By Rhett Stover and Waseem Ghannam
Eighteen months ago when our partnership began, we could not have foreseen either the changes in the world due to COVID-19, or the effect it would have on telemedicine nationally.
The partnership between OSU Medicine and TeleHealth Solution is a primary care strategy aimed to provide a single point of contact for patients navigating the health system. Our work prior to the pandemic laid the ground work for an expansion of the partnership to respond quickly and at scale to serve the needs of the rural community.
OSU Medicine sought to enhance its investment in virtual medicine to address health disparities and expand access to care for several hospitals in rural Oklahoma, in order to prepare for the expected surge in coronavirus cases. Services provided through the partnership between OSU Medicine and TeleHealth Solution include a robust telehealth platform as well as virtual hospitalist services including rounding, admission, and care coordination for rural healthcare markets across the state. As the coronavirus pandemic accelerated, these services were increasingly relied upon for emergency preparedness planning in many rural areas of the state.
Telehealth and COVID
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The challenge created by the COVID-19 pandemic opened the door for telehealth at OSU Medicine and other provider organizations nationwide. The pandemic made it imperative to find ways to care for patients, both those with COVID-19 and those with other diseases, efficiently and safely, while adhering to strict quality of care guidelines; uniquely bringing together innovative technology, increased accessibility, and enhanced clinical expertise.
Telehealth rapidly went from a convenient option for IT-savvy patients, to an essential part of OSU Medicine’s service portfolio that serves as the first point-of-contact for almost every patient. The platform’s reach includes residents and hospital systems across the state of Oklahoma and has successfully expanded to meet the needs of the region’s patients and providers during the pandemic.
The success of the strategic partnership between OSU Medicine and TeleHealth Solution is largely a result of the alignment and relationship between the two organizations. Understanding the collection of systems and providers that makes up OSU Medicine was critical to developing a usable, flexible solution that met the needs of its providers and patients. Relationship development and a growth-oriented mindset were also critical to building the roadmap for telehealth at OSU Medicine.
The relationship serves as a vehicle to meet both sudden and ongoing healthcare needs that present in rural geographies. Through an innovative digital platform, OSU TeleHealth Solution combines people, processes and technology in innovative and unique ways that come together to create success for patients, physicians, and rural communities.
The partnership has been quite successful and has made healthcare demonstrably more accessible to Oklahomans. Specialty services are now available from home whenever possible, which for many residents means saving 100-150 miles of driving to receive care. The University, with its finger on the pulse of the community, turned to the partnership to deliver healthcare in an expeditious manner. The OSU TeleHealth Solution partnership provides the support needed to help take care of the people of Oklahoma during the public health crisis and beyond.
About the authors: Rhett Stover is the CEO of Oklahoma State University Medicine. Waseem Ghannam, MD MBA MHSA, is a co-founder of TeleHealth Solution.