Transition to Telehealth — Healthcare Innovation Panel Discussion

The healthcare industry’s heroic response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been historically agile. Decisions that could have taken a year before were implemented in a week. Out of necessity, thousands of clinicians and other healthcare professionals became telehealth experts practically overnight.

In the wake of these rapid changes, our friends at Healthcare Innovation hosted a virtual panel focused on EHR optimization. KLAS’ own Jason Hess, EVP of Provider Success, participated in this virtual panel along with Rob Adamson, PharmD, Senior VP and Operational Leader for EPIC EHR at RWJBarnabas Health, and Salim Saiyed, MD, System VP and CMIO at UPMC Pinnacle.  The discussion was led by Mark Hagland, Editor in Chief of Healthcare Innovation.

Critical Changes

Saiyed noted that the transition to telehealth was necessary just to keep his organization going. The largest initial challenge was how to change the delivery method of care, workflow, and training for thousands of physicians and staff in less than a week. Saiyed identified how crucial EHR integration would be for the new telehealth workflow. Disparate, unintegrated, and unfamiliar workflows in addition to the circumstances would surely cause physician burnout.

Adamson said that telehealth visits increased by tenfold at his organization. RWJBarnabas Health in New Jersey saw the nation’s second largest number of COVID-19 cases. Even though many of the clinicians didn’t know how to perform virtually, Adamson was impressed at how preconceived notions regarding telemedicine melted away during this time of crisis.

Hess confirmed that the experiences with telehealth of both Saiyed’s and Adamson’s organizations matched those of many healthcare organizations across the nation. KLAS’ survey results during the pandemic report a nationwide increase in telehealth visits. Hess brought up a number of other concerns that organizations have expressed, like what vendor platform is being used for telehealth visits? How can we tackle remote patient monitoring? How will reimbursement work?

Potential and Problems

Saiyed fully expects telehealth to be vital in sustaining UPMC Pinnacle going forward. He predicts that at least 50% of all future visits will be telehealth visits. Although UPMC Pinnacle was able to accomplish the mammoth task of switching to telehealth care in a week, in many ways, it still isn’t ideal. Saiyed mentioned that there are so many opportunities to improve the process from every perspective, including patient, physician, staff, operations, and clinical workflow perspectives.

As Adamson considered the longevity of a viable telehealth solution, he noted the shift in the kind of appointment that was occurring via telehealth. He said that the majority of telehealth visits in the past were for chronic situations in which the clinicians could be informed by the patient history without having to physically be with the patient. But now, the lion’s share of telehealth visits are for acute situations, which can be much more difficult to assess over telehealth technology.

Hess has spoken with many healthcare organizations who, out of necessity, have had to use consumer platforms such as Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts to perform telehealth visits. At first, this approach seems to be relatively seamless and intuitive since most patients and physicians have exposure to these platforms already.

Order of Optimization

Now that the initial wave of rapid required changes to workflows and operations has mostly settled for UPMC Pinnacle, Saiyed said they are moving into phase two, which is an attempt to settle into whatever the new normal will look like for the organization. They will be looking to maintain some of the new pace and keep the organization resilient to possible future challenges.

The IT staff members at RWJBarnabas Health have experienced a good deal of pressure to stop progress on the Epic EHR project they have been working on. Adamson and other RWJBarnabas Health leaders developed a system to determine which work groups had the ability and availability to work on certain projects. This method was more strategic than an organization-wide pause because it allowed certain groups to continue to progress while others were put on hold.

As Hess has spoken with many providers, they have told him time and time again how helpful it can be to take a benchmark of their organization’s EHR satisfaction and compare that to how similar organizations are performing. For that, Hess encourages any provider organization to consider reaching out to KLAS about the Arch Collaborative. The Arch Collaborative has measured and remeasured enough organizations to confirm that even in this pandemic, it is possible to improve your EHR experience.

 We thank Healthcare Innovation for hosting this virtual panel discussion and hope that this conversation could shed light on this crucial time in the history of the industry. To learn more about Healthcare Innovation visit their website. To contact KLAS about the Arch Collaborative follow this link.


     Photo Credit: Adobe Stock, Rido