A new study has demonstrated the benefits of using virtual healthcare during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Findings from a new study have captured the largest experience to date of the speed, scale and rapid expansion of virtual healthcare during COVID-19. The findings show that the rapid increase in ‘virtual visits’ during the pandemic could transform the way care is provided.
The study was led by researchers from NYU Grossman School of Medicine and published in the Journal of the American Informatics Association. Also participating in the study were researchers from NYU Tandon School of Engineering and NYU School of Global Public Health.
Virtual healthcare during COVID-19
Findings demonstrated that in just over one month urgent virtual healthcare visits at NYU Langone Health grew by 683% and non-urgent virtual visits grew by a massive 4,345% during the COVID-19 crisis.
Lead author of the study Devin Mann, associate professor in the Departments of Population Health and Medicine and senior director for Informatics Innovation and Medical Center Information Technology at NYU Langone Health, commented: “The pandemic created an urgent need to divert patients from in-patient care and prevent the flooding of our emergency rooms beyond capacity. Through telemedicine, we pushed the frontlines to locations far from our hospitals and doctor’s offices. And because NYU Langone invested early in this technology, we quickly leveraged digital health to help hundreds of thousands of patients.”
Providers of healthcare can see COVID patients remotely at the hospital in ICUs through tablets, which has the added benefit of helping to save on PPE and exposure to patients. The use of clinical mobile companions also allows providers to communicate with each other using digital health tools.
Co-author, Paul Testa, assistant professor at the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Emergency Medicine and Chief Medical Information Officer at NYU Langone Health, said: “Our ability to scale and expand telehealth quickly has allowed us to battle overcrowding and human spread of the disease. It also pushes our ability to care for patients beyond any physical boundary, which you can only do digitally.”
To further expand the reach of telemedicine services both inside of our hospitals as well as patient homes via remote patient monitoring and other technologies, NYU Langone Health as well as NYU Grossman School of Medicine were each recently awarded grants from the Federal Communications Commission’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Funding for the study was provided by the National Science Foundation.
Responding to a pandemic
Using NYU Langone’s enterprise electronic health record system the researchers captured COVID-related visits using diagnostic codes containing relevant respiratory issues and matched them with keywords describing symptoms including fever, shortness of breath, cough, and more.
Some of the findings include that telemedicine usage was highest by patients aged 20 to 44 years, particularly for urgent care; patients’ satisfaction ratings with telemedicine visits remained positive, despite the rapid expansion of the programme to thousands of new providers; and, of all virtual visits, 56.2% of urgent care and 17.6% of non-urgent visits were COVID-19-related.
“Through this massive expansion, the numbers of providers and patients who experienced telemedicine for the first time increased dramatically, facilitating transformation of technologies and work practices across multiple medical specialties,” said Oded Nov, professor and chair of the Department of Technology Management and Innovation at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, and the study’s senior author.
“An important question going forward is how much this will continue beyond the COVID pandemic. While we expect patients and providers who got a crash course in telemedicine to continue using it long term, regulators and insurers’ decisions will have a major impact.”