New Telehealth Platform at UH Off to a Strong Start

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VisuWell implemented after surveying UH providers; underwent months of rigorous testing

UH Clinical Update | August 2021

Telehealth visits peaked at UH during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, out of necessity.

“In April 2020, 60 percent of our arrived ambulatory visits were virtual,” says Stacy Porter, Vice President for Pediatrics, Women’s Health and Consumer-centric Strategy, who oversees telehealth strategy at UH.  “But we did not have a systemwide platform for facilitating that care. Providers were using a variety of solutions, some Doxy.me, some Zoom, some Doximity and others.”

That has now changed at UH with the ongoing and successful roll-out of the new VisuWell telehealth platform. Providers in the UH Primary Care Institute went “live” with the new platform on Aug. 2. On Sept. 7, providers in the UH Rainbow Primary Care Institute, OB/GYN, Genetics and Behavioral Health will join them, followed on Oct. 4 by providers in all remaining adult and pediatric medical and surgical specialties.

UH providers are enjoying many enhancements on VisuWell compared to their previous platforms, Porter says, including:

  • Single sign-on (SSO) capability: launching the visit through the EMR without logging into a secondary platform 
  • Soarian integration: a secure VisuWell session link is automatically sent to the patient 60 minutes before their scheduled virtual visit
  • Improved connectivity with less downtime
  • Screen-share functionality
  • Picture-in-picture: ability to document and conduct visit with one screen 

This is no accident.

“Our providers told us in a June 2020 survey what they needed and wanted and what was most important, and we went out and found it,” Porter says. “Over eight months, with continuous feedback from providers, leaders and other UH caregivers, we evaluated several platforms and narrowed it down to the top five. Ultimately, VisuWell was selected. They were best able to deliver on the features and functionality that our providers and patients told us they wanted. Also, they offered the most flexibility to be able to grow with us as we continue to evolve in our digital and telehealth offerings.”

So far, Porter says, the feedback from UH providers on the new VisuWell platform has been overwhelmingly positive.

“One of my favorite comments was, ‘That’s it?’” she says. “The provider couldn’t believe how easy it was. Providers are also telling us that their patients are telling them how much better this is.”

Primary care provider Marie Kuchynski, MD, FACR, CCD, Regional Medical Director for the Southwest Region in the UH Primary Care Institute, agrees.

“The ease of use from the provider standpoint stands out,” she says. “VisuWell doesn't require the provider to send separate links to phones/computers, which makes it more seamless. The fact that the staff are able to be in the same session for triage without having patients log on and off makes it by far most like an in-person experience.”

“I enjoy the capability to invite others to the visit, so family members can be involved,” Dr. Kuchynski adds. “With the ability to do picture in picture on one computer, you can see the patient and document your visit.”

Porter says that although telehealth visits at UH are not now at the levels seen earlier in the pandemic, they still make up a substantial portion of ambulatory care – with much room seen for growth.

“Many people started used virtual visits during the pandemic out of necessity, but they like it,” she says. “We’ve got to now be able to offer that as part of our toolkit to retain our patients and keep them healthy, as well as attract new ones.”

Going forward, Porter says the UH telehealth team will be working more closely with UH specialists to identify more ways that they can leverage virtual visits – in ways that make sense. The team is also working with Peter Pronovost, MD, PhD, UH’s Chief Quality and Clinical Transformation Officer, on a strategy to allow a UH specialist to virtually join an office visit between a patient and primary care provider.

“This can be part of better managing patients with chronic diseases,” Porter says. “Rather than your PCP referring you to an endocrinologist, imagine that you go to your PCP’s office and the endocrinologist joins the visit virtually.”

A telehealth platform that is continuously updated and improved enables ideas like this. Porter says UH has found one in VisuWell.

“VisuWell does releases with enhancements every two weeks,” she says. ”It’s a living and breathing platform. They’ve been fantastic partners hearing our feedback and then delivering on enhancements.”

For questions or comments about the new telehealth platform at UH, please contact the Telehealth Team at telehealth@uhhospitals.org.

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