as needed. Electronic devices record the care given.
Hotels are used to quarantine suspected Covid patients, with telemonitoring.
As in America, the Covid epidemic has exposed the excesses of unneeded “elective” surgery, most notoriously surgery for back pain.
We can learn a lot by studying the health care of other countries.
From a ComputerWorld article (April 27, 2020):
“While the pandemic will prove the value of virtual care in a crisis, it will also demonstrate the effectiveness for ongoing chronic care management,” she said. “This moment will have a lasting effect on the adoption of virtual care and accelerate the shift from in-person care to virtual first engagement for multiple conditions and use cases.”
While the need for remote care will not be as acute once the pandemic crisis subsides, demand for telehealth systems will likely remain high. Forrester now expects more than one billion virtual care visits this year, the vast majority of them related to COVID-19.
“…After the crisis subsides, there will be a patient population that will want to continue to receive care online for some things, like managing chronic conditions, follow-up visits after an inpatient stay, surgery or to discuss diagnostic results,” she said.
In this case, it will be important for healthcare providers to ensure that patients are aware of the availability of services.