Connections

The coronavirus pandemic pushed virtual health care to a whole new level and Parkview Health is setting the stage for the next phase.
May 9, 2022
Jennifer Blomquist
Jeffrey Crane

What was old is new again.

“In a way, we’re going back to what we did 100 years ago when doctors would go to a patient’s home,” says Max Maile, senior vice president of digital health for Parkview Health. “When the pandemic hit, medical practices all over the country had to close for safety reasons, so the only way to get those patient visits done was by telemedicine. It caused everything in that industry to explode.”

Maile says telemedicine, or virtual health care, is really nothing new; the pandemic just made people more aware of it.

“Parkview has been providing telemedicine services since 2007,” says Maile. “It started with specialist-to-hospital care in which we connected specialists in Fort Wayne with community hospitals around the region. Telestroke was our first service and a few years later we focused on cardiology.”

Things got off to a rather slow start for a variety of reasons.

“We did have a number of pilot programs and projects in place when we started doing video visits, but it was pretty limited because of issues with legal and insurance. There was no reimbursement structure in place, so insurance providers couldn’t pay for it.”

Maile says it probably would have taken many years to train staff members and get all the logistics in place for a virtual health care system, but the pandemic changed all of that – and in a hurry.

“Many experts say we progressed about 10 years in a 3-month time frame. That’s incredible. Fortunately, we had already addressed a lot of the behind-the-scenes details in the years leading up to the pandemic. It only took us a few days to get our virtual health care system up and running.”

Maile says even though the pandemic is winding down, virtual health remains very much alive and well.

“We absolutely are still doing telemedicine with thousands of virtual visits every month. All of our providers have that ability and we have a very robust virtual walk-in clinic for less acute medical situations. A lot of our providers now prefer virtual follow-up visits as well.”

Maile says at Parkview, his team is working to change the narrative from virtual health to digital health.

“The term ‘digital health’ is more encompassing. People tend to think of telemedicine or virtual health as just the video visit side of it, but digital health covers much more. It allows patients to connect to their health care providers through our patient portal called ‘MyChart’ and do things like set up appointments, review a doctor’s note or send over a question.”

Like anything, there are pros and cons to digital health and while Maile is a strong proponent of it, he recognizes it may not always be the right fit.

“Certainly, there are times when a virtual visit would not be appropriate and there are some people who simply prefer to do everything in person. Perhaps the biggest pro is the convenience factor. It alleviates the need to take time off work to get to an appointment. Additionally, some people feel more relaxed having the appointment from their home. The cons are that you do need to have an internet connection, and technology can be intimidating for some people, making them feel anxious. With digital health care and traditional visits both available, it gives patients the ability to navigate their own care.”

While many rules and regulations for digital health were relaxed because of the pandemic, protocols are continually being developed as this medical specialty grows.

“As we look to the future of digital health care, it’s almost overwhelming to think about what it could cover. We have the ability to add devices to monitor patients when they’re not in our office.  For example, someone with diabetes can use a glucose monitor from home that transmits the data to their doctor’s office. There will be things like virtual nursing where you can be in the hospital and connect with a nurse on-camera and have your needs addressed faster than waiting on a bedside nurse. Medical schools are now training students on how to practice virtual health care. It’s a whole new world and we’re proud to say that Parkview is playing a pioneering role in all of it.”

For more information about Parkview Health’s Digital Health, visit parkview.com/virtualhealth.


Best Buy and Parkview Partner Together

A unique partnership between Parkview Health and Best Buy is opening doors for patients to practice digital health by having the right equipment at home.

“We reached out to Best Buy because they do a remarkable job of creating a good customer experience for people and we needed someone to provide options for patients looking to buy medical devices for digital health – things like blood pressure cuffs and digital stethoscopes,” says Maile.

Together, Best Buy and Parkview designed an online platform that officially launched last fall.

“I’m very impressed with the website,” says Maile. “With so many devices to choose from, our partnership gives people a curated list of items that our providers recommend and use. Our goal in working with Best Buy was to create a better patient and customer service experience where they could get their questions answered and feel comfortable about what they’re buying. To our knowledge, there’s no other partnership like this in the country. It’s definitely a one-of-a-kind experience for our patients.

Check out all of the devices and learn more at BestBuy.com/Parkview.



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