Our recent guest on The Big Unlock podcast was Jeff Short, VP and Chief of Staff at Montefiore Health System. Jeff discussed how they used technologies such as telehealth, telemedicine, remote monitoring, AI, etc. to manage surge capacity and deal with the COVID-19 crisis with Paddy Padmanabhan, CEO of Damo Consulting.
New York has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. In a response to the pandemic, Montefiore stood up telehealth operations practically overnight. They were featured in a TV program on CBS called ‘Bravery and Hope,’ which took viewers to the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis and was an eye-opener to see what really happened.
Listen to the full conversation
“Montefiore Health System is in New York. We and Einstein College of Medicine form one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. We have 11 hospitals and over 300 ambulatory locations serving mainly the populations in the Bronx and Westchester counties. We are major employers in both geographies and serve a diverse population both ethnically and socially.”
– Jeff Short, The Big Unlock, Episode #53
Digital health technologies: Improving patient engagement and access to care
Remote monitoring, digital front door, telemedicine/ telehealth – and other virtual care technologies in general is growing as digital engagement touchpoints. Like other ecommerce or personal banking experiences, healthcare industry too needs a seamless patient experience throughout the care journey. Digital health is all the rage now. Jeff defines digital health as the use of technologies such as digital front doors, telemedicine/ telehealth, remote monitoring, tele-consult, AI, chatbots to improve patient engagement and access to care delivery. Jeff further says that telemedicine adoption has struggled for years, however, COVID-19 has changed the landscape. The ultimate goal of any care delivery model is to provide a seamless patient experience.
“Digital health is basically about using technology to enhance the quality of access or the delivery of care. It is using technology to improve patient engagement, to enable contactless interaction, to increase access. We have made a ton of progress in a short amount of time, especially on telemedicine, digital front doors, and also some of the remote monitoring on the inpatient side. We really have a long way to go and it’s very exciting.” – Jeff
Acceleration in Telehealth and virtual consults
Telehealth and other virtual care consults accelerated in the immediate wake of the pandemic. In the early days of the pandemic, no one wanted to go see the doctor for elective care. Over 70 percent of in-person visits, nationally, were canceled and Montefiore was no exception. By the end of April, 80 percent of their visits were in telemedicine. But now the volumes have come down slightly. Jeff believes that face-to-face visits in certain specialties will always remain essential, however, with the ease of working with patients digitally, we will continue to see an increase in telehealth visits.
“For certain clinicians and patients, there is a comfort level with face-to-face. But things have changed permanently, and the change is here to stay. We will always have face-to-face care and certain specialties will remain that way. But as we get better and more comfortable working digitally or remotely with patients, those numbers will continue to increase. Also, as adopters become more comfortable, as technology providers create more in-home devices that are linked through your smartphone and operate effectively, we will be able to do a lot more remotely. But I do believe it’s here to stay.” – Jeff Short, Montefiore Health System
Emerging healthcare technologies will enable higher level of care delivery with fewer resources
Montefiore has launched several digital initiatives like chatbot. Jeff believes that once our industry gets efficient at delivering digital care and leveraging emerging healthcare technologies like chatbots and AI, we will be able to treat more patients at a higher level of care with fewer resources. He further says that the healthcare industry needs to try and get away from the existing barriers to innovation and to delivering care.
“Telemedicine has drastically changed the way we deliver ambulatory care and that is just a key opportunity. We can bring care into the patient’s homes at scale effectively and efficiently. The digital front door, the ability to gain access from wherever you are to a clinician in a smart way is top of the list. I believe that on the inpatient side, telemonitoring, tele-ICU is a better way to deliver care. And we experienced that during the pandemic.” – Jeff
COVID-19 as an opportunity or a long-term threat?
The famous Winston Churchill saying – ‘never waste a crisis’ – corresponds with what all the countries are going through. There is an unprecedented crisis because of the pandemic. Jeff states that this crisis is both – a tremendous threat and an opportunity to accelerate innovation in healthcare.
“I think it’s both. It’s a tremendous threat, we had a massive loss of life. Our industry at the local and national level has taken a real hit. But now things are done and there is an incredible opportunity to do better and to accelerate change. I mean, look at all the things that we have been able to really make progress in the industry. We have made so many improvements and we’ve had so much innovation last few months. We must take advantage of this crisis. We have paid the price; might as well take advantage of the opportunity to really accelerate the innovation in healthcare. So, it is both, unfortunately.” – Jeff