UnityPoint Health — Des Moines Launches Telemedicine Program
Videoconferencing brings expert physician care to patients and support to clinical staff during overnight hours
DES MOINES, IA (JANUARY 3, 2023)
—Faced with a growing shortage of physicians, hospitals nationwide are using telemedicine to ensure consistent physician coverage, two of UnityPoint Health – Des Moines hospitals – Iowa Methodist Medical Center and Iowa Lutheran Hospital are the latest hospitals to announce the launch of an innovative program leveraging technology called telemedicine for general inpatient care overnight.
“Telemedicine takes advantage of two of UnityPoint Health – Des Moines’ strengths – innovation and connecting patients with caring providers,” shares Andrew J. Stefani, DO, associate medical director of UnityPoint Clinic – Central Iowa Hospitalists. “I think this program will add tremendous 24/7 care by offering real-time connection to doctors for our patients and their families during the overnight hours.”
How the telemedicine program works
The telemedicine program will be utilized for patients staying in the hospital and needing physician care between 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. The ER will continue to be staffed by physicians at all hours and physician specialists will continue to be on call to respond as needed.
A dedicated team of board-certified physicians will work with UnityPoint Health’s team on a regular basis and become an extension to the inpatient care team. The UnityPoint Health – Des Moines telemedicine team will include six seasoned hospitalists, board-certified in Internal Medicine.
If a patient needs to be seen by a physician, a nurse will roll a cart into their room which is equipped with a digital stethoscope and other diagnostic equipment, as well as a videoconferencing monitor and camera. The equipment enables a remote physician to communicate directly, face to face, with the patient and their on-site care team. The remote physician is also able to securely access the patient’s medical records and lab results.
“The telemedicine program receives high marks from patients and their families. Elderly patients, who can sometimes be resistant to new technology, usually have no problem with the technology and they appreciate the focus, quick responsiveness, and uninterrupted attention from the remote physicians. Physicians and other clinical staff like it, too,” says Dr. Stefani.
Good for patients, good for doctors
“We are pleased to bring the benefits of telemedicine to our patients,” said David Stark, president and chief executive officer of UnityPoint Health – Des Moines. “This program improves our ability to continue providing exceptional patient care during the overnight hours. The telemedicine physicians we are working with are an extension of our team who collaborate with our doctors and provide guidance and expertise to our nurses and other clinical staff.”
Having telemedicine physicians ready at any time is a tremendous benefit for patients who might have to wait while on-call physicians make their way to the hospital. In addition to enhancing quality of care for patients, the program also enhances quality of life for UnityPoint Health’s physicians and team members. Telemedicine minimizes the number of nighttime visits daytime physicians must make and reduces the need to use temporary physicians to fill staffing gaps.