Virtual Urgent Care Quality and Safety in the Time of Coronavirus
BACKGROUND:Telemedicine use rapidly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study assessed quality aspects of rapid expansion of a virtual urgent care (VUC) telehealth system and the effects of a secondary telephonic screening initiative during the pandemic. METHODS:A retrospective cohort analysis was performed in a single health care network of VUC patients from March 1, 2020, through April 20, 2020. Researchers abstracted demographic data, comorbidities, VUC return visits, emergency department (ED) referrals and ED visits, dispositions, intubations, and deaths. The team also reviewed incomplete visits. For comparison, the study evaluated outcomes of non-admission dispositions from the ED: return visits with and without admission and deaths. We separately analyzed the effects of enhanced callback system targeting higher-risk patients with COVID-like illness during the last two weeks of the study period. RESULTS:A total of 18,278 unique adult patients completed 22,413 VUC visits. Separately, 718 patient-scheduled visits were incomplete; the majority were no-shows. The study found that 50.9% of all patients and 74.1% of patients aged 60 years or older had comorbidities. Of VUC visits, 6.8% had a subsequent VUC encounter within 72 hours; 1.8% had a subsequent ED visit. Of patients with enhanced follow-up, 4.3% were referred for ED evaluation. Mortality was 0.20% overall; 0.21% initially and 0.16% with enhanced follow-up (pâ€¯=â€¯0.59). Males and black patients were significantly overrepresented in decedents. CONCLUSION/CONCLUSIONS:Appropriately deployed VUC services can provide a pragmatic strategy to care for large numbers of patients. Ongoing surveillance of operational, technical, and clinical factors is critical for patient quality and safety with this modality.
Assessing the Impact of a Rapidly Scaled Virtual Urgent Care in New York City During the COVID-19 Pandemic
BACKGROUND:The coronavirus disease (COVID)-19 pandemic quickly challenged New York City health care systems. Telemedicine has been suggested to manage acute complaints and divert patients from in-person care. OBJECTIVES/OBJECTIVE:The objective of this study was to describe and assess the impact of a rapidly scaled virtual urgent care platform during the COVID-19 pandemic. METHODS:This was a retrospective cohort study of all patients who presented to a virtual urgent care platform over 1Â month during the COVID-19 pandemic surge. We described scaling our telemedicine urgent care capacity, described patient clinical characteristics, assessed for emergency department (ED) referrals, and analyzed postvisit surveys. RESULTS:During the study period, a total of 17,730 patients were seen via virtual urgent care; 454 (2.56%) were referred to an ED. The most frequent diagnoses were COVID-19 related or upper respiratory symptoms. Geospatial analysis indicated a wide catchment area. There were 251 providers onboarded to the platform; at peak, 62 providers supplied 364Â h of coverage in 1Â day. The average patient satisfaction score was 4.4/5. There were 2668 patients (15.05%) who responded to the postvisit survey; 1236 (49.35%) would have sought care in an ED (11.86%) or in-person urgent care (37.49%). CONCLUSIONS:A virtual urgent care platform was scaled to manage a volume of more than 800 patients a day across a large catchment area during the pandemic surge. About half of the patients would otherwise have presented to an ED or urgent care in person. Virtual urgent care is an option for appropriate patients while minimizing in-person visits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Use of a telehealth follow-up system to facilitate treatment and discharge of emergency department patients with severe cellulitis
INTRODUCTION/BACKGROUND:Novel long-acting lipoglycopeptide antibiotics allow for the treatment and discharge of selected emergency department (ED) patients with cellulitis who require intravenous antibiotics. Telehealth systems have shown success in remote management of dermatologic conditions; we implemented a telehealth follow-up program for patients diagnosed with cellulitis in the ED, treated with single-dose dalbavancin, and discharged. METHODS:This was a prospective, multi-center observational study. Patients were included based on clinical criteria and ability to complete follow-up using a smartphone and enroll in an online care portal. We examined the rate of successful telehealth follow-up at 24- and 72-hour intervals from discharge. We also examined the ED return rate within 14Â days, reviewed any visits to determine cause of return, and for admission. RESULTS:55 patients were enrolled. 54/55 patients completed at least one telehealth follow up encounter (98.2%). 13 patients (23.6%) had a return ED visit within 14Â days; no patients required admission for worsening cellulitis. Patient engagement in the telehealth program decreased over time; there was an approximately 11% decrease in engagement between the 24 and 72-hour follow-up call, and a 15% decrease in engagement between the 24 and 72-hour image upload. Patients over 65 had a lower rate of image upload (31%) than younger patients (80.6%). DISCUSSION/CONCLUSIONS:A telehealth follow-up system for discharged emergency department patients with cellulitis demonstrated high rates of engagement. In these patients who -may have otherwise required admission for intravenous antibiotics, telehealth-facilitated outpatient management resulted in a low ED return rate and no inpatient admissions for cellulitis.
Standardizing Quality of Virtual Urgent Care: Using Standardized Patients in a Unique Experiential Onboarding Program
Introduction/UNASSIGNED:Virtual urgent care (VUC) provides real-time evaluation, triage, and treatment of low-acuity medical problems; however, VUC physicians have varying levels of telemedicine training. We created a workplace-based experiential onboarding program that deployed standardized patients (SPs) into a VUC clinic to evaluate and deliver feedback to independently practicing physicians, providing quality assurance and identifying areas for improvement. Methods/UNASSIGNED:SPs evaluated communication, disease-specific, and telemedicine skills by observing behaviors. We surveyed participants to evaluate the program. Results/UNASSIGNED:= 34%) well done-highlighting specific behaviors most ripe for improvement. All queried participants indicated that this simulation improved communication and telemedicine skills. Discussion/UNASSIGNED:This workplace-based experiential onboarding program uncovered knowledge gaps within telemedicine skills and patient education domains. Identification of these gaps can help drive new virtual care curricula.
Standardizing quality of virtual urgent care: An experiential onboarding approach using standardized patients [Meeting Abstract]
BACKGROUND: Virtual Urgent Care (VUC) is a now a common modality for providing real-time assessment and treatment of common medical problems. However, most providers have not had formal telemedicine training or clinical experience. Faculty have little experience with this new modality of healthcare delivery. We created an experiential onboarding program in which standardized patients (SPs) are deployed into a VUC platform to assess and deliver feedback to physicians in an effort to provide individual- level quality assurance and identify programlevel areas for improvement.
METHOD(S): We simulated a synchronous urgent care evaluation of a 25- year-old man with lingering upper respiratory tract symptoms refractory to over-the-counter medications. The SP was trained to strongly request an antibiotic prescription. A mock entry in the electronic medical record, available to providers during the visit, provided demographic, prior medical, pharmacy and allergy information. The encounter was scheduled into a regular 30-minute appointment slot during a routine 8-hour shift. We developed a behaviorally- anchored assessment tool to evaluate core communication, case-specific, and telemedicine-specific skills. Response options comprised 'not done,' 'partly done,' and 'well done.' SPs provided post-encounter verbal feedback to urgent care providers (UCPs), who received a summary report and had an opportunity provide structured feedback regarding the case. A single SP performed 20 / 21 visits.
RESULT(S): Twenty-one UCPs, with 2 to 23 years of clinical experience, participated in an announced scheduled visit. UCPs performed 'well done' in Information Gathering (93%) and Relationship Development (99%) domains. All UCPs provided appropriate management plans and did not give antibiotics. In contrast, Education and Counseling skills were less strong (32% 'well done'). Within this domain, few received 'well done' for checking understanding (14%); conveying small bits of information and summarizing to ensure clarity (9%). Most (71% well done) collaborated with the SP in discussing next steps. Specific telemedicine skills were infrequently used: only 19% performed a virtual physical exam, 24% utilized the audio/video interface to augment information gathering, 14% optimized technical aspects by assessing sound, video or ensuring a backup plan should video fail. A subset of UCPs (n=9) provided structured feedback regarding the case. 100% 'somewhat or strongly agreed' that the encounter improved their confidence communicating via the video interface and helped improved telehealth skills.
CONCLUSION(S): This experiential virtual urgent care onboarding program utilizing standardized announced encounters uncovers several areas for improvement within telemedicine-specific and patient education domains. These findings form the basis for dedicated training for virtual urgent care providers to assure quality across the program
Standardizing quality of virtual urgent care: Utilizing standardized patients in unique experiential onboarding [Meeting Abstract]
Intro/Background: Virtual Urgent Care (VUC) is now a common modality for providing real-time assessment and treatment of common low acuity medical problems. However, most physicians have not had formal telemedicine training or clinical experience and therefore lack proficiency with this new modality of healthcare delivery. We created an experiential onboarding program deploying standardized patients (SPs) into a VUC platform to assess and deliver feedback to physicians, providing individual-level quality assurance and identifying program-level areas for improvement. Purpose/Objective: The objective of this program was to create an experiential training module for physicians as part of their VUC onboarding process with the goal of quality assurance and patient safety. The onboarding experience incorporated common standards for doctor-patient communication as well as the unique skills necessary for the practice of telemedicine. The encounters were unobserved by other faculty, providing participants with a safe and confidential environment to receive feedback on their communication and telemedicine skills.
Method(s): We simulated a synchronous urgent care evaluation of a 25-year-old man with lingering viral upper respiratory tract symptoms refractory to over-thecounter medications. SP training included strongly requesting an antibiotic prescription. A mock electronic medical record encounter provided physicians with demographic and prior medical history. The announced SP appointment occurred during a routine VUC shift. Our behaviorally-anchored assessment tool evaluated communication, case-specific, and telemedicine-specific skills. Response options comprised 'not done,' 'partly done,' and 'well done.' Outcomes (if available): Twenty-one physicians provided appropriate management without prescribing antibiotics. Physicians performed 'well done' in Information Gathering (93%) and Relationship Development (99%) domains. In contrast, Education and Counseling skills were less strong (32% 'well done'); few received 'well done' for checking understanding (14%); conveying and summarizing information (9%). Telemedicine skills were infrequently used: 19% performed virtual physical exam, 24% utilized audio/video interface to augment information gathering, 14% assessed sound, video or ensured backup plan should video fail.
Summary: This experiential virtual urgent care onboarding program utilizing standardized patient announced encounters uncovers several areas for improvement within telemedicine-specific and patient education domains. Participating VUC physicians had 2 to 23 years of clinical experience. Results illustrate that irrespective of experience, telemedicine visits create a unique set of challenges to the traditional way physicians are taught to engage with their patients. Overall, the onboarding exercise was well received by participating physicians. At the conclusion of the visit, SPs provided immediate verbal feedback to urgent care physicians, who received a summary report and had an opportunity provide structured feedback regarding the case. A subset of urgent care physicians (n=9) provided feedback regarding the case; 100% 'somewhat or strongly agreed' that the encounter improved their confidence communicating via the video interface and helped improve telehealth skills. Our innovative onboarding program utilizing highly trained standardized patients can uncover potential gaps in telemedicinespecific skills and form the basis for dedicated training for virtual urgent care physicians to assure quality and patient safety
Is there a relationship between wound infections and laceration closure times?
BACKGROUND: Lacerations account for a large number of ED visits. Is there a "golden period" beyond which lacerations should not be repaired primarily? What type of relationship exists between time of repair and wound infection rates? Is it linear or exponential? Currently, the influence of laceration age on the risk of infection in simple lacerations repaired is not clearly defined. We conducted this study to determine the influence of time of primary wound closure on the infection rate. METHODS: This is a prospective observational study of patients who presented to the Emergency Department (ED) with a laceration requiring closure from April 2009 to November 2010. The wound closure time was defined as the time interval from when the patient reported laceration occurred until the time of the start of the wound repair procedure. Univariate analysis was performed to determine the factors predictive of infection. A non-parametric Wilcoxon rank-sum test was performed to compare the median differences of time of laceration repair. Chi-square (Fisher's exact) tests were performed to test for infection differences with regard to gender, race, location of laceration, mechanism of injury, co-morbidities, type of anesthesia and type of suture material used. RESULTS: Over the study period, 297 participants met the inclusion criteria and were followed. Of the included participants, 224 (75.4%) were male and 73 (24.6%) were female. Ten patients (3.4%) developed a wound infection. Of these infections, five occurred on hands, four on extremities (not hands) and one on the face. One of these patients was African American, seven were Hispanic and two were Caucasian (p = 0.0005). Median wound closure time in the infection group was 867 min and in the non-infection group 330 min (p = 0.03). CONCLUSIONS: Without controlling various confounding factors, the median wound closure time for the lacerations in the wound infection group was statistically significantly longer than in the non-infection group.
Spontaneous resolution of a large traumatic pneumothorax [Case Report]
The aim of this study was to describe a case of a large traumatic pneumothorax (>55%) that resolved completely without intervention. A pneumothorax is the accumulation of air between the visceral and parietal pleura. It can occur spontaneously or be traumatic. Spontaneous pneumothoraces can occur with no underlying lung disease or secondary in nature. The emergency department (ED) treatment of pneumothoraces depends on their size, their etiology, and clinical stability of the patient. The current recommendation is observation in stable patients with <15% pneumothorax and tube thoracostomy in patients with >15% pneumothorax. A 33-year-old woman presented to our ED complaining of right knee and right lateral chest wall pain after falling. Her breath sounds were reported as normal. A chest radiograph was ordered, which showed a large right-sided pneumothorax with tracheal deviation suggestive of a tension pneumothorax. The provider did not appreciate the pneumothorax at the time, and she was subsequently discharged home. The radiograph was over-read in the morning, and several attempts were made to recall the patient but were unsuccessful. Fortunately, the patient returned to the ED for an unrelated complaint approximately 1 month later, and the radiograph was repeated, confirming full resolution of the pneumothorax. She was not treated at another facility during that time. This is a typical manifestation of a traumatic pneumothorax but with an atypical course and outcome. It raises the question of whether, even in the case of traumatic pneumothorax, the threshold for placement of chest tubes could be reconsidered in stable patients.
Inhibition of Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) enhances glucocorticoid receptor-mediated function in mouse hippocampal HT22 cells
Mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), including Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), promote inflammatory and proliferative responses to infection and other environmental stimuli including stress. Relevant to negative regulation of inflammatory pathways by glucocorticoids and the development of glucocorticoid resistance (observed in inflammatory disorders as well as certain neuropsychiatric disorders such as major depression), activation of JNK has been reported to inhibit glucocorticoid receptor (GR) function. In this study, the role of JNK pathways in modulating GR function was further investigated. Treatment of mouse hippocampal (HT22) cells with the selective JNK inhibitor, SP-600125 (0.1-10 microM), resulted in dose-dependent induction of GR-mediated MMTV-luciferase activity. SP-600125 also significantly enhanced dexamethasone-induced MMTV-luciferase activity, while increasing GR binding to the glucocorticoid responsive element, both in the presence and absence of Dex. Similar effects were observed in mouse fibroblast cells (LMCAT), and in HT22 cells treated with a JNK specific antisense oligonucleotide. The induction of GR-mediated function by SP-600125 was not due to altered cytosolic GR binding or GR protein expression or enhancement of GR nuclear translocation as determined by Western blot. Taken together, the data indicate that constitutive expression of JNK plays a tonic inhibitory role in GR function, which is consistent with findings that activation of JNK pathways inhibits GR. The data also identify potential pathways involved in the pathogenesis of the glucocorticoid resistance found in certain chronic immune/inflammatory diseases and subgroups of patients with major depression. Moreover, JNK pathways may represent a therapeutic target for normalization of GR function in these disorders.