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How Telemedicine is Changing the Way Patients and Providers Communicate

Using telemedicine technology that allow providers and patients to communicate quicker and easier, patients, caregivers and providers all report improved quality and efficiency of care.

Exploring the Healthcare Frontier

The use of telecommunication technologies in patient care, also known as telemedicine, offers a potential solution to improve access and quality of care especially for those in rural settings. Telemedicine has grown dramatically over the last decade among many specialties with demonstrated improvements in chronic care management and promising trends in improving access to care in rural areas. Only a few programs use telemedicine in palliative care. A home-based palliative care telemedicine program utilizing videoconferencing demonstrated that patients receiving telemedicine had reduced hospitalizations and increased hospice utilization and length of stay compared to usual care.

In addition, a recent study demonstrated that integration of remote monitoring of symptoms of patients with metastatic cancer was associated with increased quality of life, decreased hospitalizations, and increased survival compared to usual care. In 2016, Four Seasons Compassion for Life in Western North Carolina initiated a pilot telemedicine project as part of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Healthcare Innovation Award utilizing a combined approach of remote patient monitoring (via the TapCloud application) and videoconferencing.

Smarter and Faster Medical Communication

Using TapCloud, the palliative care team monitors data as patients, or caregivers, “check-in/tap-in” to inform providers of symptoms, concerns and well-being. Information is transmitted directly to a dashboard and to the team’s smartphones. When problems are identified, clinicians send secure push messages via the application to the patient/caregiver to attempt to remedy the situation. If unsuccessful, telephone calls and videoconferencing are used to further resolve the issue, and if needed a home visit occurs.

In addition to TapCloud, the palliative care team uses videoconferencing to further address symptoms, medication management, goals of care, examination of any physical issue and to facilitate family focused meetings and counseling. Family members can join the video session from around the country with patient consent.

By capturing real-time patient symptom data, TapCloud alerts providers to emerging patient health issues, which can be acted upon immediately, preventing unnecessary suffering and potential emergency room visits or hospitalizations. Remote patient monitoring using TapCloud resulted in improved symptom management and, in a qualitative analysis, patients, caregivers, and providers reported overwhelmingly positive experiences with telemedicine. They cited three main advantages: access to clinicians, quick response times, and improved efficiency and quality of care.

Lindsay Bonsignore, Ph. D., Four Seasons Compassion for Life, [email protected]

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