Technology-enabled workflows now enable patients to complete most of the registration formalities prior to the visit, be it a virtual consult or a clinic visit. Registration kiosks in hospital lobbies may soon be enabled with facial recognition software to eliminate the need for touching any surface.
Routine examinations are also going virtual, with many diagnostic procedures now possible through remotely controlled devices. Caregivers are beginning to do their patient rounds through virtual visits. This trend will only grow in the coming years.
A vast and growing array of automated communication tools allows caregivers to use rule-based messaging to push everything from health coaching, post-discharge care instructions, and appointment reminders through IVR, text, SMS, and mobile alerts.
“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.
Empowering Patients Through Education And Telemedicine