The COVID-19 pandemic served as the final push that Yale New Haven Health Services needed to fully implement telehealth into its care offerings, according to Pam Hoffman, the medical director of Telehealth Services at Yale New Haven.
“Before, in getting telehealth service up and running, you really needed a clinical champion. Someone – a provider, a doctor or a clinician of some sort – who really saw the value of telehealth and wanted to make it happen,” she told MobiHealthNews. “With the pandemic and with COVID-19, everybody saw how necessary it was, even if they didn’t love it. And they said, ‘Okay we will make this part of our services.’ And now, thankfully for Yale New Haven Health System, we’re really trying to make it part of everyone’s services.”
When Hoffman joined the system back in January, she knew she wanted to make telehealth more broadly available, but she didn’t know how quickly that goal would come to fruition.
“My one to three-year plan was to pretty much allow telehealth to be available for all outpatient services,” she said. “My two to three-year plan became about a two-week plan when the pandemic hit.”
Hoffman and her team scaled Yale’s telehealth offerings from about 30 virtual visits a day to between 2,000 and 3,000 a day in the span of a week.
It wasn’t an easy transition, she said. There were a lot of growing pains that came with getting everybody on board. But in the end, it was worth it.
“The patients actually like it for the most part and it really does help with no-shows. It helps with patient engagement. It helps with time-saving. It helps with a lot of things,” Hoffman said.
Going forward, Yale New Haven plans to continue to offer telehealth services even after the pandemic.
Hoffman will be participating in the upcoming Accelerate Health digital series presented by HIMSS, as a panelist in the session: The Genie's Out of the Bottle: The Future of Virtual Care.
In addition to Hoffman, two digital health innovators and a patient advocate will be speaking on the panel about the future state of telehealth and other digital tools, such as remote patient monitoring, mobile health, apps and chatbots.
“I think, if nothing else, the pandemic has really shown patients they truly have the agency to have more of a say in what their healthcare is like – how they can participate in it,” Hoffman said.