ThedaCare, an Appleton, Wis.-based health system, has made the Most Wired list for 16 years in a row, and continues to up its game in technology adoption and innovation.

Take e-visits — the ability of patients to gain medical advice through a secure video network in a HIPAA-compliant fashion. In 2016, ThedaCare began offering e-visits to patients through its secure online patient portal for nonurgent medical needs.

E-visit functionality is gaining adoption year over year, according to the Most Wired survey results. In 2017, adoption rates jumped by 10 percent over 2016 for both Most Wired and all survey respondents. Some 37 percent of Most Wired respondents and 27 percent of all survey respondents offer e-visits.

The way it works at ThedaCare is that patients who are already in the electronic health record system can book video appointments online with their own providers, for a flat rate of $35.

Adoption rates have grown steadily month over month since the health system began offering the service, says Jodie Ausloos, R.N., interim chief information officer and clinical nursing information officer at Thedacare (pictured). Year-to-date volume in e-visits is up 30 percent over the same time last year, she says.most-wired-2017-issue

“If we can use our providers’ time wisely to provide care, it frees us up to focus in-person time on more complex cases,“ Ausloos says.

The turnaround time between the patient request for an e-visit and e-visit completion is around 40 minutes, she adds.

ThedaCare monitors patient and provider satisfaction, which are both near perfect, and conducts chart reviews on symptoms presented and treatments given to ensure that providers are not over- or undertreating patients via remote care. So far, no evidence of that has been shown, Ausloos says.

The most common conditions treated via e-visits are sinus infections and urinary tract infections, followed by other mild ailments like pink eye, acne, lice, allergies and ringworm, she says.

ThedaCare built credit card-payment functionality into the patient portal interface to collect point-of-care patient payments. But so far, e-visits are not covered by health plans in the region, though that might change, Ausloos says.

Not having to implement medical coding or billing functionality simplified the rollout of e-visits, Ausloos says. “That entails a whole other set of complexities to figure out,“ she says of third-party billing functionality. “It's when to bill and who to bill and for what services."

While some hospitals and health systems use a vendor to supplement in-person care with e-visits, ThedaCare and its providers wanted to keep control over total patient care while expanding access, Ausloos says.

ThedaCare is betting big on mobile. Next up: The system is working on expanding clinician use of smartphones at the bedside. By the end of 2017, the goal is to have secure smartphones in the hands of all inpatient clinicians for documenting, secure messaging and tracking patients and their total care experience. For instance, the system is integrating bar-code scanning for smart IV pumps in the total supply chain through provider ordering and administration of the drug. The smartphones also will be able to take clinical photos, which will be uploaded automatically instead of being stored on the phone, for security reasons, Ausloos explains.

“At end of the day, it is about supporting our clinicians who do their very best work, and providing the best care to our patients,“ she says. 

Keep watching throughout July for Most Wired award announcements, feature articles, and a live Twitter chat during the AHA Leadership Summit, July 28 at 12:30 – 1:30pm Pacific.