Hidden Heroes of Telemedicine
When your loved one is in a health care crisis, there is nothing more important than the medical team who treats them. What happens when a needed specialist is not in the building? Or even on staff at the hospital? That’s where SOC Telemed (SOC) comes in—enabling the hospital staff to connect with a specialist within minutes. That potentially life-saving connection, though, is not just a doctor on a screen, there’s much more to it. The people who coordinate with hospitals and dispatch the physicians are the hidden heroes of telemedicine. At SOC, behind every telemedicine consultation there’s an entire team working to ensure each patient receives the best care, in a timely manner—the Consult Coordination Center (CCC).
For Jack Spradley, VP, Operations for SOC, the CCC is the nerve center of acute care telemedicine. The dispatchers and coordinators in the CCC are the connection between incoming consult requests from hospitals and physicians who are waiting to see the hospital’s patients. It’s a continual ebb and flow that requires efficient and timely management, aided by technology. That’s because a patient’s health, and sometimes life, depends on it.
The CCC team receives consult requests via telephone and online. The team uses sophisticated software to identify the most appropriate clinician available for the consult, while also working with onsite staff to ensure that the patient and equipment are ready. The CCC coordinators, dispatchers, and supervisors also ensure pertinent patient information and images are available for the clinician. This creates an optimal experience for the patient. All within minutes.
Predicting the Unpredictable
Having the ability to pre-plan which acute patients will arrive at a hospital and at what time is not possible. No one plans to have a stroke, for example. But an awareness of trends and predictive analytics help the CCC and the physician scheduling team plan ahead. There are known scenarios (based on data from over 650,000 telemedicine consults) that can lead to a higher volume of patients going to the hospital, known as a surge. Situations that often lead to surges include:
Natural Weather Event
When there are hurricanes or floods expected to impact an area, the CCC plans ahead. For example, experience has shown that psychiatry volume will increase a day or two prior, decrease during the storm, and then increase again once the weather event is over. The scheduling of psychiatrists is adjusted accordingly.
This can be attributed both to an increase in patients as well as a decrease in the client’s physician availability. Physicians at client partner hospitals take vacations and that’s when hospitals will utilize the CCC more frequently to address shortages. Many people are also traveling to see their families, creating a change in their day-to-day routine, which can lead to a health crisis.
Consider a typical surge scenario: perhaps you’re working with an expectation of 10 neurology consults during the next hour, then end up with 20 consults. That’s 10 extra patients in need of immediate specialty acute care than originally expected. The CCC team is trained and able to handle the extra volume, quickly shifting gears to call in additional physician support and calmly working through each consult to ensure every patient is cared for quickly.
Making the Right Call
In addition to the dispatchers and coordinators, there are supervisors present in the CCC 24/7, overseeing the entire operation. Supervisors are responsible for keeping an eye on the consult request queues and knowing what is happening at all times with every patient. Supervisors review incoming data and use an escalation process to address any concerns. At any given time, there could be 40 to 50 patients being treated. Supervisors have to keep a pulse on all operations to ensure each patient consult goes smoothly.
“Many internal SOC teams interact with the CCC—it is truly the hub of all operations,” explains Spradley. “Because of these hidden heroes of telemedicine, SOC Is meeting the challenge of providing exceptional acute care – generating better patient outcomes, providing needed access to on-demand specialists, and showing clear improvements in the quality of care.”
To learn more about the CCC and what it takes to be one of the hidden heroes of telemedicine, read Consult Coordination Center: Nerve Center of Acute Telemedicine.