Virtual networks — the technology revolution transforming emergency and acute care

Listen

The words "highly fragmented" often come to mind when one thinks of the current U.S. healthcare system. Providers, payers, stakeholder groups and different care settings are all siloed, creating barriers to efficient and effective care. Communication and collaboration throughout the continuum of care and the patient journey are far from seamless.

Becker's Hospital Review recently spoke with Harry Reddy, CEO of Allm North America, about the role that cloud-based virtual networks can play in reshaping the patient and provider experience during healthcare emergencies, acute care episodes and community-based care after a hospitalization. New approaches to technology deployment have the potential to deliver compelling clinical, administrative and public health benefits.

Different care settings require different apps

In the healthcare arena, technology presents unique challenges. "It's impossible to create a single app that delivers efficiency and effectiveness to all the care settings in the patient journey. The pre-hospital ambulance setting is very different from the referring hospital setting, which is different from the treating hospital and different from recovering at home," Mr. Reddy explained.

To address this issue, Allm North America is pursuing a unique approach — the company has developed different apps for different care settings. All of the apps, however, work on the same cloud platform. This ensures the handoff of patient data from one care setting to the next is seamless. In addition, patient data is encrypted and anonymized as it moves through Allm's HIPAA-compliant and FDA-approved platform.

"Our approach addresses healthcare challenges in a revolutionary way," Mr. Reddy said. "We've achieved our goal of coordinating care throughout the patient journey without compromising the efficiency of any particular care setting, and that too with an appropriate user interface for each setting to improve the clinical workflow. All relevant information comes to the fingertips of care providers with distinctive notification alerts with built-in facial recognition security, meaning no finger pointing of mistakes and no back and forth phone calls, thus information seeks you out, you don't have to seek out for information by logging into different systems, applications and portals."

Network medicine is now a reality

Allm's Join Platform coordinates care from emergency events through post-acute care. The JoinTriage app provides assessment and triage tools that ambulance and emergency medical service professionals can use to identify stroke severity and evaluate other emergency events.

JoinTriage also leverages an artificial intelligence-based algorithm to route the ambulance driver to the closest, most suitable medical facility that will provide the best care for each patient's unique needs based on their specific situation. "In an emergency situation, time is critical," Mr. Reddy said. "Reducing the 'door to needle' time for patients can mean the difference between life and death, or between complete recovery and more disability."

Within the hospital setting, the Join app is like a medical version of WhatsApp. Since JoinTriage and Join are tightly integrated, ambulance drivers can share crucial patient information with emergency department staff prior to arrival. It's even possible for hospital staff to conduct a telemedicine consult via Join while a patient is in route in the emergency vehicle.

"We offer functionality similar to Uber tracking, so care teams can see how far away incoming patients are," Mr. Reddy said. "This information helps hospitals ensure that critical diagnostic equipment, such as CT or MRI machines, are free when the ambulance arrives, and their utilization is not unnecessarily held-up when patient is still farther away."

Once a patient reaches the hospital, care teams can collaborate seamlessly through direct and group chat, share and edit digital images and more. Medical professionals have access to information that supports greater diagnostic precision, as well as timelier and more efficient patient care.

"Integration with the hospital EHR system reduces the administrative burden and saves valuable time," Mr. Reddy said. "At the same time, patient care improves as barriers are eliminated and clinicians collaborate effectively. Increased efficiency and fewer hospital readmissions generate cost savings which help make value-based healthcare a reality."

The Join platform makes network medicine possible by breaking down silos associated with care settings, organizational departments and systems like EMRs. Clinical staff can consult and share medical information effortlessly with physicians both inside and outside the hospital at any time of the day or night. Collaboration across hospitals also simplifies case consultations and patient referrals.

Virtual networks have transformed care during COVID-19

COVID-19 has exponentially increased the burden faced throughout the entire healthcare system. "When the pandemic broke out in mid-March, we spoke to our hospital customers and physicians. We saw gaps in the capabilities of the current information systems and immediately saw opportunities to further innovate," Mr. Reddy said.

The rapidly evolving pandemic has made information sharing across emergency room physicians, infectious disease professionals, test centers, reference labs, departments of public health and other government agencies more important than ever. Virtual networks like the Join Platform are ideally suited to support virtual consultations, group communication and sharing of diagnostic information.

"Technology adoption by clinicians is growing by necessity due to the pandemic," Mr. Reddy said. "At the same time, patient expectations for technology in healthcare settings are increasing. They are comfortable with virtual solutions like Zoom that are used for simple telehealth consultations."

Virtual technologies are also playing a role in keeping healthcare professionals safe in the workplace. Allm's Join app supports streaming video from cameras installed in the intensive care unit, operating rooms, isolation rooms and medical equipment monitors. This has been extremely helpful in the current COVID-19 era. Healthcare providers can check on patients or equipment via live video, without ever entering the room. This minimizes unnecessary exposure to the virus.

The benefits of virtual networks extend beyond the clinical setting

The clinical value of technologies like Allm's Join Platform is clear. Patient care improves as communication silos break down and clinicians can collaborate more effectively. Convenient communication reduces the administrative burden that often leads to physician burnout. The benefits of virtual networks in healthcare aren't limited to front-line care providers, however. They also extend to hospital leadership and public health organizations.

Join also timestamps all procedures and tests based on acute care protocols. This information is integrated into the hospital EHR, which simplifies compliance with insurance requirements. It further offers the hospitals with activity dashboards and ability to track KPIs based on data collected from Join.

"The Join Platform helps make ACOs and value-based healthcare a reality," Mr. Reddy said. "Increased safety, quality and efficiency leads to fewer hospital readmissions, fewer repeated procedures, better patient outcomes, reduced lengths of stay and increased provider and patient satisfaction. From a financial perspective, the systemic costs go down while bringing new revenue stream to qualified hospitals or clinicians, partly due to better access to all patients, no matter how remote they're or whatever underserved area they may belong."

Emerging innovations point to a transition from "sick care" to patient-centric, preventive care

Looking ahead, Allm North America sees promising healthcare innovations in AI and consumer wearables for emergency, acute and chronic care management. Integrating AI into healthcare technologies like virtual networks could support automatic diagnosis of medical conditions even before visible symptoms develop, as well as better contact tracing capabilities for pandemic situations.

"Traditionally, our healthcare system has been oriented toward 'sick care.' Wearables could play a significant role in shifting our focus to preventing illness by seamlessly collecting data and sending it to the cloud for further analysis with prediction capability before onset of symptoms,” Mr. Reddy said.

Wearables could help with post-acute care, when patients are recuperating at home or in a rehab setting. These devices could provide visibility into medication adherence and other aspects of the care environment.

"The goal is to create a patient-centric approach to care where providers, clinicians, specialists, therapists, caregivers and social workers can work together in the best interest of the patient, without putting undue stress on system resources — whether those are human resources, equipment or pharmaceuticals," Mr. Reddy said.

Conclusion

Until recently, innovations in healthcare have been evolutionary, not revolutionary. Virtual networks and mHealth solutions have the potential to truly revolutionize the effectiveness and efficiency of care.

"It's an exciting time to make a lasting impact in healthcare using digital technologies," Mr. Reddy said. "We are focusing on solutions that aren't standalone technologies, but that work in collaboration with the broader ecosystem of devices and systems. We have an opportunity through virtual networks to improve our healthcare system and make it work efficiently for everyone."

Copyright © 2021 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.

 

Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars