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Medical center deploys video integration in virtual doctor visits

The Medical University of South Carolina expands its telehealth program with a video integration that allows doctors to connect with patients directly from health records.

The Medical University of South Carolina has integrated video communication into clinicians' workflows with the hopes of improving remote consultations between doctors and patients. The medical center has deployed Vidyo's real-time video communication platform with telehealth technology from Epic Systems Corp., a healthcare software provider based in Verona, Wis.

Dr. James T. McElligott, head of telehealth at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), said the video integration "gets us to the ultimate goal of the right care at the right time."

MUSC -- which includes a 750-bed medical center, a children's hospital, cancer center and other specialized care centers -- has a growing telehealth program that includes telestroke and tele-ICU. The deployment expands the program to allow clinicians to integrate their schedules and make video calls to patients from their desktop and mobile devices, McElligott said.

The video integration with Epic's electronic health record (EHR) portals means clinicians can access patient records, take notes, write prescriptions and complete other tasks while on a video call.

Changing the culture of telehealth to improve efficiency

McElligott said the majority of telehealth video calls are replacing home health visits, such as weekly prenatal checkups. In a rural state like South Carolina, patients might find it difficult to drive to a hospital for frequent appointments, he said.

You're not just helping one patient, but all of the thousands of patients that you serve.
Dr. James T. McElligotthead of telehealth, MUSC

Providers at the hospital are being taught how they can leverage telehealth video calls to improve efficiency and approach patient care differently. For example, a rheumatologist requires comprehensive in-person visits with patients. But a rheumatologist can use a video call as a triage to determine the patient's immediate needs, whether that's an in-person appointment or referring the patient to a physical therapist.

McElligott said the next healthcare services to roll out the video integration will be mental health counselling for patients preparing for surgery and post-surgery discharge follow-up.

"It really allows you to diagnose and manage patients over time," he said. "The idea is that brief but frequent contact with a patient will be more accurate and give you more information over time."

By changing how healthcare providers view telehealth -- and putting providers' needs at the forefront of the video integration -- adoption rates increase. Most telehealth programs are deployed in hospitals to replicate patient care over distance, because distance has been a major barrier for patient care. But now telehealth has transcended that traditional use case, McElligott said.

With telehealth, "you're not just helping one patient, but all of the thousands of patients that you serve," he said. "You change the paradigm of how doctors diagnose and manage better."

Embedding video in EHR applications

McElligott said MUSC opted for Vidyo since the vendor offers video APIs that could be embedded in Epic's software, which the medical center was already using.

"Adding software is not always the best thing; it brings in complexity, especially if it doesn't integrate," he said.

Mark Noble, vice president of telehealth business development at Vidyo, said there is growing interest in integrating telehealth workflows with EHR.

"These clinicians spend their lives inside EHR," he said. "It's the key tool where all patients exist."

The video integration with EHR reduces the need for health providers and patients to learn new technology. Now patients can schedule video calls through their patient portal just like they do for in-person appointments. When it's time for the appointment, the patient selects the appointment on the calendar and enters a virtual meeting room (VMR). On the clinician side, the provider can pull up the patient record to review and enter the VMR to begin the video call.

"We see telehealth as part of the standard of care; it's all about access to the right specialist with the right capabilities regardless of placement or geography," Noble said.

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