How Partners Healthcare is using virtual care

Brigham and Women’s Hospital has broadened its virtual footprint.

As healthcare providers explore new ways to incorporate telemedicine into routine care, one Boston health system is focusing on opportunities that create value for both patients and practitioners.

Partners Healthcare, which includes Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, has been targeting the use of virtual visits for the last several years through the Center for Connected Health, with particular emphasis on psychology, pediatric critical care and cardiology.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital has broadened its virtual footprint by identifying which clinical services would benefit from virtual visits, which technology tools are available to facilitate those visits, and how it will assist physicians in providing better care, according to a post in Harvard Business Review by Adam Licurse, M.D., medical director for telehealth at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Partners Healthcare Center for Population Health.

Specifically, the hospital has been advancing virtual services within three areas of care: Patients with chronic diseases, urgent care visits and connecting primary care physicians with specialists.

For example, in 2015, Brigham and Women’s established a program offering virtual follow-up visits to patients with specific chronic conditions. Physicians use offices outfitted with cameras to connect with patients remotely, which reduces the amount of time providers spend on follow-up visits, allowing them to spend more time seeing patients with more complex needs. Last year, the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) said telemedicine is growing fastest within primary care.

The hospital has also rolled out e-visits for urgent care and plans to dedicate a certain number of physician assistants to answering questions submitted by patients. Through its “E-Consult” program, the hospital connects primary care providers with specialists to discuss patient conditions that might not require a referral.

Although patients have said they are wary of telehealth services, health systems are putting more resources into virtual care options, and organizations like the American Medical Association (AMA) are urging physicians to take on a greater role in telemedicine.