Intermountain Healthcare has initiated an Infectious Diseases TeleHealth program to give virtual consultations to sufferers at its small hospitals as well as antibiotic stewardship program support to the regional staff.
The program is now live at Alta View Hospital, Logan Regional Hospital, Park City Hospital and Riverton Hospital. However, by the month of April, Intermountain’s aim is to have the system running at all 16 of its small hospitals.
This is a far cry from the case the health system experienced in the year of 2014, when just one of its small hospitals had approach to an infectious diseases physician and just one had a formalized antibiotic stewardship program designed to optimize the utilization of antibiotics.
“There is a huge requirement for infectious disease consultations,” claims Edward Stenehjem, MD, an infectious disease expert at Intermountain Medical Center. “We are capable to go in and speak with the sufferer and look at them with our high-definition cameras. And we are all on the same electronic health records (EHRs), so we can look through all of the data.”
In accordance to Stenehjem, 72% of all U.S. hospitals have less than 200 beds, and the majority of these hospitals don’t have access to antibiotic stewardship programs or infectious disease physicians.
“We know that infectious disease consultation makes better care in terms of clinical outcomes, reduced length of stay and reduced costs,” he adds. “Up to this point, our small hospitals did not have access to infectious disease providers.”
Initiated in the month of October, the Infectious Diseases TeleHealth program involves homegrown technology capabilities established in-house by Intermountain. Stenehjem points out those infectious disease physicians conducting the consultations remotely can zoom in with a high-definition camera to analyze patient rashes and injuries as part of the doctor-patient interaction.
“The mere thing I cannot do is physically touch the sufferer,” he claims. “If I require a physical exam, I will have either a physician or nurse onsite to assist me with that patient exam. Then, I will make suggestions and place orders—in short, everything that a full Infectious Diseases (ID) consultation would do. We, then, see the sufferer the next day and follow-up just like we would if we were in the hospital right there with the sufferer.”
Additionally, Intermountain is instituting antibiotic stewardship programs at each of its small hospitals. Antibiotic stewardship programs, which become compulsory at all U.S. hospitals under new Joint Commission regulations that take effect January 1, optimize antibiotic use by a number of techniques, involving giving feedback to providers on antibiotic prescribing in an attempt to slow the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Stenehjem asserts that antibiotics are often prescribed wrongly and that most of the usual diagnoses observed in primary care and urgent care (colds, bronchitis, ear aches, and many sinus infections) are caused by viruses, upon which antibiotics have no effect. As an outcome, widespread utilization of antibiotics has led to antibiotic resistance, producing bacteria that can survive and sustain to cause harm in the presence of antibiotics. That’s why Intermountain Healthcare has initiated an Infectious Diseases TeleHealth program to give virtual consultations to sufferers at its small hospitals as well as antibiotic stewardship program support to the regional staff.
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