Winner: Stephanie Ann Rawlins, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis
Innovation: Virtual Healthcare
The world of health care is ever-changing. The digital age is here. With it comes significant advancements and innovations in patient access and quality of care. One development poised to change the face of healthcare is “”virtual healthcare.” It is a method, by which physicians and other health care providers, such as nurses or medical assistants, communicate with patients without physically seeing them in the office.
I am the director of a small, rural library without a hospital in the county. With only one doctor, weeks can go by without needed medical care. Some may drive up to forty minutes to receive care. Virtual health care options are especially promising for patients living in remote, rural areas, like our county. This service could actually be a lifesaver, given the shortage of qualified providers in our area. This service could actually open up health care to residents that may not have reached out before.
This bit of health care awareness can be extremely beneficial to patients too busy for an office visit. It helps those who lack mobility, have limited access to transportation or live in remote areas. It can be used for online second opinions, doctor-to-doctor consultations and home monitoring of certain conditions.
The county I work in is affected by the digital divide. Our residents are mainly 55 and older and without internet access. Many of our residents do not own computers, smart phones, tablets, or have an email address. They rely on the library to help them with technology or provide the technology services they need.
Virtual health has the potential to create better health care awareness, minimize hospital admissions, and better monitor long-term and post-hospital patient care. It might not be for everyone, but the potential for greater access and quality of care should be explored.
Virtual health care is becoming more affordable and accepted by a wide range of insurance companies. A new rule allowing Medicare Advantage beneficiaries to access virtual care services was recently proposed. CMS also released its CY 2019 Physician Fee Schedule final rule, which includes reimbursement for virtual care services.
If the library could have a room set aside for virtual healthcare, many residents could use it for wellness checks, follow-up appointments or question and answer sessions. We already help patrons find information about doctors, hospitals, illness and disease; this would allow the library to be a place to access medical care. For our older residents, a trip to the library is much closer than a trip to the doctor. Families with children already visit weekly and everyone in the county knows where the library is located.
The library is expected to have up to date technology. Why would that not include virtual health care? There would need to be basic health care items available: blood pressure machine, scale, thermometer and pulse monitor. Cleaning procedures for the room as well as locks and rules for use. A partnership with the hospital on this project, maybe a healthcare professional could be available weekly to support the library’s efforts to better healthcare in the county.