In recent years, the majority of hospitals and health systems have begun leveraging remote providers as part of their overall staffing strategy. Infectious Disease is one of the many specialties particularly well-suited to telehealth, as much of the information crucial to the practice of Infectious Disease can be obtained through history and evaluation of chart data. Despite what may be perceived as limitations posed by the remote setting, Tele-Infectious Disease specialists manage even the most complex cases through their assessment of labs, cultures, imaging, and patient history obtained via Telehealth.
Conditions Treated by Tele-Infectious Disease Specialists
A remote infectious disease provider can assess and treat the same types of conditions as an in-person specialist. Common conditions include sepsis, cellulitis, endocarditis, and other complicated skin and soft tissue infections. Tele-Infectious Disease physicians are also able to participate in the management of more esoteric infections, such as fungal infections, travel-related diseases, or other conditions difficult to diagnose and manage without the assistance of an Infectious Disease specialist.
Direct Impact on Patient Outcomes
1. Fast, accurate diagnosis, even for rare conditions
Infectious diseases, including sepsis, can progress to life-threatening acuity in only a short time. Prompt diagnosis and management by a remote specialist empowers bedside healthcare providers to rapidly initiate appropriate therapy in a timely fashion, significantly improving patient clinical outcomes.
2. Reducing time to start treatment (antibiotic and other), especially after hours
In the world of infectious diseases, time is of the essence. Treatment delays, which are common when a patient experiences a change in condition after hours, can have detrimental consequences. Tele-Infectious Disease specialists often provide faster response times.
For example, at AmplifyMD, our infectious disease physicians typically respond in <3 hours for calls that come in after 8 p.m., whereas these cases frequently would be delayed until the next morning.
3. Reducing the Need for a Transfer to Another Facility
In certain complex cases, transferring a patient to a specialized medical facility may seem like the only option. However, by engaging Infectious Disease Specialists, hospitals can often manage these cases in-house, minimizing the need for transfers. Avoiding a transfer reduces stress and inconvenience for patients and their families. It also lowers the financial burden associated with a transfer and empowers local hospitals to provide effective medical management within their own community. The impacts of avoiding a transfer include increased patient satisfaction, stronger local community healthcare systems, and a smoother and more cost-effective treatment process.
Beyond Patient Care
Tele-infectious disease Specialists can play a key role in reducing clinical errors, improving patient and family satisfaction, and managing emotionally sensitive situations. Here are some key areas where tele-infectious disease specialists make a substantial impact:
1. Antibiotic Stewardship and Treatment Strategies
Infectious Disease Specialists play a pivotal role in managing antibiotic use within hospitals. Through tele-infectious disease consultations, they can help optimize antibiotic regimens, ensuring that patients receive the most appropriate treatment while minimizing the risk of antibiotic resistance. This can include the strategic transition from intravenous antibiotics to oral medications when appropriate, leading to better patient experiences and cost savings.
2. Infection Control and Prevention
Infection control is a primary concern in hospitals, with healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) posing a significant risk to patient safety. Remote infectious disease specialists can help in reduce HAIs, and the spread of infectious diseases such as MRSA, Strep, C. difficile (C Diff), central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI), and H. pylori. Their expertise can lead to improved practices and protocols, ultimately enhancing patient safety and regulatory compliance.
3. Support for Employee Health
Hospitals also have a responsibility to protect the health of their healthcare workers. Infectious Disease specialists can provide real-time guidance on post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for employees who may be at risk of infection due to needlestick injuries, cuts, splashes, or other workplace infectious hazards. Timely consultation in these cases is often critical to employee health and morale and can be readily provided through Telehealth Infectious Disease specialists.
4. Diagnostic Precision and Timeliness
Tele-infectious disease specialists can collaborate with on-site medical teams, offering expertise in interpreting laboratory results, cultures, imaging, and patient history. This collaboration leads to reduced diagnostic errors, especially during after-hours situations, ensuring that treatment starts promptly.
5. Enhanced Patient and Family Communication
Tele-infectious disease specialists can engage with patients and their families, providing education, addressing concerns, and explaining treatment plans in a way that is easily understood. This increased communication fosters trust and ensures that patients and their families are actively involved in their care.
6. Cost-Effective Quality Improvement
By integrating tele-infectious disease specialists into the healthcare team, hospitals can significantly reduce clinical errors, streamline operations, and enhance overall patient outcomes. This approach not only improves the quality of care but also proves to be a cost-effective model for hospitals.
Incorporating Infectious disease specialists into the hospital setting via virtual care is a win-win for hospitals and patients. These remote experts contribute to better infection control, antibiotic stewardship, employee health, and patient and family satisfaction. Their ability to reduce diagnostic errors and enhance overall quality of care makes them a valuable addition to the healthcare team. As hospitals continue to adapt to the evolving healthcare landscape, tele-infectious disease specialists are proving to be indispensable allies in the fight against infectious diseases and the pursuit of safer, more effective patient care.