Banner Health Sees Benefits of Telehealth

Deb Dahl
Deb Dahl

Deb Dahl, vice president of patient care and innovation at Banner Health, discusses her experiences managing the telehealth program for the health system. Banner Health is a nonprofit health system based in Phoenix operating more than 20 hospitals and specialized facilities. It is the second largest employer in Arizona, providing emergency care, hospital care, hospice, long-term care, outpatient surgery centers, labs, rehab services, pharmacies, and ambulatory clinics, which include Banner Arizona Medical Clinic and Banner Medical Group. 

The health system is a long-time user of telehealth technology, which has had a profound positive impact on providing patient care and is seen as a major benefit to the organization.

Have you used telehealth services in your practice to provide care?

Yes, we have had a long standing relationship with Philips collaborating on telehealth programs, using a “technology, people and process” approach to healthcare. We started with a single facility in 2007, and our telehealth program now reaches more than 400 beds at 18 facilities in Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska with plans to cover our Fairbanks, Alaska, facility and Nevada site some time in 2015. Across these facilities we utilize telehealth in the intensive care unit, acute care, skilled nursing facility, and ambulatory space (patients at home). We use a command center approach, which allows a dedicated team of physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists and social workers. We provide coverage to more than 400 ICU beds in five states, more than 200 medical/surgical patients, neuro and behavioral health ED coverage, 500 complex chronic members at home, as well as simple low acuity on demand home visits.

What’s it like? Is it all it’s cracked up to be?

Yes, we went live with our first 50 ICU beds in 2006. With our program growth, we’ve experienced great results: in 2013 our ICU results were among the top three in the U.S.  Using APACHE as the actual to predictive model Banner saved more than 33,000 ICU days, 47,000 hospital days and 1,890 lives in 2013. We are expecting similar results for 2014.

What technology are you using to connect with patients?

In our intensive ambulatory care program, we use Philips eICU, eAcute and eIAC tools. The Philips solutions are significant in helping us meet our telehealth objectives:

Are patients receptive to it — what are their reactions?

We’ve had great patient responses on an emotional and physical level. In our at home program, we often work with elderly patients (our oldest member is 101 years old), and we were initially concerned about how they would adjust to using the technology. Overall, patients have been very receptive and use the technology with ease. Not only are they pleased with the way the system operates to cater to their needs in an efficient way, but we’ve seen improvements in their overall health as well. With telehealth technology, patients now have the ability to manage their health from the comfort of their home, which has been great for their quality of life.

I’m hoping you can shed some light on what it’s like to actually use the service. Are the positive things we’re reading about it true?

Implementing telehealth has been a game-changer for our health system. Our care teams are able to work cohesively with each other to not only manage a larger population of patients, but also monitor each patient on a deeper level to anticipate exactly what they might need. Rather than just a simple two-way audio video system, having technology that interfaces with an EHR, and provides predictive analytics allows us to improve the lives of our patients, as well as our providers.  People, process and technology – it takes all three elements for a great telehealth program.

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