Stay-at-home orders caught many medical practices and health care systems off guard, leaving them ill-equipped to rapidly adopt an efficient telemedicine platform so they could keep providing time-sensitive care to non-COVID-19 patients. To help organizations rapidly introduce telemedicine as an alternative option, a urology group in North Carolina developed a guide that enabled them to convert all in-person visits to telemedicine in three days. They report their experience in an “article in press” appearing on the Journal of the American College of Surgeons website ahead of print.
The guide, which the authors call a toolkit, uses a common electronic medical record (EMR) system, Epic, and widely available video portals like Google Duo and Doximity, to overcome social distancing edicts. The toolkit relies on eight essential elements readily available in any medical organization new to telemedicine. “One of our motivations for preparing the toolkit was to make it instantly available to any type of organization, large or small, that has an electronic medical record system,” said lead author Catherine Matthews, MD, FACS, FACOG, professor of urology and gynecology, Wake Forest Baptist Health, Winston-Salem, N.C.
The eight essential components to successful telemedicine adoption are: an existing EMR, a one-hour training session for providers and staff, patient education on accessing the portal, availability of hardware like smartphones and video-capable computers, integration of new billing and coding functions, information technology support, an audiovisual platform, and patient and caregiver buy-in.
“The first thing you have to figure out is which video platform is going to work most consistently,” Dr. Matthews said. Through trial and error, she and her coauthors decided on pairing up the Epic EMR with the Doximity provider networking app. Patients can access the Doximity platform through a link sent in a text message, eliminating the need for them