Case Study - June 16, 2022
ZorgSaam is a healthcare group with multiple locations across Zeeland in the Netherlands. Physical contact with patients proved challenging during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, many patients are located far from their local hospitals in Zeeland. To overcome these challenges, the hospital, together with Rapid Circle, realised the possibility of video consultations.
Over the course of three months, we developed a secure platform, called telehealth that combined the Electronic Patient Record, Microsoft Teams and the patient portal. By creating telehealth, health professionals were able to safely provide remote Health Care.
Like most healthcare providers, the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the Netherlands presented ZorgSaam with new challenges. How do you stay in touch with your patients while minimising the risk of a corona outbreak? Initially, some of the care group’s consultations took place by telephone, but practitioners quickly ran into limitations.
Robin Martens, ZorgSaam’s Innovation Policy Advisor, explains the limitations of these telephone consultations: “Personal contact gives a holistic view of the patient and is an important component of health care. It’s a combinations of clinical evaluation and the patient’s story which enables practioners to make a decision.
It wasn’t long before the hospital decided to switch to video consultations. Martens explains that implementation, rather than idea generation, was the true challenge: “The technology for advanced video calling already exisited, but how do you ensure that you can sucurely get in touch with the patient? How do you set this up so that there is a link to the patient data and how do you ensure successful employee adoption?”
DIALING IN FROM PATIENT PORTAL
ZorgSaam contracted Microsoft partner Rapid Circle to help find answers to these questions. A team of four specialists was created to implement videocalling within ZorgSaam. For hospital staff, a link was made between the HiX electronic patient file and Microsoft Teams. For patients, a link between ZorgSaam’s patient portal and Teams was created. The patient logs into the patient portal, and can then click on the video appointment via the upcoming appointment overview. Once this is done, the patient enters the virtual waiting room and Teams is called up in the background, after which the video consultation can take place.
On the hardware side, a thorough inventory of the situation in the participating departments was made. Outdated clients were replaced, and where necessary webcams were installed to enable video calling. At the same time, the hospital built up a stock of webcams so that new participants could be connected quickly.
PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE WITH CHANGE PROCESS CRUCIAL
The link was ready to go within three months of the start of the project. A pilot project was then started which involved a number of different departments and specialities.
Martens: “The pilot was insightful showing us that some patients might need additional instructions on the video consultations. For instance, what we assumed was common, such as access to DigiD or a computer with a camera and microphone, are not – especially for older patients. To support the patients in this, we gave them instructions on paper beforehand, so that they would be better prepared for a video consultation.”
During the pilot, we aided users by having on-hand staff available for any questions about the video consultations.
Martens: “Here the role of Rapid Circle, who have extensive experience with this type of project in healthcare, was crucial. In addition to the technical knowledge, they also guided us as an organisation through the rollout and helped prepared us for any questions that might arise. It made the whole adoption process go very smoothly.”
GOOD IMAGE AND SOUND REMAIN POINTS OF ATTENTION
After the pilot phase, the finishing touches have been made and hundreds of video consultations have been conducted.
Martens: “It depends on the medical specialty to what extent the consults are used on a large scale. In pediatrics, for example, weight, height and blood pressure are measured as standard, so a physical visit is preferable. But this is less of an issue in medical psychology, where video consultations are more likely. Image and sound are still important points of interest. If they are of good quality, we often see that the consultation is also experienced by both parties as pleasant and useful. As soon as that becomes less, we notice that this is also an immediate bottleneck. We can’t completely prevent it, because we have no influence on the patients’ equipment and internet connection, but we have ensured that the infrastructure on our side is no longer a limiting factor.”
As coronavirus restrictions eased the number of video consultations has dropped slightly, which has been factored in by the hospital.
“This indicates that both the specialists and the patients continue to see the video consultation as a valuable addition. In the sparsely populated area in which we operate, some patients have to travel a long way for an appointment. A video consultation can offer a solution. In addition, health insurers require that 25 percent of our consultations in the coming years be telephone or video consultations. ZorgSaam has a solid foundation and if demand from patients, care providers or health insurers increases, we can easily scale it up.”