SOC Using Telemedicine to Help Contain the Spread of Coronavirus
Health Systems Utilizing Platform to Support Capacity Management

RESTON, Va., March 27, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- SOC Telemed (SOC) announced today its critical role supporting hospitals and health systems nationwide in the fight against COVID-19 and predicts that eventually as much as 25% of all hospital care will be performed remotely through the use of telemedicine. In the current pandemic that percentage will be vastly higher until the situation is further under control. The company is seeing a rapidly increasing need for on-demand acute care via telemedicine and is currently working with more than 550 hospitals and health systems across the country.

SOC reports a rapidly increasing need for on-demand acute care via telemedicine in hospitals around the country. This includes ICU programs offering intensive care for the most critical patients. "Intensivists don't just work in the ICU, they go everywhere and we can provide that care wherever there is WiFi or a cellular connection," said Dr. David Fedor associate chief of critical care at SOC. 

Moreover, Dr. Jason Hallock, chief medical officer at SOC states: "We are helping hospital systems rapidly deploy teleICU to optimize the vital capacity of ICU care in this time of need. It allows supply and demand matching of one of our most precious resources, and that is our critical care doctors. When we move them to a virtualized environment we can load-balance human capital on a national scale." ICU doctors save lives and SOC's Telemed IQ platform connects these lifesavers with the patients they serve, wherever they are located.

The number of requests SOC receives for tele-triage is growing exponentially, as hospitals work to safely determine what services ED patients require and where they will be best treated. This adds a layer of safety for both the patient and staff that cannot be matched without telemedicine technology. Telemedicine can also be used to provide definitive care in the emergency department again with the emphasis on protecting patients and staff in this infectious disease crisis. Using acute telemedicine for tele-triage keeps critical hospital staff in the "no-risk of infection" category by limiting exposure for doctors and hospital staff to the virus. ED providers can also continue to provide telemedicine care if they are exposed or even if they become sick.

The combined challenges presented by COVID-19 create a national hospital capacity management crisis. But thanks to relaxed federal restrictions and the advantages of utilizing remote technology in hospitals, telemedicine is poised to bring relief.

Recently loosened federal telemedicine restrictions are enabling more streamlined telemedicine access, a vital boost for health systems struggling with capacity management given recent concerns of "astronomical surges" in patients, as the outbreak reaches peak levels across the U.S.

The Coronavirus Preparedness Act and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 6074) provides the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) the authority to waive specific Medicare telehealth restrictions to broaden access to telehealth services.  

As a result, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will temporarily waive geographic and originating site restrictions, will allow the use of telephones with audio and video capabilities for telehealth services, will allow reimbursement for any telehealth covered code (even if unrelated to COVID-19), and will halt the enforcement of established relationship requirements.

The loosened restrictions free Medicare and Medicaid patients to seek telemedicine services as needed during the Coronavirus pandemic. This allows companies like SOC to provide telemedicine services for hospitals and health systems with less concern for prior federal restrictions.

"This ruling comes at a critical moment throughout global healthcare. For the first time in modern history, U.S. healthcare professionals are confronting the reality of a national crisis in hospital capacity management," says Hallock. "The coronavirus will strain our supply of critical care beds, our supply of ventilators, and our capacity for testing. The only questions are how much strain, and for how long."

Beyond direct capacity concerns such as beds and ventilators, also of concern are second-order challenges. As healthcare workers themselves get sick and as hospital resources dedicated to coronavirus are diverted from other kinds of patients, health systems could take a severe financial hit depending on how much elective care is postponed.

"We're seeing an explosion currently in the number of hospitals ready to make acute telemedicine a top priority—escalating the timeline for these projects. This includes hospitals that are already using the SOC Telemed platform or our providers and are looking to expand their capacity either through more doctors or technology," says Hallock. "Hospitals need to think of this as a paradigm shift—not just replacing a single doctor with a telemedicine connection but distributing that model to wherever you need it in the organization 24/7, 365 days a year. Ultimately this is the magic of a telemedicine platform."

About SOC Telemed
SOC Telemed (SOC) is the largest national provider of telemedicine technology and solutions to hospitals, health systems, post-acute providers, physician networks, and value-based care organizations. Built on proven and scalable infrastructure as an enterprise-wide solution, SOC's technology platform, Telemed IQ, rapidly deploys and seamlessly optimizes telemedicine programs across the continuum of care. SOC virtually delivers clinicians to patients through teleNeurology, telePsychiatry and teleICU as well as enables healthcare organizations to build sustainable telemedicine programs in any clinical specialty. SOC helps organizations to enrich their care models and touch more lives by supplying healthcare teams with industry-leading solutions that drive improved clinical care, patient outcomes, and organizational health.

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Lauren Shankman
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