Virtual Care Visits and the Importance of Electronic Data Access

Reposted with the approval of CommonWell Health Alliance. Original post can be found here.

Three generations of my family are members of a small, local primary care practice. Every visit over the years has been a warm, face-to-face interaction. When the time came to adopt an EMR, they were all in and learned to interact with the system without taking their eyes off their patients.

All that shifted with the arrival of COVID-19. In one week, the practice moved from full-on in-person care to full-on virtual visits. And my husband, who has been struggling to free up enough time for an office visit for a persistent issue, was able to meet with a nurse practitioner in between business appointments without ever leaving his desk.

As I write this, the pace of pandemic induced change is dizzying and scary. None of us can predict the new normal that will eventually emerge. But there will certainly be permanent, fundamental changes in the healthcare system, among them the widespread embrace of virtual care.

In the state of emergency, slow moving regulatory processes that have hindered telehealth adoption have been temporarily swept aside to remove barriers to payment and licensure. All that will have to be regulated at some point. But in the meantime, the rapid adoption of virtual care models is stressing existing infrastructure.

It also points out the need for ways to capture physical exam data at a distance, and the shortage of interconnected medical grade solutions to do so. For example, at last year’s Global Summit, InterSystems leaders Don Woodlock and Christine Chapman included a demo of connected health, including a virtual visit assisted by a Tytocare device. It was a great example but slid over realistic details like the need for a third-party provider to be involved in the process – which wouldn’t have helped for my husband’s visit.

And when we have patients receiving care from virtually any place, it becomes critically important that their full health record also is available to the providers treating them. That is why we care so much about interoperability, and why we are so heavily invested in partnerships with regional and national information exchanges like CommonWell, Healthix and Carequality.

I’m very grateful for the ingenuity and flexibility of all those who are working so hard to deliver care in the midst of crisis.

Stay well, and stay connected.

To hear more from InterSystems, listen to Don Woodlock’s recent CommonWell TV interview regarding the important role CommonWell is playing in driving nationwide data exchange and improving patient care.

Kathleen Aller

Kathleen Aller leads business development for InterSystems HealthShare. She has over 30 years of experience in healthcare and technology, with expertise in patient engagement, enterprise intelligence, electronic health records, healthcare information sharing and quality and performance measurement.

Twitter: @KathleenAller

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