When Jennifer Gruger took on the role of telehealth project manager at Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center, she was excited about the possibilities of virtual care. “We saw the future of telemedicine as a cost-effective way of reaching underserved populations and growing our patient base,” she said. Then the pandemic started. Charged with implementing another vendor’s telehealth software, Gruger says the need for multiple logins frustrated physicians and patients and prompted Gruger to recommend a swift pivot to athenaTelehealth.
athenaTelehealth integrated seamlessly with Gerald Champion’s current platform, athenaOne, and was embraced by physicians seeking solutions to care for patients remotely during the pandemic. “Our providers found athenahealth’s telemedicine visits very efficient,” said Gruger. “We quickly ramped up our use of athenaTelehealth and were able to comfortably get our patients into a secure, HIPAA-compliant environment.”
Physicians appreciate the flexibility that athenaTelehealth provides. athenaTelehealth is embedded in the EHR so physicians can document during patient visits while providing face-to-face care. Physicians and office staff can convert scheduled, in-person visits to telehealth visits with just a few clicks, and easily fill open appointment slots. These capabilities support physician productivity and satisfaction with the technology.
Patients prefer telehealth for routine care and connecting with geographically distant specialists
Gerald Champion’s patients adapted quickly to the simplicity of athenaTelehealth with no need to create separate logins. Patients of all ages have given feedback saying that they will continue to use telehealth post pandemic — some for routine care, others when in-office visits aren’t possible or preferred. Gerald Champion’s physicians are also guiding patients with limited mobility or chronic care management plans to leverage telehealth whenever they can. Patient feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Because parts of southern New Mexico have inconsistent broadband access, providers direct patients to convenient wi-fi hotspots when needed. Gerald Champion is in the process of creating innovative "virtual hubs" where patients visit specially equipped clinics to connect virtually with specialists located several hours away. Because they are on-site, patients receive necessary diagnostic tests and enjoy secure telehealth visits
Looking ahead, Gruger and her team plan to proactively offer telehealth visits for many different appointment types. “Telemedicine has a lot to offer our community,” said Jennifer Yeargain, EHR program director. “It will allow us to add services, expand our patient population and become more of a regional center for care.” Gruger envisions every specialty in the organization using telehealth in some capacity. They are also looking into additional solutions to support telehealth growth, such as patient self-scheduling. “athenaTelehealth really opened our eyes to what is possible when it comes to serving patients, expanding our reach, and keeping providers satisfied and productive,” said Gruger.
athenaTelehealth really opened our eyes to what is possible when it comes to serving patients, expanding our reach and keeping providers satisfied and productive.
— Jennifer Gruger, telehealth project manager