The doctor will see you now – virtually

Seeking to reduce patient traffic without sacrificing care quality, New York-Presbyterian hospital is offering second opinions and consultations via digital technologies.

By Clint Boulton
Aug. 2, 2016


For example, a parents can bring their child to an NYP facility in lower Manhattan and physicians could require a consultation with a pediatric specialist based in NYP’s children’s hospital, which is about nine miles south. Rather than jumping in a car or taxi and rushing to lower Manhattan, the specialist can examine the child via NYP’s Cisco telepresence systems and provide attending physicians guidance for treatment. “Without traveling across Manhattan, we can get a consult done in minutes and give better care to that patient,” Barchi says. “The easiest way to extend [our physicians’] skills with a much broader reach is through video presence.”

Mobile telehealth coming

Eventually, patients suffering from any non-emergency conditions who require expedited treatment will also be able to access virtual urgent care and follow-up services from NYP/Weill Cornell doctors from the comfort of their home. “We would really like it if people didn’t have to come back to New York to see the physician for what might be a 10-minute follow-up appointment,” Barchi says. He adds that patients will be granted access to a video conference from their home computer via a soft token. NYP is also working on mobile applications that will enable doctors and patients to conduct digital meetings through their smartphones, similar to how Apple’s FaceTime technology works on the iPhone.

New health initiatives are typically fueled by national agendas orchestrated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Barchi says that while some hospitals may find success with this model, the approach runs the risk of losing sight of delivering patient’s quality care while “lurching from one project to the next.”

“There is a lot of innovation and technology work happening because it is driven by a program or a desired outcome,” Barchi says. “By focusing on the details and every patient outcome everything else starts to take care of itself and this feels like one of those programs.”

NYP’s telehealth initiative advances the digital path on which Corwin and Barchi's predecessor, Aurelia Boyer, had embarked on years ago. In 2014, NYP launched an electronic medical record service that allows physicians to view real-time patient information from their smartphones. CIO.com acknowledged the program, NYP Care+, with a 2016 CIO 100 award. NYP is also using tablet PCs to allow patients to call for nurses and view their health records. NYP says the switch away from nurse page buttons will make care more efficient and save the millions of dollars it would have cost to replace an aging call system.

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