Dr. Stephanie Murphy - Preventing Hospital Readmissions

Dr. Stephanie Murphy


“Doctors Are Teachers”: Preventing Hospital Readmissions

Being a hospitalist is where the “rubber meets the road,” says Dr. Stephanie Murphy, TeleHospitalist with Eagle Telemedicine. “For patients in the hospital, telemedicine helps avoid situations where care gaps lead to readmissions.”

With not just one virtual care job but two, Dr. Murphy spends her days leading a patient transition clinic at a local hospital, which provides outpatient support after discharge from the hospital.

When she’s not on at the clinic, she devotes time to her role as hospitalist on-call for Eagle Telemedicine. She supports Highlands-Cashiers Hospital, which gives her the opportunity to provide inpatient care as well. In both roles, preventing readmissions is top-of-mind.

Change in focus

When the Affordable Care Act established the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program (HRRP) in 2012, Medicare reduced payments to hospitals with excess hospital readmissions.

Hospitals were hyper-focused on preventing hospital readmissions after the HRRP changed the calculation for reimbursement. It changed Dr. Murphy’s focus as well.

In 2015, she became Medical Director of Atrium Health Transition Services, where she focused on helping high-risk patients avoid hospital readmission. She completed a fellowship in readmission prevention from the National Readmission Prevention Collaborative.

Educating others about preventing hospital readmissions

Dr. Murphy became a doctor at the urging of her father. He knew that she liked to help people. With a family full of teachers, she brings a teaching mindset to the job. At work, she is educating and helping people every day.

Like the teachers in her family, Dr. Murphy tackles the problem of readmissions by educating – educating herself about the complexity of the patient and educating the patient about proper self-care. “Doctors are teachers,” says Murphy.

This is the doctor you want on-call if you have a complicated medical history. Dr. Murphy takes the time to communicate with her patients through the telemedicine robot. Before and after an Eagle patient consult, Dr. Murphy is communicating with the nurse caring for the patient and the onsite physician.

“This is my way of giving back to the community. I regularly connect with patients and their families,” says Dr. Murphy. “I talk to the patient and the family to make sure I understand the problem. I’m happy to work with a nurse to get a correction in the interest of that patient.”

Communication with the hospital staff doesn’t just happen when the robot is on and in the patient’s room. She documents the patient evaluation and recommendations for care in the hospital’s EMR system.

“For me, it’s always about the patient,” says Murphy. “I never want to think:  This didn’t need to happen to the patient. More and more we need to change how we work with patients.”

Before launching any telemedicine program, Eagle carefully outlines the patient hand-off process and trains the telemedicine providers and the staff on the ground to work together to provide the patient with the best care possible.

Working as a team

During the day, Dr. Murphy leads a patient transition clinic, which provides support to patients discharged from the hospital. It takes teamwork to deliver inpatient care using telemedicine. Her ability to work well in a team also contributes to the care of patients after they leave the hospital.

“My group is focused on taking care of patients with complex cases as they return home,” says Dr. Murphy. “We work in a team – provider, social worker and pharmacist.” This role also leverages telemedicine to support the patient at home.

“My team is integrated with behavioral health and palliative care,” says Murphy. “At the direction of the doctor, paramedics and virtual visits help fill care gaps that could lead to readmission.”

After receiving comprehensive inpatient care, Dr. Murphy and her team help the patient adhere to follow-up care instructions, and manage ongoing health problems, like high blood pressure, diabetes or asthma.

“Often the sub-acute state or the treatment for that condition will cause other chronic illnesses to flare or become less controlled when the patient leaves the hospital,” says Murphy. “We reduce the risk of readmissions by working closely with patients to make sure they understand how to stay healthy. I’m just a phone call away if they have questions about medication, dietary restrictions or wellness practices.”

She doesn’t spend all her time preventing hospital readmissions. This ambitious doctor takes her own self-care seriously too. She has run more than 20 marathons. Family is important, as well. “My niece and nephew are the apple of my eye,” she says. “I’m blessed to have close relationships with grandmother, parents and sister.”

Dr. Murphy lives on beautiful Lake Norman in North Carolina with her three rescues dogs – Bailey, Harp and Kona.