Opening new pathways to care
Technology enabled care
Getting to a medical appointment can be challenging, complicated by transportation logistics, travel times, child care and illness. A referral to a specialist often means scheduling another appointment and then waiting for that date to arrive.
Investments in eHealth, a variety of health care services enabled by technology and provided through video, phone calls and other digital connections, create alternate pathways to care that can reduce wait times and get people more quickly to the care they need. These innovations also support new collaboration among our providers across Vermont and Northern New York.
As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, we rapidly accelerated our efforts to provide care to most of our adult and pediatric patients through video and phone visits. This meant providing more than 1,500 of our providers with the needed equipment and educating thousands of patients on a different way to receive care. In the span of one month, we moved from 10 video visits a week to roughly 7,000 by the end of April 2020.
Although poor internet service across our region limits digital options for some patients, those without this limitation have responded positively to this approach. Patient surveys have shown high satisfaction with video visits in particular, with the majority of patients giving high marks when asked to rate their overall experience with this type of visit.
Number of video visits over the last three years:
During the COVID-19 pandemic—video visits only
eHealth visits remain high even as in-person visits have safely resumed
After receiving formal referrals from their primary care provider, patients often need to schedule and wait for additional appointments. With eConsults, primary care providers are able to securely consult with specialists during a patient visit, connecting patients to care more quickly because this is a faster path, with fewer appointments to navigate, getting patients to a treatment plan addressing their needs.
In addition, psychiatry eConsults are available at UVM Medical Center Adult Primary Care – South Burlington.
Strains on emergency departments (EDs) are at a critical level across our Network. Innovative eHealth programs can help immediately connect patients who come to the ED with the specialist care and consult they may need.
Using eHealth technologies, ED providers can consult with physicians at other Network hospitals on difficult cases or when patients are suffering from acute illness or trauma that requires specialty care, such as stroke or neonatal intensive care.
A new program using televideo will allow physicians to remotely triage ED patients, while another program will use eHealth for ED patient observation. Home care settings served by Home Health & Hospice continue to demonstrate effective use of eHealth for remote patient observation.
Electronic health records enable quick and secure access to up-to-date patient records, which can lead to more coordinated and efficient care while reducing costs and administrative burdens. As of April 2022, all of our Network hospitals and clinics are connected to the Epic system.