When the coronavirus (COVID-19) spread to Florida, doctors and nurses on the front line at Broward Health faced increased admissions. New technology helped enable caregivers to have specialized support for their work caring for patients with COVID-19. The health system brought critical care specialists to patients’ bedsides through virtual patient visits.

Broward Health Coral Springs had been using telemedicine services for night coverage in the ICU. Now, the hospital has a virtual physician on board during the day as well. Broward Health North also uses telemedicine services.
 
Benefits of Telemedicine
Isabel Novela, M.D., board certified in pulmonary medicine and critical care, serves as the director of the ICU at Broward Health Coral Springs and Broward North. Shesays telemedicine has two major benefits that are especially helpful during the pandemic.
 
“There’s a shortage of critical care physicians across the country,” Dr. Novela said. “With telemedicine, additional critical care specialists are available to help us care for our patients. In addition, telehealth managed the number of in-person interactions caregivers have with patients, which reduced doctors’ and nurses’ risk of contracting coronavirus.”
 
How It Works
When it’s time for a telemedicine visit, a nurse wheels a high-tech telemedicine cart to a patient’s bedside. The cart has a video camera and large monitor that allows the physician to view the patient remotely and interact with the patient. The remote physician evaluates the patient, writes notes in the patient’s chart and directs the patient’s treatment. He or she also can respond to the nurse’s questions or consult with the critical care specialist onsite.
 
“Our telemedicine physician manages patients all day and takes some of the load off our onsite physician,” Dr. Novela said. “During the pandemic, we used telemedicine services to manage patients who were sedated and on ventilators. Our onsite physician can also use the telemedicine system from a desktop or laptop from any location to check on patients remotely when an in-person visit is unnecessary.”
 
According to P. William Ludwig, M.D., a pulmonary and critical care physician and an expert in telemedicine, most patients are comfortable interacting with physicians virtually thanks to their everyday experiences with mobile phones, FaceTime, Zoom and other face-to-face interactive platforms. And in-person help is always available.
 
“A caregiver is onsite when telemedicine services are used at Broward Health so he or she can interact with a patient in person when needed,” he added.
 
Meeting Patients’ Needs
Broward Health started planning its COVID-19 response early and with the help of telemedicine has managed to handle the surge in patients.
 
“We saw more patients and needed more resources to care for them,” Dr. Novela said. “Telemedicine is one of the reasons we’ve been doing well and giving patients the best care possible. It’s also an integral part of the plan we have in place to care for even more patients if needed in the weeks and months ahead.”