An article published in the Neurology Review in 2016 stated, “Teleneurology is a disruptive approach that could change the way neurologists think about providing care, but the approach needs greater acceptance by providers, patients, and payers.” Four years later, it’s safe to say that teleneurology is primed to deliver remote care to some of medicine’s most fragile patients.
With the rapid adoption of video conferencing technology and telehealth, hospitals are re-imagining how they deliver care. Especially now, in response to COVID-19, many hospitals are leveraging teleneurologists to protect patient health, maximize resources, and perform routine tasks as efficiently as possible. One task that hospitals are successfully utilizing teleneurologists for is inpatient rounding.
What is inpatient rounding?
Inpatient rounding has long been a vital part of the patient care process. Even as early as the 17th century, physicians and medical personnel recognized the benefits of proactive patient care through routine check-ins. Today, hospitals perform inpatient rounding as an opportunity to monitor patient progress, adjust medication, and plan post-discharge care.
However, a growing national shortage in neurologists, especially in rural communities, makes allocating onsite neurologists to perform tasks like inpatient rounding a challenge – but it doesn’t have to be.
Leveraging teleneurologists to address a growing shortage
There’s a growing shortage of neurologists in America that is likely to worsen in the coming years. A 2013 study by the American Academy of Neurology showed an 11% shortage in neurologists, with projections that the number would increase to 19% by 2025.
With an aging Baby Boomer population, increases in patients experiencing neurological conditions like Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s, and the fact that strokes are the third leading cause of death in America, the increase in demand for neurologists is quickly outpacing the supply. In fact, a 2016 study found that the wait time to see a specialist in Parkinson’s disease was greater than two months, with one-third of centers reporting wait times greater than three months.
The impact of the shortage can especially be felt in rural or historically underserved communities. According to a national study of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) response times, it was estimated that only 22% of the U.S. population in a rural area lived within a 30 minute drive to a neurologist staffed medical facility.
For many hospitals, this shortage leads to limited access to onsite neurologists. For those with onsite specialists, their time is allocated specifically towards emergency situations, like patients arriving with stroke-like symptoms. This leaves inpatient rounding in the hands of onsite staff not specialized in neurological care, or to whichever neurologist is available during a given shift. These challenges and others can impact continuity of care, delay diagnosis time, and require families in rural areas to drive hours to be close to loved ones.
Teleneurologists can help bridge this gap in routine care and help hospitals maximize resources, improve efficiency, and provide patients with a better health outcome. Here are four benefits of using teleneurologists for inpatient rounding.
1. Improved continuity of care
Stroke care and treating neurological conditions are complicated. Without a one-size-fits-all solution, neurologists rely on their knowledge of a patient’s history, monitoring daily progress, and an array of tests and scans to make informed treatment decisions and determine post-discharge plans. However, most hospitals simply lack or have limited onsite neurologists to allocate time towards non-emergency situations like inpatient rounding.
Using a scheduled coverage model of teleneurologists, like what VirtualMed Staff provides, ensures the same teleneurologist sees the patient throughout their recovery period. This continuity of care is shown to increase patient satisfaction, but it also allows for better progress monitoring as the teleneurologist manages the patient throughout their inpatient stay.
2. Faster diagnosis
In the event there is no onsite neurologist, teleneurologists can provide faster medical guidance and diagnosis. With the support of onsite staff, teleneurologists can quickly view CT scans or test results and significantly improve the chances of a healthy recovery. Especially in the case with stroke patients, where every second matters, the time saved can make a significant impact on the health outcome of the patient.
3. Reduced wait times
Onsite neurologists typically only provide limited coverage during the evening or morning. For many patients, that could mean waiting hours until a doctor is available to perform a consultation or review test results. However, if a hospital offers teleneurology coverage, then patients can see a specialist instantly and avoid lengthy wait times or unnecessary transfers.
4. Ease of access and care for patients
Rural communities are hit hardest by shortages in healthcare specialists. As mentioned earlier, with only 22% of rural communities within a 30-minute drive to a medical facility with a staffed neurologist, teleneurologists provide an opportunity for rural patients to receive care closer to home. This benefits the hospital in a couple ways. It improves their reputation in the community and it ensures that in a medical emergency their location isn’t passed by EMTs because they lack access to a neurologist. Similarly, it reduces having to transfer a patient to another facility, which can significantly impact the chance of a positive health outcome.
Teleneurologists for inpatient rounding
Teleneurology is primed to take advantage of the rise in telehealth and telemedicine adoption by both patients and providers. By allocating inpatient rounding to a team of teleneurologists, hospitals can effectively streamline care by performing routine tasks remotely. This in turn protects patient health, maximizes resources, and allows a hospital to see more patients and improve patient outcomes.
To learn more about how a schedule care model of teleneurologists can perform inpatient rounding and improve efficiencies, schedule a demo today.