“Updox takes what seems to be a complex process and makes it easy. It’s a simple, user-friendly solution. I think that’s one of reasons it’s been so successful for us“
Washington Regional Health System is comprised of one 425-bed acute care facility and more than 50 clinic locations. The system is the only not-for-profit, community-owned and locally governed healthcare system in Northwest Arkansas. In total, the system has more than 3,200 employees and more than 400 medical staff members.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Washington Regional felt the same urgency as other healthcare systems. How would they safely and securely care for patients across the community? What could be done to protect staff? How could they continue to treat patients who don’t want to come in? How could they keep revenue coming in?
Julie Neil, manager of ambulatory applications for Washington Regional, says “Washington Regional had taken steps to introduce telehealth through phone visits but, when COVID hit, our focus became one of speed and urgency to enable video telemedicine visits.”
Julie recognized Washington Regional needed a telehealth solution they could implement quickly but was also easy to use for both patients and staff. She took an unusual approach to testing different products.
“I reached out to a few different vendors and Updox was the first to respond. I used my 83-year-old mother as a test subject on the telehealth options we considered. I knew if she could use it without any instructions, then that would make an efficient product for us. We found Updox very easy to use. We didn’t have to rely on an app. No one had to sign up for anything. They just clicked a link and connected easily. It was HIPAA compliant.”
Once the decision to use Updox was made, the next task was training providers and staff across the organization. For many, that would be a daunting task but Julie was pleasantly surprised to find that Updox was just as easy to learn as it was to use. “Once we made the decision to go with Updox, the initial training literally took 30 minutes. Within five days, we had our entire organization trained and doing telehealth. So, we went from zero video telemedicine to completely deployed within ten days – from when we first considered it to when we were fully trained,” she says. “I think that probably the biggest success points Updox offered were the ease of use of the product and their responsiveness.”
During April and May, Washington Regional was averaging 800-900 telehealth visits a day, across their acute care, ambulatory care and palliative care areas. The solution was also used to enable patient to family communications when the hospital was closed to visitors. Even as clinics opened up to in-office visits in June, they are still conducting approximately 500-600 virtual visits a day and recently crossed the 30,000 video-visit mark. “I could see up to 20 percent of our ambulatory visits continuing with a telehealth option in a post-COVID environment. Patients like it and it’s especially helpful for our elderly patients who aren’t able to travel easily,” says Julie. ‘It works well for appointments such as Medicare check-in, wound status, chronic disease management, medication management, prescription refills. It will have a positive impact on our volume and capacity going forward.”
Scarlett Lutrell, senior application specialist, Ambulatory, recalls staff were able to creatively use Updox Video Chat to ensure care was delivered to patients who either didn’t have smart phones or lacked internet service. “We set up drive-through areas in two clinic parking lots. We can access the clinic’s Wi-Fi from the parking lot and staff took iPads out the patients’ cars so they could use those and be connected via Video Chat and consult with their physician.”
“Telehealth is definitely not going away. It’s been so beneficial for our patients and our doctors really like it. The convenience of it makes it ideal for certain appointments or patient needs. There will be many patients who prefer this method instead of coming into an office. There are certain appointments that lend themselves well to a telehealth visit and then a nurse or care manager could evaluate and ask the patient to come in for follow-up or additional care. It’s a much more efficient process,” says Scarlett.
“I can’t say enough good things about Updox. They’ve been great to work with. They’ve made a product that is so easy to deploy, and we’ve had a great experience with them,” says Julie. “Video Chat is so efficient and easy for patients to use. The fact that we were able to stand it up so quickly and turn around and get reimbursements for visits we could have potentially missed otherwise is a strong ROI for us.”
“Updox takes what seems to be a complex process and makes it easy. There aren’t a lot of hoops to jump through. It’s a simple, user-friendly solution. I think that’s one of reasons it’s been so successful for us,” says Scarlett.
Paula Storment, vice president of Clinical Operations, Washington Regional, summarized the long-term value by stating “Updox has been such a success for Washington Regional during the COVID-19 crisis that we plan to make the solution a permanent part of the range of care we provide.”