Queen’s set to launch pilot project to deliver “telehealth boxes”

In response to the rapid adoption of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Queen’s Health Systems is preparing to launch a new pilot project to get “telehealth boxes” into the hands of patients in need. The telehealth boxes will include equipment like blood pressure cuffs, pulse oximeters, and scales to help augment telehealth visits for certain patients. 

Mia Taylor, director of community and post-acute care services for the Queen’s Health Systems, says Queen’s was able to rapidly train hundreds of physicians in the community on telehealth early on in the pandemic. In launching this mass response, she says it quickly became apparent there was a need to support telehealth visits with an element of remote patient monitoring. 

 

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In the early days of the pandemic, Queen’s developed a COVID hotline for community members to call with questions and concerns related to the virus. Nurses staffing the hotline were able to address concerns, screen patients for symptoms, and set up testing if warranted. 

“The COVID hotline was stood up really in response to a huge community need,” says Taylor. “It was clear that we needed to set something up with educated staff who could answer questions and steer patients and providers in the right direction.”

If anyone tested positive, a member of Queen’s transitional case management team would follow up with the patient and determine if a virtual telehealth visit was needed with a provider on the hotline.

“We’ve had well over I think 60,000 calls on the hotline…But we also have had literally thousands of patients who tested positive that we’ve been able to manage through the hotline and keep in the community,” says Taylor. 

For some high-risk patients, such as those with asthma, diabetes, or heart disease, the team would send thermometers and pulse oximeters so that patients were able to remotely self-monitor. 

“The whole goal was if the patients were stable, to keep them in the community so that they weren’t inundating our emergency room and our hospital beds,” says Taylor. “But we certainly wanted to educate the patient on what symptoms to look for and give them the tools to be able to monitor themselves so that if they were running into trouble, they could notify us early.”

This work helped inform Queen’s plan to distribute telehealth boxes to other patients who need medical care but who may also be unable to come into the doctor’s office. Taylor gives the example of a telehealth visit for a patient with heart failure who needs to monitor their weight or a patient with lung disease who needs to know what their oxygen levels are. 

Queen’s plans to distribute the boxes to 7 geographically diverse clinics and practices. Each group will get 20 telehealth boxes which providers will then distribute to the patients they feel will benefit most. 

Despite facing delays due to the medical equipment being on backorder, Taylor says she expects the boxes to be distributed next month.