New Hampshire hospital to open virtual clinic

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center will staff a virtual clinic that will review medical information from patients remotely, allowing the hospital to increase its use of remote medical sensing equipment and reduce the need for patients to visit the hospital, according to the Battleboro Reformer.

The hospital, with help from nonprofits, labor departments in both Vermont and New Hampshire, and a Vermont nonprofit education center, plans to train and hire 20 medical assistants and 10 pharmacy technicians who will operate the telemonitoring and telehealth equipment, the Reformer reported.

The virtual clinic will allow clinicians to monitor patients' vital signs at home and send assistance only when the health data shows a problem.

"We're asking 'why does the patient always have to come to us, and are there some things that can be done remotely that will add value or improve outcomes,'" Ethan Berke, M.D., director of primary care and population health at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, told the newspaper.

Vermont law requires Medicaid coverage for telemonitoring by home health agencies, according to the article, and the hospital will enact the same privacy protections for virtual clinic patients as those who visit the hospital.

Virtual consultations might be a more efficient use of specialists' time than face-to-face meetings without a decline in patient satisfaction, Kaiser Permanente researchers found in a 2012 study, FierceHealthIT previously reported. However, researchers found patients who use e-visits are more likely to receive prescriptions for antibiotics without relevant testing.

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