Home COVID-19 The Future of the Healthcare Includes Virtual Hospitals

The Future of the Healthcare Includes Virtual Hospitals

by Heidi Bullman

Virtual hospitals are quickly becoming one of the latest trends among top health systems. Providers including Mayo Clinic and Intermountain Healthcare are known for their exceptional care facilities and now they’ll be known for their hospital-at-home initiatives, too.

“It’s undeniable that the pandemic has served as a catalyst for virtual care,” explained industry expert, Tim Waters of Equinix. “However, virtual hospitals and hospital-at-home initiatives also come as a result of increased digital capabilities and the power that comes from interconnectivity.”

This summer, Mayo Clinic announced a pilot program with the goal of treating patients in need of hospitalization at their homes, via virtual capabilities. In partnership with Medically Home, a company specializing in telehealth and patient-centric care, the program goes well beyond traditional house, and even video, calls. It allows Mayo Clinic doctors to, virtually, work alongside clinicians – including nurses and paramedics — visiting with patients in their homes to provide services typically performed in a hospital setting. These services include infusions, imaging services, and even laboratory work.

“The way to think of this is Mayo Clinic has eight floors, and this is the 9th, virtual floor of our hospital,” explained Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Michael Maniaci to the Jacksonville Business Journal. “We really are able to provide almost all the care we give in our brick and mortar hospital in the patient’s home. Really, this is a part of a broader stroke of knowing that the hospital of the future isn’t the hospital we think of today.”

Currently, the program is being piloted for six months in both Jacksonville, FL, and Eau Claire, WI. In the short term, this hospital-at-home initiative will free up space for COVID-19 patients and in the long term, it will help to lower costs across Mayo Clinic locations.

Intermountain Healthcare is another health system providing hospital-level care to patients at home. In partnership with Castell, a digital health platform and Intermountain Healthcare company, Intermountain is offering services to high-acuity patients with certain cancers, congestive heart failure, and other challenging medical conditions.

To make this hospital-at-home initiative possible, patients receive a remote monitoring kit with equipment tailored to support their diagnoses and treatment plans. Any devices included in the kit, including blood pressure monitors, cellular-enabled digital tablets or digital scales, are managed via Bluetooth by a team of telehealth specialists as part of a remote monitoring center.

“The hospitals of the future will expand virtually into homes to provide appropriate acute-level care,” explained Rajesh Shrestha, president and CEO of Castell and vice president and COO of Intermountain’s community-based care operations. “This new service supports patients who are at risk for hospitalization or complications, along with their families.”

However, for hospitals to expand virtually into homes an interconnected platform is needed. With interconnectivity at the center of these services, data is delivered in real-time to each patient’s team of clinicians and physicians within, and outside, the health system.

The intersection of the digital transformation and today’s public health crisis will propel the adoption of virtual hospitals and hospital-at-home care.  From Mayo Clinic to Intermountain Healthcare, health systems are finding innovative ways to bring advanced care to high-acuity patients and virtual hospitals are just the foundation.

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