Save time, expand access, flatten the curve — Telehealth and the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the nation's healthcare system and shed light on hospital capacity issues. Many health systems have turned to telemedicine tools to stem the tide of patients and mitigate the pressure on emergency departments and other resources. 

During a March 19 webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Bright.md, Ray Costantini, MD, CEO and cofounder of Bright.md, discussed ways to screen patients faster and ease the enormous toll on healthcare workers. The company is now offering a free evaluation, screening and escalation tool to all hospitals in the U.S. 

"While it is a tragedy that we need to navigate this, in some ways we're very fortunate to have new tools available to us to better manage pandemics," Dr. Costantini began. Tools allowing healthcare to be delivered at a distance have not always been available, such as when the Spanish flu occurred about 100 years ago.

"Our ability to assess patients at home is an incredibly powerful tool," Dr. Costantini said.

Healthcare workers are now permitted to use certain technologies such as Skype, text, email and Facetime after President Donald Trump's administration announced March 17 that it will not be enforcing HIPAA penalties. Bright.md, a care automation company, is working to liberate providers and provide frontline workers with access to all the necessary tools.

The challenge: Not enough providers, resources

In its work with health systems across the U.S. and Canada, Bright.md has seen exponential growth in the number of patients seeking care for coronavirus-like symptoms, with nearly 20 percent growth day-over-day, Dr. Costantini said. Patients at high risk for exposure must be screened as well. The increase in patient volume requires a parallel growth in resources, but there simply aren't enough healthcare workers to screen patients in real-time. 

Using Bright.md's SmartExam platform, health systems have saved hours of time and increased the number of patients seen. A single health system saw 5,000 COVID-19 patient visits in three days through smart exam visits alone, a feat that would've taken hundreds of physicians in real-time, Dr. Costantini said.

SmartExam can help streamline the care-delivery process so physicians can deliver care in under two minutes, instead of taking the average 15 to 20 minutes to deliver care in other settings. 

Using telemedicine to flatten the curve

The world is currently working to "flatten the curve," or prevent COVID-19 cases from increasing past the limits of healthcare system capacity. 

Care automation can quickly gather all necessary information together for providers, easing the burden data collection and patient visits can place on healthcare resources. The virtual platform can also help keep patients out of emergency rooms, saving space and slowing the spread of infectious diseases. 

Dr. Costantini compared the platform to a virtual medical resident: using automation and AI to conduct chart reviews, interview patients, write chart notes, enter orders, escalate patients appropriately if symptoms are severe and handing that information to providers so they can easily take action, all from a smartphone or tablet. Smart exam tools can also identify depression, PTSD and other mental health issues that may be exacerbated by the current pandemic and its many adverse implications. Though providers may rush through patient visits at times like these, the platform is never rushed and always delivers thorough screenings.

"We're not looking to be a substitute for clinician judgment and we're not trying to tell patients what's wrong," Dr. Costantini clarified. The Bright.md toolbox is meant to empower providers so they can gather more information and act quickly when necessary.

Conclusion

The Bright.md platform streamlines the screening process and saves providers time, one of the most crucial resources amid the pandemic. The technology platform is also user friendly— providers can become completely proficient on the platform with 30 to 60 minutes of training. Bright.md is offering a COVID-19 screener that incorporates daily CDC updates to any healthcare delivery system at absolutely no cost. 

Click here to view the webinar.  

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