When do you ever stop being a pioneer? As long as there are new frontiers to explore, you don’t. It’s the reason that nearly 10 years after we founded one of the first inpatient telemedicine companies, we’re still pioneering the industry: There are always new frontiers.
Micro-hospitals, for example. Cited as a new trend in healthcare in a recent U.S. News & World Report article, micro-hospitals—sometimes called neighborhood or community hospitals—typically have eight to 10 short-stay beds and provide the inpatient care, emergency care, imaging and lab services typically performed in larger hospitals. Some also offer outpatient surgery.
A perfect environment for telemedicine
Cropping up in communities in more than a dozen states, micro-hospitals offer an appealing combination: They are cheaper and faster to build than larger hospitals. They can be tailored to the specific needs of a community depending on age, economic profile and other factors. Becker’s Hospital Review described them in a recent story as healthcare’s “small-batch product,” with a wider range of services than an urgent care center, and a model that provides faster, more personalized service than a large hospital.
They are also perfect environments for offering specialized care via telemedicine.
One could say that the growth and viability of the micro-hospital model wouldn’t be possible without telemedicine, where specialists in a range of disciplines can be “beamed in” to provide the expertise needed for diagnosing and treating patients, as well as to provide backup and guidance for nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs), who are assuming key leadership roles in micro-hospitals.
A new opportunity for Eagle Telemedicine
Providing NP/PA back-up is one of the roles we’ll be filling with a rapidly growing micro-hospital company headquartered in Texas. The company provides neighborhood emergency services for large, established hospital systems, helping the systems tap new markets and provide healthcare services in a new format where there is an established need. In our NP/PA back-up model for the company, NPs act as hospitalists, while our telemedicine services provide back-up and support with experienced telehospitalists standing at the ready when the NPs need their assistance.
We’ll also provide additional telespecialty coverage for the company, including TeleCardiology, TeleNeurology, Tele-ID (Infectious Disease) and Tele-ICU. Our first program with the company began in July at one of its new facilities in the Midwest.
A solution that leverages a changing healthcare workforce
In a world where the supply of NPs and PAs is growing, this company’s model for telemedicine support makes good sense. A report by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration makes it clear:
- By 2020, the supply of primary care NPs is projected to increase by 30 percent, from 55,400 in 2010 to 72,100.
- The supply of primary care PAs is projected to increase by 58 percent, from 27,700 to 43,900 over the same period.
The HRSA also reports a projected shortage of 20,400 primary care physicians (PCPs) against demand in 2020. A similar shortage of specialists like intensivists/pulmonologists, nephrologists, cardiologists, neurologists and others—particularly in rural America—holds the door wide open for telemedicine to fill the gaps. Through the “wonders of technology,” we can bring specialized care wherever and whenever it is needed.
A sound model for changing times
A company like ours, with roots in hospitalist management and a partner company providing locum tenens services for hospitals, knows all too well that hospitals struggle to find full-time hospitalists—especially rural facilities. And so, as we see it, the micro-hospital model of NPs as hospitalists with backup from telehospitalists just makes good sense.
In larger hospitals, we’ve successfully deployed this model for night-time staff coverage. It has resulted in improved retention and recruitment, reduced patient transfer rates, enhanced economic stability, and increased patient and staff satisfaction.
We are confident it will bring similar success to the new frontier of micro-hospitals, and we’re excited to be blazing a new trail!