As Alaska’s first long-term acute care hospital specializing in rehabilitation care, St. Elias Specialty Hospital in Anchorage helps Alaskans get their lives back after suffering multiple and/or medically complex injuries and illnesses. The implementation of new telehealth technologies by the night shift care team at St. Elias has had a profoundly positive impact on patients, caregivers, and best practices alike.
Like most hospitals, St. Elias tends to quiet down throughout the wee hours of the night. Few, if any, management staff members are on the job, fewer family members come and go, patient discharges are rare, fewer caregivers are on duty, and few doctors conduct regular rounds. Access to doctors has always been just a phone call away, but at most hospitals, phoning on-call doctors after midnight is typically reserved for the most urgent concerns.
The implementation of new telehealth technologies meant that instead of waiting until morning to contact and consult with physicians about less than urgent issues for non-intensive care patients, night shift workers were able to take advantage of the intensivist and hospitalist expertise available to their patients. In the first year (June 2020 through May 2021), overnight contact with telehospitalists skyrocketed from
approximately 36 encounters a year (two or three encounters a month) to a total of 495 encounters involving 227 unique patients. Ready access to expert resources with patient data at their fingertips increased the confidence and comfort levels of night shift caregivers.
No longer was it necessary for them to consider waiting until morning to explore abnormal test results, request medication orders, or fret about the degree to which a patient may or may not be decompensating.
Comprehensive telehealth support has made it possible for diagnostics to be ordered immediately and evaluated in real-time, allowing new treatment orders to be issued without delay. More serious concerns are quickly and easily escalated in-house to the St. Elias Intensive Care Unit, decreasing transports to the Providence Alaska Medical Center Emergency Department.
Congratulations to the St. Elias team!