Using 24/7 monitoring to engage patients in a pandemic

It was 2:30 a.m. on the first night of 24/7 remote patient monitoring when a patient reached out to the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network COVID-19 Care Team through GetWell Loop.

“Just think what an impact that must have had,” says Natalie Mortensen, MSN, RN, manager at Inception Health, the Froedtert & MCW health network’s digital technology innovation partner. “Someone was scared enough to reach out that late at night…and got a response.”

The Froedtert & MCW health network includes five hospitals, more than 1600 physicians and almost 40 health centers. Although they have been using the GetWell Loop solution since 2016, 24/7 patient monitoring on GetWell Loop was uncharted territory.

The rapid emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic encouraged the Froedtert & MCW team to harness GetWell Loop’s COVID-19 care plans as one of its digital solutions for patients to engage with care providers during a time of isolation and social distancing.

Froedtert & MCW team members additionally participated in providing input on the initial drafts of the GetWell Loop COVID-19 care plans. Staying close to the content development helped ensure they were aligned with appropriate symptoms, most recent developments and best practices from the Centers for Disease Control.  

Staying in touch, even apart

GetWell Loop is used to monitor patients outside of the traditional hospital care setting, which allows the Froedtert & MCW team to track the health of patients who are quarantined or self-isolating at home. To assist, the central pandemic triage group (a group of APPs who manage COVID-19 testing and results for the health system), introduced GetWell Loop to patients, facilitating activation.

“Patients are scared,” says Mortensen. “But they are so thrilled to be in contact with their providers.”

“I felt that during a time of loneliness, I had professionals available to answer my questions,” wrote one patient.

Transitioning to 24/7 care

When the health network first launched its COVID-19-specific Loops, including an Active Symptom or Exposure Loop and a Self-Monitoring Loop, patient comments and questions were monitored during business hours. Two full-time nurses who ran the health network’s Orthopaedic Loops redeployed to assist with monitoring, soon finding that COVID-19 symptoms did not fit standard business hours.

“Before the establishment of 24/7 monitoring, patients would trigger red alerts between 9 and 10 p.m.,” says Mortensen. “We would see them come into the inbox and couldn’t ignore them, so we would pick up the phone to triage. We could not let the red alert sit until the next morning knowing that a patient may need a higher level of care at that moment in time. It felt like too much of a risk to let it be.”

The Froedtert team worked hard to find a plan and partnered with the eRNs on their virtual care team who provide inpatient units with 24/7 monitoring and assistance. The eRNs were eager to offer support for evening hours to address red alerts and comments, allowing the Loops to be monitored 24/7. Together, the nursing teams were able to offer a seamless experience for patients in need of monitoring and reassurance, removing temporal boundaries to symptom management.

Mortensen continues: “Maybe the overnight hours are slow — or dare I say, quiet — but for that one patient who needs us, that’s who we want to help.”

With a response time of less than two hours from the providers, and patient satisfaction of 95% with the COVID-19 Loops, the Froedtert team is certainly making that impact.

Leave no one behind

In moving to 24/7 monitoring, the Froedtert & MCW team made a significant effort to focus on patients who were minimally engaged in their Loops. The team checked in persistently, ensuring that the patient knew they always had a resource available.

“It was nice to know that someone was checking in on my symptoms every day,” shared one patient. 

Another concurred: “Everything was a positive experience. They communicate and check and double check and made sure I was getting everything I needed.”

Staying agile in tough times

For other health systems in a similar situation, Mortensen offers some advice.

“The most important thing is the ability to stay agile,” she says. “Everything is changing so frequently. It’s not like in other situations where you have a nice timeline to plan, review, and adjust. This is more of a situation where you go live, do what you can, stay in touch with your patients, and collaborate with other teams to meet patient needs.”

She continues: “When things are incredibly unpredictable, you have to pivot at a moment’s notice, so it’s important to ensure you have people who are comfortable with the rapid pace of change. With COVID-19, new symptoms have arisen in a short period. Rely on people and tools that are flexible and can operate outside of the box. GetWellNetwork has allowed us to continually and effectively engage with our patients.”

The bottom line

The GetWellNetwork COVID-19 Loops provided a virtual bridge between patients and providers during a time of social distancing, enabling Froedtert & MCW health network patients to feel well-cared-for and giving providers access to the appropriate information. The 24/7 monitoring further demonstrates the health network’s commitment to keeping the community healthy and patients safe at all hours. 

In a time of anxiety, fear, confusion and uncertainty, the Froedtert & MCW health network leveraged GetWell Loop through technology and patient engagement to provide education, reassurance and comfort to those in need.