Western Hospital using innovative physician care approach to support patients, community
Western Hospital in Alberton is using an innovative, first in Canada approach for delivering in-patient physician care remotely to patients without a family physician.
Health PEI and the Medical Society of Prince Edward Island collaborated with Canadian telemedicine provider, Maple, to pilot Canada’s first-ever tele-rounding model to support in-patient care at Western Hospital. Developed to seamlessly integrate with the existing hospital infrastructure, Maple’s tele-rounding platform allows Canadian physicians who are licensed in PEI but located in other areas of the province or country to remotely deliver care for in-patients.
“We are committed to ensuring residents of West Prince have local access to safe and sustainable health care,” said Health and Wellness Minister Robert Mitchell. “By integrating new and modern technology into in-patient care, we are enhancing collaboration, reinforcing the creativity of entrepreneurs, making better use of existing resources, and building an environment where innovation can thrive. These new innovations do not replace physicians, but are an added resource to support our health professionals and our patients.”
There are currently nine physicians participating in the tele-rounding pilot, including three local physicians from Prince Edward Island.
“We appreciate the role of our family physicians who provide both primary and in-patient care, and we are committed to maintaining a full complement of practicing physicians in West Prince,” said Dr. André Celliers, family physician and Health PEI’s executive director of medical affairs. “While the tele-rounding pilot is not intended to permanently replace the on-site role of our physicians, it has proven to be an excellent bridging resource to support in-patient care at the hospital while we recruited family physicians to the region.”
Since the pilot began in August, more than 1,200 tele-rounding consults have been performed on nearly 60 patients over the course of their stay in hospital. In the first two months of the pilot, 92 per cent of the hospital’s in-patients received care using this new tele-rounding model.
“Our patients, and our communities, place their trust in our ability to provide safe, effective, quality care on a consistent basis, regardless of the challenges we may be facing. This responsibility is not taken lightly, particularly when exploring new innovative and collaborative ways to provided unwavering care to our patients,” said Western Hospital administrator Paul Young. “The patient experience is very important to us, and we have been amazed by how receptive our patients have been and by their positive feedback throughout the tele-rounding pilot.”
The six month pilot program began to help address vacancies within the family physician complement in West Prince. Since then, Health PEI has recruited two physicians, with one beginning practice in O’Leary in early 2019 and one starting a new practice in Alberton next spring.
“We constantly hear about hospital services being reduced to address physician resource challenges, but what we don’t hear about are the 50 per cent of general practitioners and specialists across Canada who don’t work full year, full time.” says Brett Belchetz, emergency department physician and CEO of Maple. “By investing in novel technologies like that developed for Western Hospital, we’re able to tap into those available physician hours and redistribute them to communities where it’s needed.”
Using a secure video conferencing system that allows doctors to view and discuss treatment options with patients and hospital staff, the platform has been built specifically for Western Hospital and is complemented by innovative technologies like digital stethoscopes and the ability to track wound healing over time. The remote physicians can securely access patient health records, make referrals, and order testing as needed.
While a first in Canada, similar models are being used across the United States to augment in-person care. Research on similar tele-rounding models has shown patient outcomes to be equal in quality to those seen in traditional in-person care, one of the many reasons Health PEI wanted to explore this new method to ensure stable in-patient care at Western Hospital.
Health PEI, in collaboration with the Medical Society of Prince Edward Island and Maple, will carry out a robust evaluation following the completion of the pilot project in February.
Maple is a technology platform that tackles some of the world’s most meaningful issues in healthcare, starting with timely and convenient access to doctors and other healthcare providers. It allows patients to connect directly with doctors for medical care in minutes from their smartphone or computer 24/7, and also provides custom technological solutions for hospitals looking to advance their delivery of care. Learn more at Get Maple.