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How Telehealth, Convenient Care Improve Patient Experience

By utilizing telehealth technology, Nemours Children's Health System has improved patient experience by making care more convenient and easy to access.

By Sara Heath

At Nemours Children’s Health System, improving the patient experience has always been about providing convenience and quality to pediatric patients and their families. That’s why the health system, which covers a large patient population in medically underserved regions, implemented a robust telehealth program.

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As a support for their overarching patient engagement strategies, Nemours leans on mHealth and telehealth technologies to meet the patients where it is  best for them.

“We started on our telehealth journey a few years back, and part of that was to increase access to patients,” said Nemours Chief Information Officer Bernie Rice in an interview with PatientEngagementHIT.com. “We serve several underserved areas and sometimes our physicians are driving two-plus hours to get to some of our clinics and see patients.”

Now, providers can stay at the hospital and connect with patients in those remote clinics.  This has cut down travel time for the providers, Rice explained, and boosted family and patient satisfaction as well.

“The patient would show up at the clinic two hours away from the hospital, the doctor would have their visit with the patient via telehealth, and it was great,” Rice said. “Mom loved it because she didn’t have to pack up all the kids and drive two hours north for an appointment and then two hours back home. So it was much more convenient for the patient and the family.”

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But telehealth programs are rarely free of complications, and Nemours’ efforts were no exception. “The problem we ran into was on the prescription side,” Rice explained.

Many of the behavioral health cases Nemours handled via telehealth required controlled substances for treatment. Because  providers must  hand prescriptions for these medications directly to the patient, it was critical that the health system implement a strategy that met regulations but continued to offer convenient options.

Rice and his team implemented a two-factor authentication system for e-prescribing to help alleviate this issue. By using a physician’s badge and a unique ID code, the provider can securely order an electronic prescription and send it to the patient.

This process also helps to boost patient safety, Rice said, while working to improve convenience for families.

“You don’t have to worry about the parents losing the prescription,” he said. “It is a very difficult thing to get a second one if that happens.”

READ MORE: mHealth Use Hinges on Patient Perceptions of App Efficacy

Going forward, Nemours is working on new initiatives to supplement its telehealth and patient engagement programs. Currently, the health system is providing patients the option to access a provider on-demand via their telehealth platform.

“This is the option where you can go out to our CareConnect app or on our website and say, ‘I want to see a doctor now,’” Rice said. “That’s kind of that anytime, anywhere philosophy that lines up with our direction. Give the patients the care they need when they need it.”

Parents are utilizing this function to consult on various concerns, like tick bites or stomach bugs. The on-demand nature of the platform allows parents to get their children help when it is most convenient to them – mostly before school or after parents get home from work, Rice said.

Nemours is also working on a growing digital strategy, complete with a suite of apps and Bluetooth biometric tools. Through Bluetooth blood pressure cuffs and glucometers, the health system hopes to boost its stores of patient-generated health data. The remote patient care tools will also save patients and families avoidable trips into the clinic.

Through online appointment scheduling, Rice says the health system hopes to make in-person visits more convenient for patients, as well.

READ MORE: Patients Want More Access to Telehealth, mHealth Treatment

“We’re trying to look down some of the other industries – consider the airlines – and say, ‘how can I go online and pick and appointment when I want it?’” he said. “We’re displaying available appointment spots where a patient can go online and pick, even if they’re new to Nemours and not an established patient.”

In the future, Nemours Children’s Health System hopes to have myriad tools to help guide the patient experience, Rice concluded. By prioritizing and respecting the patient’s time, the health system will continue to work toward solutions to make healthcare an easy and convenient endeavor, rather than a burdensome one.

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