Skilled nursing and long-term care provider AMFM operates 18 facilities across West Virginia, and their patients are often elderly, battling chronic diseases, or rehabilitating after major operations.
When the COVID-19 crisis struck, AMFM leaders needed to find a reliable telehealth option that would allow clinicians to auscultate remotely. The goal was to limit both patient and employee exposure to the virus. Before COVID-19, AMFM researched virtual medicine, but wasn't satisfied with options that only offered an audio/visual platform. They wanted a device that would allow providers to listen to vital sounds in real-time, rather than rely on information relayed by a nurse with the patient.
Digging deeper into telehealth solutions, AMFM found the Eko stethoscope and Telehealth services. The sophisticated and powerful device allowed providers to hear heart, lung, and bowel sounds in real-time, completing the picture of each patient's virtual exam. Lung sounds especially were very important to hear because of the urgency of diagnosing respiratory issues in the COVID setting.
Now, each of AMFM's facilities is equipped with two Eko CORE stethoscopes: one that stays in isolation pods for COVID positive patients, and one used for exams on patients who are COVID free.
"Telehealth is a valuable tool that providers can add to their toolbox to improve care with our vulnerable patient population. This is an excellent way to protect our patients and our employees from infectious diseases."
Nurse Practitioner, AMFM Practice Administrator
AMFM has met its initial goal of limiting COVID-19 exposure to both patients and employees. Beyond significantly reducing exposure risk, providers are now able to conduct more comprehensive exams remotely, and AMFM patients have greater access to care from the comfort of their centers.
Hand in hand with diagnostic benefits, remote auscultations help patients avoid unnecessary trips to hospitals and specialists. Every hospital transfer comes with an increased risk of infection and the possibility frail patients could come back weaker than when they left. Patients suffering from conditions like dementia are especially affected by disruptions in routine.
Eko's onboarding team worked with AMFM to understand their needs and partner to implement the solution. AMFM gave each provider a brief step-by-step guide that had them auscultating remotely in a matter of minutes.
West Virginia is a rural state, and getting access to healthcare can sometimes be more difficult. With telehealth in place, AMFM can provide timelier and more proactive care to those who cannot easily travel to a traditional doctor's appointment.
Implementation reduced referral costs associated with routine visits. It also allowed nurse practitioners to work from home instead of billing the company for travel between those distant locations, and it reduced IT support by 20% by limiting the need for visiting clinical staff to use their own systems within AMFM buildings.
"This solution has literally paid for itself" Jaren Painter, system administrator, AMFM, said. "Once COVID is over, we're definitely keeping it, especially for the night-time calls."
Eko is also running the chain's video-conferencing platform now, and the services were expanded to a 19th location added this summer. Overall, AMFM has made 2,000 virtual visits on behalf of its patients since launching its telehealth program.