5 Important Aspects of Acute Care Telemedicine

Picture of John Kalix, CEO of SOC Telemed

The five important aspects of acute care telemedicine that differentiate it from consumer telehealth start with a focus on workflows, according to John Kalix, chief executive officer for SOC Telemed. Kalix recently joined the founding editor of Healthcare IT Today, John Lynn, to discuss the unique role of acute care telemedicine in the growing telemedicine industry. Part one, Why Acute Care Telemedicine is Different than Consumer Telehealth, summarizes the key differences. Part two provides insights from Kalix about the important aspects of acute care telemedicine.

1. Focus on workflows

The reality is that healthcare is complex. No sooner do you nail down a process than the ball moves, and you need to rethink everything. As such, the acute care telehealth industry benefits from Lean Six Sigma training and a dedication to continuous improvement in workflows.

But, I think every IT company has figured out that if you try to force your process, or your workflow, on the nurses or physicians versus the other way around, you just create so much frictional change, you actually will either hurt patient care, something will not get utilized, or both. So, the first step is to understand that within every single hospital and, in fact, every floor within a hospital, they have their unique workflow.

Once you understand the workflow, you can think through the process and configure algorithms to make it work. And that complexity that you navigate department by department, function by function needs to be thoroughly understood.

2. Increase speed of care

When the pandemic first hit, virtually every hospital in the country told people “only come to the hospital if you have COVID.” That had an immediate and measurable impact on demand for acute care. The volume of non-COVID-19 hospital patients dropped precipitously. In the months since, it has steadily picked back up.

Simultaneously, the amount of interest for acute care telemedicine from hospitals and health systems has accelerated rapidly as organizations became acclimated to the notion of telehealth as good medicine.

And, now, because everyone understands that this interaction is not overly cold and that you can actually do good medicine as long as you have all the other information coming over simultaneously. And if you do that, right, you can actually do even better care at certain points in time, because speed matters, as well as the data matters, that’s what can drive quality care.

3. Increase provider efficiency

With acute care telemedicine, you can do things at a reduced cost as a hospital, while also trying to leverage and maximize your best clinicians across more than one site. And everywhere, you have to think about windshield time, hallway time, drive time, all that is time that you could be spending with a patient. In fact, most physicians would prefer to be spending that time with a patient versus running out of their house at 2:00 AM to the hospital, or running down the hallway between floors. By eliminating this wasted time, providers can be more efficient.

4. Cart-agnostic

Many people used to equate telehealth with the telemedicine cart. One of the things SOC has focused on is cart-agnosticism. It’s a bet that’s paid off, as the more comfortable people get with technology and the more technology enables mobility, the less the specifics of a cart matter.

That said, there are notable exceptions in use cases where the telehealth cart is carrying mission-critical tools and capabilities. For example, take stroke care where doctors need high-end cameras to look into the potential stroke victim’s eyes. Those highly-specified, mission-critical use cases for the cart are not going away with the proliferation of tablets. 

5. EMR Integration

Hospitals already have to manage many languages from many vendors. The last thing they need is another new system. As electronic medical records continue to increase in value across organizations, how can we enable the acute care physician covering seven hospitals to provide records across platforms and without costing any time at the point of critical care? The answer is leaning toward standards and ease of interoperability.

Health records companies may view the world of telehealth as a potential market for expansion, and in general that may even be a good thing. But the bar is extremely high in the acute space, and areas of medicine where lives are on the line like stroke care, pulmonology, and other emergency care scenarios may not be the right place to practice and learn.

For video of the complete Q&A and to read the corresponding coverage in Healthcare IT Today, click here.


John Kalix is the CEO of SOC Telemed and spearheads the effort to be the leader in the field of acute telemedicine by bringing highest quality of care, the best clinicians and the patients who need them, together using technology. Kalix has more than 25 years of healthcare experience, most recently as the EVP and Chief Operating Officer at North American Partners of Anesthesia (NAPA). Before NAPA, Kalix spent seven years at GE Healthcare, leading the U.S. and Canada commercial operations across all medical equipment, healthcare IT and solution service business units. He went on to lead GE’s MRI and PET/MR business for the U.S. and Canada as well as GE Healthcare’s Life Sciences pharmaceutical and nuclear medicine divisions for North America.