The Impact of Inpatient Telemedicine on Personal Protective Equipment Savings during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Cross-sectional Study

Link to article at PubMed

J Med Internet Res. 2021 May 1. doi: 10.2196/28845. Online ahead of print.


With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and shortage of adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), hospitals implemented inpatient telemedicine measures to ensure operational readiness and a safe working environment for clinicians. The utility and sustainability of inpatient telemedicine initiatives need to be evaluated as the number of COVID-19 inpatients is expected to continue declining. In this viewpoint, we describe the utilization of a rapidly deployed inpatient telemedicine workflow at a large academic medical center and discuss the potential impact on PPE savings. In early 2020, video conferencing software was installed on patient bedside iPads at two academic medical center teaching hospitals. An internal website allowed providers to initiate video calls with patients in any patient room with an activated iPad, including both COVID-19 and non-COVID patients. Patients were encouraged to utilize telemedicine technology to connect with loved ones via native apps or video conferencing software. We evaluated the usage of telemedicine technology on patients' bedside iPads by monitoring traffic to the internal website. Between May 2020 and March 2021, there were a total of 1240 active users of the video visits website (mean 112.7 (SD 49.0) connection events per month). Of these, 133 (11%) connections were made. Patients initiated 63 (47%) video calls with family or friends and sent 37 emails with video conference connection instructions (28%). Providers initiated a total of 33 video calls (25%) with the majority of calls initiated in August (n=22, 67%). There was a low level of adoption of inpatient telemedicine capability by providers and patients. With sufficient availability of PPE, inpatient providers did not find a frequent need to use the bedside telemedicine technology, despite a high census of COVID-19 patients. Compared to providers, patients used video conferencing capabilities more frequently in September and October of 2020. We did not find savings of PPE associated with usage of inpatient telemedicine.

PMID:33945494 | DOI:10.2196/28845

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