Three members of the Division of General Internal Medicine—Hospitalist Program Director Dr. Kevin Glenn, Administrator Eric Linson, and Dr. Ethan Kuperman—have pioneered yet another innovation through the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Hospitalist Program. In collaboration with The Signal Center for Health Innovation (formerly eHealth and eNovation) and Van Buren County Hospital (VBCH) in Keosauqua, Iowa, they have launched the UIHC Virtual Hospitalist Service. Virtual care or “telemedicine’ is an emerging delivery tool that facilitates the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another.
The UIHC Virtual Hospitalist Service is a contracted door-to-bedside service that provides co-medical management from the emergency department to inpatient units of critical-access hospital patients until they are discharged or transferred to a tertiary acute care facility such as UIHC. The service delivers a single point of contact: triage, rounding, improved transfer process, and the ability for rural facilities to maintain care of patients in lieu of transfer when appropriate.
It is this last benefit—preventing the need for transfer—that should not go understated. A transfer from his or her own community care center to Iowa City places additional burdens on the patient, recovery time, the patient’s family, and on our hospital. As referrals to this institution have increased dramatically in the last couple years, it has become more important that alternatives to transfer be found while still offering patients all the benefit UIHC providers can.
The pilot program, now in its second week, is off to a strong start. The Virtual Hospitalist Service was consulted 18 times in one week; this included 9 admissions and clinical guidance on 11 different patients. Drs. Glenn and Kuperman and Mr. Linson have been involved since the idea’s inception and continue to engage with the care providers on site at VBCH to ensure communication and collaboration is preserved. Feedback from VBCH’s end has been positive. Comments include: Everything we felt was wonderful. Our eyes were opened how much patient care was enhanced by this program. Exceeded providers (VBCH) expectations thus far. All were very complementary of Ethan – his involvement this week has been a major reason for the success thus far.
Though still in its very early stages, Dr. Glenn hopes that this pilot program will continue to be successful and lead to expanded implementation in more rural hospitals. Congratulations to him, Dr. Kuperman, and Mr. Linson on this auspicious new program.