Virtual visits boost primary care outcomes
Nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants have benefited primary care practices with their expertise for years, but they’re now reaching patients virtually, helping primary care practices in the process.
Using physician extenders in a virtual environment has worked so well at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin’s health network that more nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants with telehealth experience are specifically being sought out. “Healthcare is changing rapidly, and we want to be able to meet (primary care) patients in their homes and assisted living,” says Karen Fickel MD, FACP, and medical director of the Virtual Clinic Core of Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin health network. “We’ve had remote monitoring services for over ten years with our Virtual Clinic Core, but what we’re recognizing is we need more.”
Physician extenders can work in a primary care office’s telehealth program in several ways. One practical use would be in mobile monitoring of patients who have chronic conditions. “There’s a whole emerging field of mobile health monitoring, and lots of companies are making monitors that people can place on their bodies, or software they can input their data, like blood sugars,” says Jeremy Young, MD, assistant professor and medical director of telehealth at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Using physician extenders helps not only to manage electronically submitted data, but also to manage patients who have chronic, yet stable, diseases like diabetes, hypertension and asthma.
“A lot of patients who might be clinically stable but have chronic medical problems sometimes also have reduced mobility,” Young says, adding that this can be especially true for nursing home and assisted living patients, as well as patients who are incarcerated.
Instead of an office visit, a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant could, for example, have a blood test or blood pressure check done at the nursing home, and then they could have a virtual visit.