Delegates at a hospital management conference in Vietnam are hearing this week about Western Hospital’s award-winning tele-rounding project and how it might be applicable to their healthcare challenges.
Alberton’s project has garnered local and national media attention, said Paul Young, administrator of Community Hospitals West.
“As (organizers of the Vietnam conference) were reaching out to a global jurisdictional view, they came across some of the national media attention that the tele-rounding program had received, and they had reached out to me ... in terms of understanding more what the program entailed and what it had done for our services,” Young said.
The conference attracts about 1,500 delegates, like hospital owners, private and public sector healthcare executives, from 40 Asian countries and other global leaders who gather to exchange insights on healthcare management best practices and solutions.
In Vietnam, Young will share the message of how tele-rounding has brought stability to the Alberton, P.E.I., hospital's in-patient care.
Patients who do not have an attending physician are seen by contracted physicians who, with the assistance of a nurse or other healthcare provider, conduct daily virtual rounds, assessing patients’ health issues via computer monitor and with the aid of special diagnostics tools.
Tele-rounding was introduced at the hospital in August, 2018, as a six-month pilot project. The P.E.I. government subsequently signed a one-year contract with the service provider, Maple, an Ontario-based telemedicine company, which has extended the service until next February.
While Western Hospital entered into the pilot project looking for temporary solutions, Young said other jurisdictions are now looking at virtual healthcare as a permanent complement to how they deliver care.
The 27-bed hospital in western P.E.I. has been on the leading edge of virtual healthcare, but with Maple taking all of the financial risk in piloting the platform.
Maple co-founder and CEO Dr. Bret Belchetz said he’s glad his company took that risk.
“I’m very grateful that it all worked out the way that it has,” he said.
“I think this has been such a game-changer for rural hospitals, a game-changer for Western Hospital and, hopefully, it’s going to be a game-changer for more healthcare facilities to come.”
Belchetz said P.E.I. turned out to be the perfect place to launch the platform. Because of the need to find a reliable means of staffing rural facilities and because, in a small jurisdiction, all the decision-makers could be in one room.
The company is now in negotiations with several large hospitals in Ontario who have shown an interest in its platform, said Belchetz.
He’s optimistic about how Young’s message will be received in Vietnam.
“This is huge; huge for Canada as a whole to now being viewed as a leader in healthcare and healthcare technology,” he said.
Tele-rounding’s success could lead to other innovative opportunities for Maple, such as in primary care and even in emergency room coverage, added Belchetz.
“If we can take an adaptation of our platform and put it in the emergency room, that can be an incredible help so that people in rural areas don’t have to worry about their emergency room closing due to a shortage of physicians,” he said.
The tele-rounding program was recently awarded the P.E.I. Provincial Government’s award for innovation.
Western Hospital and Maple were also nominated in two categories at the Canadian Health Informatic Awards, including being a finalist for the Patient Care Innovation of the Year Award.
The program also received a nomination from Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Europe for information/communication technology application of a health care solution in an innovative platform.
At the Vietnam conference, Western Hospital’s tele-rounding project is being promoted as “a global solution to rural health care.”
“That is such a significant and heavy title to put onto something that we were hoping was going to be a Hail Mary-type project... We worked our tails off day and night for three months to make that happen, but everything ended up coming together," said Young, adding a lot of good luck came into play as well.
“The best gift from this whole experience is that we’ve been able to bring the community, the staff and our system, a level of stability for the hospital that we haven’t seen. It gives us this new support system that, in the event we run into ongoing physician vacancies or challenges to cover our in-patients, we have processes in place that can ensure we don’t have interruptions in services.”