Telemedicine Improving Patient Access to Care
Telemedicine Improving Patient Access to Care

Telemedicine Improving Patient Access to Care

Family Medicine

Practice Administrator Kendra Noyes (left) assists Dr. Chevone Vent with Wyandot Memorial Hospital’s telemedicine software, which enables Dr. Vent and other WMH medical providers to conduct “office” visits via computer for increased patient safety. The convenience of at-home appointments is also a plus.

The pandemic changed a lot of things for a lot of people … very quickly. For medical care, the tremendous need for telemedicine sliced through layers of red tape to help patients see their doctors from the safety of their own homes.

“We had a few doctors at the Specialty Healthcare Center that used it before,” noted Practice Administrator Kendra Noyes, “but now almost all of our medical providers are using it regularly.”

She indicated telemedicine has really been one of the bright spots that resulted from the social distancing requirements and stay-at-home orders during the onset and progression of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Telemedicine is the use of telecommunications technology to provide real-time healthcare to patients by video-conferencing or audio communication on their desktop computers, mobile phones or tablets.

“The technology has been available for some time, but HIPAA and reimbursement-related concerns kept many of us from jumping in with both feet,” Noyes explained. “That all changed with COVID-19.”

A federal mandate in March allowed and even encouraged providers and patients to embrace telemedicine. Previous barriers were eliminated and telemedicine was adopted within a matter of weeks.

“It’s the right thing at the right time,” Noyes said. “It dramatically improves access to medical care for patients, especially for those that have difficulties with transportation or are homebound or immune-compromised.”

Noyes worked with the hospital’s information technology department to get the service off the ground and selected a telemedicine platform that prioritizes secure data transmission and patient privacy. State-of-the-art security and encryption protocols are built into the platform to comply with HIPAA requirements. Applications often used by individuals for conversations with family and friends – FaceTime, Skype, etc. – lack these safety features and are not secure.

“This is one area of your life where you don’t want to worry about security,” Noyes emphasized. “With our telemedicine, all data is encrypted, sessions are anonymous and no information is ever stored. No servers between the patients or providers ever have access to the encrypted exchanges.”

Strict security measures are sometimes not user-friendly, but she said that is not the case for telemedicine at WMH.

“I really like how easy it is to use,” Noyes shared, “for both our patients and our providers.”

She reported no special hardware or software is needed to start a telemedicine visit. A web link is emailed to a patient, who then uses their home computer or a mobile device for the visit.

“Our telemedicine appointments feel like a regular in-office visit,” Noyes stated, “complete with a ‘waiting room’ provided until your doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant appears on the screen.”

She understands some patients and medical providers prefer meeting face-to-face but believes people of all ages have smartphones and are more open to trying and using new technology.

“Telemedicine dramatically improves the overall healthcare experience,” she added. “A strong doctor-patient relationship is the foundation for high-quality care and reducing costs, and there are still times that an in-person visit is needed. But telemedicine is ideal for follow-ups, check-ups, monitoring chronic diseases and addressing certain concerns.”

In addition to visits between patients and their doctors, telemedicine at WMH is also connecting the medical staff with specialists at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center for pulmonary/critical care and cardiology consultations. These doctor-to-doctor discussions are especially important in caring for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

For more information on telemedicine appointments, contact your medical provider or Noyes at WMH by phoning 419-294-4991, extension 2400.