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MP34: Evaluation of real-time virtual support for rural emergency care

  • H. Novak Lauscher (a1), E. Stacy (a1), J. Christenson (a1), B. Clifford (a1), F. Flood (a1), D. Horvat (a1), R. Markham (a1), J. Pawlovich (a1), P. Rowe (a1) and K. Ho (a1)...

Abstract

Introduction: In many rural and remote communities in BC, family physicians who are providing excellent primary and emergency care would like to access useful, timely, and collegial support to ensure the highest quality of health services for their patients. We undertook a real-time virtual support project in Robson Valley, located in northern BC, to evaluate the use of digital technologies such as videoconferencing for on demand consultation between family physicians at rural sites and emergency physicians at a regional site. Telehealth consults also occurred between rural sites with nurses at community emergency rooms consulting with local on-call physicians. Our aim was to use telehealth to facilitate timely access to high quality, comprehensive, coordinated team-based care. An evaluation framework, based on the Triple Aim sought to: 1) Identify telehealth use cases and assess impact on patient outcomes, patient and health professional experience, and cost of health care delivery; and 2) Assess the role of relationships among care team members in progressing from uptake to normalization of telehealth into routine usage. Methods: Using a participatory approach, all members of the pilot project were involved in shaping the pilot including the co-development of the evaluation itself. Evaluation was used iteratively throughout implementation for ongoing quality improvement via regular team meetings, sharing and reflecting on findings, and adjusting processes as required. Mixed methods were used including: interviews with family physicians, nurses, and patients at rural sites, and emergency physicians at regional site; review of records such as technology use statistics; and stakeholder focus groups. Results: From November 2016 to July 2017, 26 cases of telehealth use were captured and evaluated. Findings indicate that telehealth has positively impacted care team, patients, and health system. Benefits for care team at the rural sites included confidence in diagnoses through timely access to advice and support, while emergency physicians at the regional site gained deeper understanding of the practice settings of rural colleagues. Nevertheless, telehealth has complicated the emergency department work flow and increased physician workload. Findings demonstrated efficiencies for the health system, including reducing the need for patient transfer. Patients expressed confidence in the physicians and telehealth system; by receiving care closer to home, they experienced personal cost savings. Implementation saw a move away from scheduled telehealth visits to real use of technology for timely access. Conclusion: Evidence of the benefits of telehealth in emergency settings is needed to support stakeholder engagement to address issues of workflow and capacity. This pilot has early indications of significant local impact and will inform the expansion of emergency telehealth in all emergency settings in BC.

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MP34: Evaluation of real-time virtual support for rural emergency care

  • H. Novak Lauscher (a1), E. Stacy (a1), J. Christenson (a1), B. Clifford (a1), F. Flood (a1), D. Horvat (a1), R. Markham (a1), J. Pawlovich (a1), P. Rowe (a1) and K. Ho (a1)...

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