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Telehealth Technology, Nursing Care Boosts Patient Engagement

By Vera Gruessner

- With the widespread use of telehealth technology throughout the healthcare industry picking up speed, new startups are innovating methods for improving patient care and lowering costs in the midst of significant doctor shortages across the country. Vytaliz is one such company which provides healthcare services such as diagnosis and treatment in a patient’s home.

Patient Engagement and Telehealth

Along with using videoconferencing capabilities, patients are treated directly in their home or office by a nurse practitioner or other certified healthcare professional. Vytaliz treats a wide variety of medical concerns including eye infections, cold or flu symptoms, skin conditions or rashes, and stomach pain. Dr. Amer Alnajar, Founding Partner and Head Physician at Vytaliz, and Chirag Patel, Managing Director at Highnote Foundry and Board Member of Vytaliz, both spoke with mHealthIntelligence.com to provide their perspective on the benefits of telehealth technology along with direct patient care.

mHealthIntelligence.com: “Could you tell me more about your company and how its use of telehealth technology benefits patients?”

Dr. Amer Alnajar: “I finished my internal medicine residency in Philadelphia last year and during my medical training I noticed a lot of inefficiencies in healthcare. When people wanted to see a doctor, it was often a long, cumbersome wait. As a result, people often resort to drastic options like going to the emergency room for something non-emergent.”

“After I finished my residency I started looking into this problem and learned that the issue often came down to lack of options. That’s when I started to dive deep into the telemedicine field. Telemedicine is great; it’s able to provide people with quick access to a physician who can address some of their concerns and give patients peace of mind.”     

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“But when I looked into it further, I saw that there are a lot of shortcomings in telemedicine by itself. It works well for getting a prescription refilled or addressing a basic need, but a lot of times having a medical professional physically present with the patient enables better and more comprehensive care. That’s why we created Vytaliz, which emulates the in-office medical experience through a hybrid of in-home treatment and telemedicine combined into one.”

“With Vytaliz, we can address a lot of the things that telemedicine can’t, such as symptomatic relief as well as capturing valuable data. A lot of telemedicine doctors aren’t able to get vital signs or other basic physical exam signs from the patient that would help them better diagnose and treat the patient.”

mHealthIntelligence.com: “Have you found that patients prefer the use of telehealth technology as a method for speaking with their doctor? Or are there any patients who’ve found it unfavorable?”

Dr. Amer Alnajar: “It’s been a varied response. For a lot of the younger and middle-aged people, it’s been relatively positive. ‘This is very cool and futuristic.’ People like it. Some of the older patients and acutely ill patients worry whether telemedicine by itself is enough.”

“People still get that comfort from having a medical professional actually seeing them in person rather than just virtually.”

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Chirag Patel: “The model that Vytaliz has introduced into the marketplace by combining both the virtual – the telemedicine experience – with the physical experience and integrating the two – has increased patient engagement because there is a real relationship that’s being formed with the healthcare institution that’s providing that service.”

mHealthIntelligence.com: “How does your company address physician shortages? Have you found that combining physician videoconferencing alongside having other healthcare professionals visit the patient’s home an effective way to combat the doctor shortages?”

Dr. Amer Alnajar: “Absolutely. The doctor shortage is one of the biggest reasons that we’ve implemented this model. Having a nurse conduct the physical visit and collect patient data and vitals saves a lot of time for the physician. The physician on the back-end of the telemedicine platform is able to view the data and quickly confirm the diagnosis and treatment. A physician is able to see a lot more patients per hour than if deploying the physician for a home visit.”

“The other aspect is that nurses are skilled in these areas. In the inpatient hospital environment they’re the ones by the bedside, treating the patients, collecting the data, and putting all that information in the computer system.  That’s the model we tried to emulate - the inpatient hospital model.”

mHealthIntelligence.com: “What mobile health tools and telehealth technology have you found most effective in improving patient care?”

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Dr. Amer Alnajar: “I definitely believe that the more you keep patients engaged, the better outcomes you’ll have. A lot of times when patients are in a passive role they’re not as adherent to their medication or as proactive in terms of lifestyle choices.”

“We’ve tried to educate patients with interesting apps to explain these processes in laymen terms and help patients have a better understanding of their medication and illness. In the near future we’re planning on deploying in-home monitoring devices where we’re able to gather patient data on a regular basis rather than getting a set of vitals every two months. A more regular stream of data enables doctors to make much more informed clinical decisions.”

“The patient is also more involved when they’re seeing their blood pressure every day. They’re more likely to adopt healthier lifestyle choices that can help bring down their blood pressure and improve their medication adherence. The number one thing is keeping the patient engaged. If you do that, that’s half the battle right there.”

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