Necessity becomes the mother of invention, with virtual rounds enhancing Franciscan Health patient care during COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic reached Northwest Indiana, the team at Franciscan Health Crown Point sought to minimize exposure between patient and staff through “virtual” interdisciplinary rounds. This redesigned process of delivering care to the most vulnerable promises to enhance the treatment of other patients as these methods are expanded to other Franciscan Health hospitals.

While a hospitalist, accompanied by each patient’s nurse and respiratory therapist, visit each COVID patient daily, additional care and input is also required by a larger group of clinicians. Technology allows this group to video conference with the patient at the bedside without having to enter the room.

“Using the iPad, a cardiologist, pulmonologist and infectious disease physician as well as pharmacy and case management participate in the visit. The goal is to provide patient-centered care coordination, while minimizing exposure, preserving PPE (personal protective equipment), and improving safety of our patients and staff,” said Erik Mikaitis, MD, Vice President of Medical Affairs at Franciscan Health Crown Point.

Randall Moore, MD, senior vice president and COO of Health and Care Solutions at Franciscan Alliance, notes that instead of physicians visiting the patient’s room individually, this process enhances team-based care by allowing clinicians to share their expertise with each other as they discuss the needs of the patient. “In many instances this enhanced real-time interaction led to improvements in the plan of care and the ability to speed recovery,” he said.

One patient, David Farmer of Cedar Lake, said his hospitalization for COVID-19 was improved by the virtual technology. “I think that’s the greatest thing they came up with,” he said. “I could see the doctors, I could see who I’m talking to and I asked the question and they had the answer.”

Giovanni Infusino, MD, pulmonary physician at Franciscan Health Crown Point, said the video interaction helped Farmer understand what his limitations would be to be going home, as well as his day-to-day goals and progress.

“I think it was good for him to be able to talk to all of us together and to come up with a plan for him,” Dr. Infusino said. “He seemed very appreciative each day that we spoke. He had questions and he liked having everybody there and talking.”

Farmer, now back home, says he is “feeling great” and thinks every hospital should have this virtual technology. “I felt like I was a king, the way I was treated,” he said. Dr. Mikaitis is now sharing Crown Point’s experience with other Franciscan Health hospitals. “Leaders and staff at Franciscan Health Crown Point are encouraged by these preliminary outcomes and are now seeking ways to build on this work by further leveraging technology to redesign the way care is delivered to a broader group of patients,” he said.