A team of researchers and clinicians explores new frontier for telemedicine and finds opportunities to provide high-quality care.
A virtual vascular clinic can conveniently deliver high-quality care that generates high patient satisfaction scores, researchers say.
To create a pilot study of a virtual vascular clinic, the researchers established imaging-equipped satellite clinics linked to a health system. The satellite clinics were conveniently located for patients, who had virtual visits with vascular surgeons at the satellite locations.
"Synchronous telemedicine with point-of-care ultrasound is effective in evaluating common vascular conditions. Virtual care may be used for management of patients with chronic vascular disease," the researchers wrote in an article published in the Journal of Vascular Surgery.
From October 2015 to August 2016, 55 patients were treated at the pilot virtual vascular clinic. The patients had telehealth visits with a surgical provider via Skype for Business, clinical data was entered into the health system's electronic medical record, and the satellite facilities that the patients visited for their Skype session provided imaging and laboratory services.
The conditions of the patients included both arterial problems such as aneurysm and venous problems such as varicose vein.
Patient satisfaction scores were high, the researchers found:
- 91% of the patients reported they would highly recommend a virtual physician visit to a friend or colleague
- 100% said their virtual visits were more convenient than traditional office visits
- 100% said they were given clear information about their health during the virtual visits
- 100% said they could communicate effectively with their surgical provider
For vascular care, virtual office visits have several advantages over traditional office visits, the researchers wrote.
"The use of telemedicine with point-of-care ultrasound testing shortens access times for the patients and maintains quality of care because of increased availability of laboratory testing and clinic space at the satellite locations," they wrote.
Having results from imaging and laboratory immediately at the satellite locations enabled interpretation, diagnosis, and management of patient conditions closer to their homes, the researchers wrote.
"The immediacy of test results also enables the referring physician to prescribe a comprehensive management of the patient's disease, leading to greater efficiency, less wait time, and faster service," they wrote.
Virtual vascular surgical clinics have the potential to not only improve access for patients but also boost the market for vascular care, the researchers wrote.
"This new patient care model may improve access for patients who choose to have the convenience of expert surgical services and laboratory testing closer to home. Increased satisfaction of the patients will create new markets for patients who otherwise may not be served by vascular specialists."
Operating virtual vascular clinic
The pilot virtual vascular clinic was geared for convenience, efficiency, and quality:
- Patients were scheduled to visit satellite locations equipped with Intersocietal Accreditation Commission-accredited vascular laboratory testing
- Customer service representatives checked insurance coverage status of patients
- Physicians ordered medical management and imaging electronically
- For additional testing, patients went to their satellite location's vascular laboratory either the same day or before their follow-up visit
- Patient evaluations by offsite vascular surgeons included a clinical history, a visual physical exam, a diagnosis, and implementation of a care plan
- A registered nurse played the role of tele-presenter at the satellite locations and could remove sutures, assess wounds, and send photographs of incision sites
"Using secured videoconferencing technologies, telemedicine may replace traditional clinic visits, save patients time and travel, and improve use of limited surgeon and facility resources," the researchers wrote.
Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care editor at HealthLeaders.