2:04

How Virtual Care Pathways Are Improving Outcomes for Patients Living With Respiratory Diseases

Respiratory diseases are defined as illnesses that affect the lungs or other parts of the respiratory system. These include COPD, asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, lung cancer, and more. While these diseases can negatively impact the daily lives of those living with them, there are a number of great treatment and management options available today.

One way healthcare providers are helping make the treatment of respiratory diseases easier is by using virtual care pathways. Virtual care pathways are telehealth management tools that use plans for patients who require the same or similar treatment. Through virtual platforms such as aTouchAway, providers can use these pathways to assess patients’ needs and automatically assign workflows for care teams, patients, and other members of their circle of care, all within the same, easy-to-use platform.

In this blog, we will go into more detail about the improvements virtual care pathways bring to patients, and the benefits providers can realize by adopting them.

Key Improvements in Patient Outcomes With Virtual Care Pathways 

Virtual care pathways are becoming increasingly popular among healthcare providers. With the COVID-19 pandemic changing the way many healthcare facilities operate over the last year, the inefficiencies caused by unnecessary hospitalizations and in-person healthcare visits have been brought to light. Virtual care pathways not only reduce these challenges but allow patients to be better connected with their healthcare providers and have their needs met in a more timely manner.

Virtual care pathways allow patients and healthcare professionals to connect in a timely matter. 

Allows Patients To Stay Connected With Their Healthcare Providers More Regularly

For patients living with respiratory diseases, having a way to reach their healthcare provider if symptoms progress is important. Unfortunately, with changing regulations around COVID-19 and clinic closures becoming a common occurrence, many patients have not been able to receive the care they are used to, and require. That said, staying connected with care providers has become easier than ever before through telehealth platforms and virtual care pathways. 

Through these platforms, patients can have daily assessments conducted to determine whether their symptoms are worsening and automatically be provided with resources or treatment instructions to take action that day. Additionally, patients can send a message to their healthcare provider, schedule virtual appointments, or video chat with other members of their care team. This efficient method of communication is helping patients stay better connected with their support system, and is allowing them to effectively manage their symptoms

Reduces Hospitalizations and In-Person Healthcare Visits 

Hospitalizations and frequent in-person healthcare visits are difficult for everyone involved, but especially for patients. For this reason, limiting the number of in-person appointments and hospitalizations for patients living with respiratory diseases has become a top priority for healthcare providers.

In-person visits are often required with traditional care pathways so that providers can assess patients’ symptoms and assign the appropriate treatment or care measures. For patients who prefer not to travel to in-person appointments or those who live in rural communities, this can negatively affect how they receive care. Not only that, but healthcare services are also difficult to access in many areas, with an average of only 39.8 primary care physicians per 100,000 population in nonmetropolitan areas compared to 53.3 in larger metropolitan areas. 

With virtual care pathways, physicians can deliver care to patients no matter where they are located. As patients get used to the routine of meeting with their doctor virtually, many have found the transition to this new method of care to be simple.

Allows Patients Needs To Be Recognized and Treated Efficiently 

Virtual care pathways allow specific members of a patient’s care team to be notified or assigned duties based on the patients changing needs. If a patient requires a particular treatment or educational resources based on their current symptoms, the workflows that have been created can be followed to automatically respond and provide them with the required care.

Through the virtual care platform you use, patients with respiratory diseases can be provided with information about inhalers, breathing positions, and more. Here, patients can also follow the workflows they are assigned to modify behaviours or reduce exposures to triggers that often result in hospital visits.

Limitations of Traditional Care Pathways for Providers 

Results in Unnecessary In-Person Healthcare Visits 

Traditional care pathways do not offer many of the features that are available through virtual pathways. When using traditional pathways as opposed to virtual ones, patients will require more in-person visits, and will need to book more full-length appointments to get the care they require. 

This can cause an increase in appointments that could have otherwise been handled by communicating with patients on a shorter, more regular basis, and having them follow their virtual care pathway when specific symptoms arise.  

Without having the tools required to self-manage certain components of their illness from home, patients may also end up hospitalized if they are unable to get an appointment at their regular clinic.

Enabling patients to self-manage their conditions at home can prevent unnecessary hospital visits.

Increases Staffing Needs and Contributes to Healthcare Inefficiencies 

When patients are required to visit healthcare facilities in person, there must be a team of staff who are ready to support their needs. Administrative staff, nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists and other healthcare professionals are some of the many staff needed in clinics and hospitals when treating patients with respiratory diseases. 

As staffing costs account for around 60% of hospital expenses and also make up a large portion of medical clinics expenses, it is important that these costs are optimized to ensure more patients are able to receive treatment. Virtual care pathways can help healthcare providers reduce costs by automating tasks such as assigning workflows based on common patient symptoms and reducing the time spent on other repetitive administrative duties.

When healthcare staff are able to better optimize their time through efficient tools such as virtual care pathways, they can improve the quality of care they provide to patients who require more manual care while simultaneously helping others manage their illnesses virtually.

Continuing To Improve Outcomes for Patients With Respiratory Diseases 

Many providers have adopted over-the-phone appointments or other socially distanced measures to meet their patient needs as our healthcare systems adjust to the changes caused by the pandemic. For patients with respiratory diseases, consistent monitoring may be required, which is difficult through over-the-phone appointments. Virtual “face to face” appointments, which can easily be partnered with virtual care pathways can help providers achieve this. 

A study done by Novo Nordisk Canada showed that 38% of Canadians with chronic illnesses surveyed said they are avoiding the healthcare system all together during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without the right tools or resources, these patients will likely not receive the care they need, and may require hospitalization if their disease is not properly managed.

By adopting virtual care pathways, healthcare providers can effectively treat patients who fall into this category, and continue to provide a more accessible care option for their patients during, and after the pandemic.

Thank you for reading. To stay up to date on current healthcare topics and news about Aetonix,  subscribe to our mailing list at the bottom of our blog page. Connect with us on social media using the links at the bottom of this page and share your thoughts!

Keep reading
Keep reading
  • Share:

Leave a Comment

sing in to post your comment or sign-up if you dont have any account.

close-link
COPD Education – Onboarding

Objective

To complete a thorough needs assessment / initial evaluation for a COPD patient of an outpatient clinic

Actors
Patient, Educator (Nurse, RT, the Physician could also be the educator)

Timelines
One 60-90 min session with the Educator

Description
  • This protocol should be established for all COPD patients from a given clinic, independently of whether they are new patients or they are known to the clinic. This protocol is the basis to engage the patient into other protocols such as education, exacerbation follow-up, etc.
  • We need to identify patient goals/concerns to guide the interventions
  • A thorough evaluation is carried on, with the objective of understanding where the patient is on their disease journey and follow-up treatable traits: dyspnea, exacerbation or dyspnea and exacerbation.
  • It includes the use of objective questionnaires such as the mMRC, CAT, HADS, Frailty Scale, etc.
  • Identify if the patient needs to be referred to other resources (e.g. Physiotherapist, social worker, occupational therapist)
  • Once Onboarding is completed, the patient continues to the COPD Education workflow
close-link
COPD Education – Continuous Maintenance

Objective 

To cover in depth all the necessary elements of self-management education as per the LWWCOPD, with priorities based on patient goals and identified treatable traits

Actors
Patient, Educator (Nurse, RT or Physician)

Timelines
A number of “Core” educational modules have been identified which cover the basic COPD education from the LWWCOPD program. Additionally, optional modules can be used to respond to patient needs. The timeline (frequency, number of modules to be covered at a given education session) is fully customizable, although we recommend to have education sessions every 2-weeks during the “active” phase of education. Once this is completed, the patient continues to the Maintenance Mode (see below).

Description
  • Launched at the onboarding protocol
  • Provide basic overview of COPD self-management based on LWWCOPD (medication adherence, inhaler techniques, PLB technique & energy conservation) up to the development of an Action plan for early exacerbation recognition and management.
  • Prioritize self-learning by the patient (e.g. watching videos, reading educational materials, completing homework) in addition to live sessions with the Educator. Educational materials are sent to the patient directly via the platform, and become the patient’s own library. The Educator can customize which “homework” the patient receives.
  • Educators have access to “User guides” to standardise their educational intervention. These user guides include: objectives, interventions, suggested questions, evaluation of self-efficacy, and learning contracts for each module.
  • Once the core education is completed, the patient can continue to the Respiratory Status Follow-up Workflow (run in parallel)

The Maintenance Mode
  • As soon as the maintenance mode is engaged, the frequency of visits Educator/Patient is reduced to once every 6 months.
  • During the Maintenance Mode sessions, the educator has access to all the education modules and can choose any piece of content that needs to covered with the patient. 
  • A streamlined evaluation (similar to the initial eval.) is done during each “maintenance” visit to identify any substantial changes on the patient’s needs that will require some adjustment. The patient could come back to an “active” education mode (more frequent education sessions, e.g. every 2 weeks).
close-link
COPD Respiratory Status Follow-up

Objective

Monitoring of stable patients from a clinic in order to identify early any aggravation of symptoms (exacerbation) and implement an action plan

Actors
Patient, Educator (Nurse, RT or Physician)

Timelines
Scheduled regular automated follow-up to the patient symptoms. Intensity/Frequency can be adjusted by the Educator depending on patient needs (e.g. daily, every week, etc.). Ongoing through the year.

Description
  • Launch: Patients who have completed the Core Educational including setting-up an action plan.
  • Regular automated questions allow to identify any change in patient’s symptoms and severity.
  • If an exacerbation is detected the patient gets a reminder to engage their self-management strategies while waiting for the Educator to call back.
  • An alarm is generated for the Educator, so they immediately call back the patient. At this call they will evaluate any further intervention required and schedule additional follow-up.
close-link
Schedule a Demo

Learn more about aTouchAway’s features and how they can help improve efficiency in your healthcare organization.

close-link
close-link