LVHN Surgeons Embrace Digital Technologies to ‘See’ Patients During COVID-19 Pandemic
BY KIRSTIN REED
To help prevent the spread of infection and keep our patients and health care providers safe, Lehigh Valley Health Network reduced face-to-face encounters, postponed some elective surgeries and transformed itself into a digital health network in a matter of days.
Our experts acted fast to leverage our technology platforms to give patients the safe, quality care they need.
Using technology to triage
T. Daniel Harrison, DO, general and bariatric surgeon and Vice Chair of LVHN’s Department of Surgery, worked with his team to transition many Lehigh Valley Physician Group practices to virtual technologies.
“Because we postponed some elective procedures due to COVID-19, it was important that our patients heard it right from their care team,” Harrison says.
Harrison and his colleagues used telephone conversations and video visits to triage symptomatic patients and determine who could safely postpone their surgery and who needed to have a procedure done right away.
Video visits offer convenience for patients and providers
LVHN Video Visits allow patients to safely access care from anywhere in Pennsylvania using a cellphone or smart device. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, about 10 video visits were performed daily at LVHN.
LVHN is now providing more than 1,200 video visits each day, ensuring people receive care from an LVHN provider who practices in our community.
Eric Lebby, MD, Chief of Orthopedic Surgery with LVHN, sees technology as an efficient and faster way to see more patients. Plus, he finds that he spends more time with his patients when he sees them via video visit.
“I can do a welcome video visit with a patient scheduled to have surgery three to four weeks from now,” Lebby says. “I get to make that connection with them, hear their story and help put them at ease knowing that we’re in this together.”
Digital options for pre-op visits and follow-up care
For some patients scheduled to have bariatric or reflux procedures, a video visit may save them a trip to the doctor’s office for their pre-op visit.
“Many of our follow-up visits can also utilize the video platform,” Harrison says. “Patients who travel great distances can easily use a video visit to eliminate the need for a face-to-face visit.”
For orthopedic surgeons, physical examination is key; however, Lebby sees a real benefit to utilizing virtual visits in an outpatient setting.
“We can address questions about wound care or range of motion issues by video visit to save the patient from coming to the office,” he says. “Video visits may also be effective to determine whether or not a patient needs to go to the emergency room or whether they can wait to be seen during a scheduled appointment.”
Making a strong connection
For Lebby, LVHN Video Visits have been just as therapeutic for him as they have been an effective tool to evaluate patients.
“My whole life is taking care of my patients,” he says. “Now that I can’t see them in person for the time being, the few minutes I have with them on an LVHN Video Visit make all the difference.”
Harrison believes many patients will prefer to utilize telemedicine, even as the pandemic fades.
“We constantly use technology to make our lives more manageable,” he says. “LVHN Video Visits certainly improve access to care and make things more convenient for patients and providers alike.”
For more information, stories and COVID-19 updates, visit LVHN.org/COVIDSTRONG.