Brendan McNamara, CEO, Sound Telemedicine
The current Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated long standing operational challenges in healthcare. During these trying times, communication and coordination between onsite clinical staff and other healthcare professionals have become critical to the delivery of adequate care. Sound Telemedicine, headquartered in Tacoma, WA, is at the forefront of this new mission, providing healthcare services powered by telemedicine to drive better clinical and financial outcomes. As a physician-founded healthcare organization, Sound Telemedicine connects its clients—nursing homes and large hospitals—with engaged physician partners to help drive performance improvement. Through this service offering, Sound Telemedicine is enabling a more accessible and patient-centered healthcare ecosystem—needs that have come to the fore today.
As the challenges caused by COVID-19 continue to grow, players in the healthcare space are quickly adopting different forms of telemedicine to respond to their problems. The pandemic has indeed shown that telemedicine can be a powerful tool. However, it is essential to note that the quality of healthcare delivered by telemedicine is dependent on more than just IT resources and virtual/telehealth solutions. It requires a strong, aligned partner who can help organizations seamlessly unite technology with dedicated healthcare professionals to achieve outcomes that truly matter.
Opposed to the plethora of technology companies that sell telemedicine as a pure technology play, Sound Telemedicine focuses on delivering clinical and operational results. The company uses telemedicine as an enabling tool, with a core focus on outcomes. Over the last five years, Sound Physicians, the parent company, has made substantial investments to build the tools, processes, and management systems to succeed in value-based care. And, just like its parent company, Sound Telemedicine’s physicians are recruited, trained, and performance-managed to deliver clinical outcomes. Ultimately, this outcome-focused approach has helped the company build a holistic model that succeeds in value-based care and cannot be easily replicated. "This is the true value that we bring to our customers. Telemedicine just enables us to deliver our core clinical capabilities from outside the four walls of the hospital" says Brendan McNamara, CEO of Sound Telemedicine.
Telemedicine—The Need of the Hour
Telemedicine allows providers to achieve one of the most sought-after feats in the healthcare ecosystem—doing more with less. Facilities across the care continuum are increasingly asked to deliver higher quality care to sicker patients, for reduced reimbursement. The continued focus on value-based care from both government and commercial players has put additional financial pressures on facilities that were already at risk. Now, COVID-19 has added more variables to the mix, including the immediate need for infection control, flexible staffing models, and new testing requirements.
The pandemic has contributed to a new set of challenges for hospitals that provide acute care as well as facilities in the post-acute setting.
Telemedicine offers many cost-effective models for improving care across the continuum. For example, it allows customers to leverage additional physician resources to support their current clinical staff. It also helps alleviate infection risk by reducing the number of in-person clinicians who need to visit patients or move from site to site. The services also support those clinical staff who work in the home setting by giving them access to MD escalation coverage to help treat patients in place.
Our turnkey telemedicine solution provides our partners with access to our clinicians at night and on weekends
Sound Telemedicine leverages its core clinical model to virtually support and augment onsite clinicians in all of these areas. Via its telemedicine capabilities, the company can remotely handle everything that an onsite provider can do, except for procedures. From helping advanced practice providers via telephone and providing full tele-physician support, to serving as the only qualified doctor in the building, Sound Telemedicine does it all.
Quick and Easy Deployment
Sound Telemedicine's suite of services includes a rapidly-deployable model that can go live within 72 hours in an emergency scenario. The typical implementation takes a little under two weeks, engaging with the customer to set up solutions and build out operational guidelines aligned to site-specific clinical programs, requirements, and capabilities. These include drug protocols, clinical protocols, the client's standard workflows, and more.
Sound Telemedicine then builds specific clinical guidelines for the site, which helps to prepare their Sound tele-physicians to engage with patients more effectively. Then the nursing staff is trained on how to engage with the physicians through the telemedicine platform. Sound Telemedicine's solution works with the facility’s existing IT infrastructure and requires minimal engagement from the client's IT staff. Because the software can be deployed to multiple client devices using existing hardware, there is a reduced need for additional investments. Finally, a staff training program is conducted, including a mock consultation. This step helps the staff learn how to engage with the platform and understand every part of an actual consultation before the program goes live. The process also ensures that every box is checked from both a technology and an operations perspective while giving the staff practice engaging with tele-hospitalists to manage treatments.
The goal is to be there for patients and staff at the most vulnerable times. McNamara adds, "Our turnkey telemedicine solution provides our partners with access to our clinicians at night and on weekends." The solution can also be tied to the clinical workflow within a customer’s EMR to help better treat patients. The platform is simple, easy to use, and hardware agnostic.
For their nursing home customers, Sound Telemedicine also offers an emergency department transfer protocol, performing a peer-to-peer consultation with the referring emergency department and relaying the nursing home’s plan of care for the patient along with the specific goal of the transfer. This process gives the hospital confidence that they can send the patient back to the nursing home at the end of the procedure without an inpatient admission because the nursing home has communicated an appropriate plan of care with clinical supervision in place for the patient.
“We’ve seen significant demand from nursing homes, and we’re investing a great deal of time and energy to help nursing homes improve the quality of care, reduce cost, and improve nursing satisfaction”
These powerful features have helped Sound Telemedicine garner a long list of clients. In one instance, the management of a hospital in Maryland that had closed was on the lookout for a cost-effective way to deliver care and reopen. Sound Telemedicine was able to staff the center virtually with hospitalists, with just 70% of the physicians that were required previously. The solution went live in a matter of weeks, with three tele-physicians on rounds and only one in-house physician during the day.
Toward a Bright Future
Today, Sound Telemedicine has experienced a significant rise in demand for its offerings at hospitals. The company is also approaching new customers in the post-acute space to support them with telemedicine. "We've seen significant demand from nursing homes, and we're investing a great deal of time and energy to help nursing homes improve the quality of care, reduce cost, and improve nursing satisfaction. We see a tremendous opportunity for growth in that market and believe that we can make a meaningful difference in the industry," says McNamara.
In a way, Sound Telemedicine's experience in the healthcare market demonstrates how much the sector has shifted in the last three to six months. The question used to be, "Can telemedicine meet the need?" And, as McNamara says, "There had always been a hesitance to change. But one thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly accelerated is the acceptance that telemedicine is an effective model and an effective way to deliver many types of care."
With its robust suite of offerings, Sound Telemedicine is on its way to creating a new standard in what telemedicine can achieve in healthcare.