Frisk Utvikling secondary care services have patients all over the large country of Norway, resulting in many of them having to travel long distances to get treated. Frisk is in agreement with 3 out of the total 4 regional health trusts and offers public secondary health services in the form of mental health treatment and rehabilitation, including a rehabilitation program for obesity with a five-year follow-up plan.
They have deployed online consultations in a pilot project to simplify reaching patients via video and messaging. We spoke with Pål Skrimstad, physiotherapist, and Hege-Anita Bakkejord, nurse and general manager of the specialist health service, to learn more about their experiences.
Increasing accessibility to patients
Frisk Utvikling secondary care services prioritise providing the best possible offer to patients and they are constantly optimising towards that goal. Few points their patients wish for the most is more frequent, personalised follow-up during the periods they are at home. The treatment plan for obesity levels extends to over 5 years. Offering more frequent follow-up appointments is overwhelmingly resource-consuming, says Hege-Anita. The patients are in different phases of the treatment program, and at the same time, new patients are added continuously. Follow-up appointments scheduled two to three times a year limit any additional availability patients may need outside of scheduled appointments.
The solution was a combination of physical and digital follow-up, intending to improve our services and achieve the best possible result for our patients. With Visiba Care, we can work smarter and more efficiently, which in turn benefits a larger group of patients than before.
The plan was put in action primarily as a pilot project with video calls and guided self-help online among other options. The organization laid out a plan for full implementation within one year. When the pandemic hit, everyday life was turned upside down. A solid collaboration between Visiba Care and Frisk was a major factor of an almost overnight roll-out of the platform by all therapists.
Flexibility is very important to us and Visiba Care have proved to be apt to customise the system to our needs and the needs of our patients. At Frisk, the patient is in focus, so it is critical to simplify the follow-up work and increase accessibility for patients.
Hege-Anita emphasises the importance of having a secure, future-proof, and customisable communication platform. With these in mind, they chose Visiba Care for the large access to a broad set of the functionalities needed to build a fully rounded virtual clinic. In addition, they have the opportunity to integrate other digital health solutions they are already using.
Everyday life for therapists and patients alike becomes simpler
Some patients have been a little sceptical of the video consultations in the place of the physical meetings they were used to before. However, they realised that it works just as well. Especially when the pandemic made physical meetings impossible, patients were delighted to have the option of keeping up with the follow-up appointments from home. They also noted that it is easier to have someone who supports them along the way, and they thought it is great to have someone who has ‘got their back’. In addition, they mark skipping the travelling time for a consultation as a great advantage, as well as the increased accessibility of the therapists.
By offering patients closer follow-ups in the form of video consultations and regular submissions of mapping forms, therapists can identify the patients who are in need of additional attention in certain periods. It became easier for therapists to follow up on each individual patient, and for patients to contact the therapist and get specific feedback via the messaging function.
The best thing about Visiba Care is that the system is intuitive for patients and an easy way to communicate with us.
Pål is a physiotherapist and he is working on a pilot project for obesity-operated patients who are gaining weight. He sees great advantages in using the messaging function as a communication channel between therapists and patients:
This means that we have a close dialogue with our patients regarding the rehabilitation process; we can make adjustments along the way whenever we perceive that parts of the treatment plan do not work properly. With this tool in place, we are convinced that we can follow up with our patients much better than before. At the same time, we will have more positive outcomes, in the sense that we will be able to spot and support those who may require a closer follow-up.
Utilising the entire spectrum of functionality
Frisk Utvikling secondary care services use the full range of Visiba Care and have accumulated experience with video consultations, multi-party video consultations, the messaging function and the form function.
In the pilot project that Pål is working with, the healthcare professional and the patient begin with a start-up conversation via video, where they discuss the patient’s goals and how to achieve them. The patients then submit a form each week, which the therapist goes through and gives specific feedback to each individual shortly after. The therapists earmark some time each week to respond to messages so that patients’ questions do not build up over several months.
The messaging function covers a big part of the patients’ need for contact, but the therapists follow up with some patients via video when needed. In the near future, the organisation is also planning to integrate the app with another digital tool (Assisted Self-Help) used for assignments, lectures and information videos, says Pål.
In other treatment programmes within the organization, therapists use multi-party video consultations, e.g. in long-term musculoskeletal pain rehabilitation.
Surprisingly easy organisational transition
Initiating digital transformation with a new tool can be an immense challenge for healthcare providers, but Hege-Anita urges her peers to look at the possibilities and take the step to invest in new solutions. She believes it is important to break away from an inefficient traditional path and emphasises the importance of getting the staff involved in the change. It requires reorganisation of the therapists who will actually use the tool on a profound level. The pandemic was actually a great push, says Hege-Anita and explains:
The process was greatly accelerated; it would have taken probably years to transform the entire organisation as much as we did in a few weeks. And it would never have happened if the staff i.e., the therapists, had not been so good at adapting and using the new tools. Furthermore, we have some passionate souls who have done a brilliant job of planning and figuring out how to use the platform.
Hege-Anita says digital transformation may be triggered by tools, but above all, it is about organisational development and changing work processes. Therapists and patients alike share the experience of how well this new way of treatment works. The goal for the future is to increase care quality, to provide an even more user-friendly and secure digital offer for patients, as well as supporting healthcare professionals in performing their tasks in a better and more efficient way with the new technological aids – such as Visiba Care for video consultations and messaging with patients. Looking back at this time, Hege-Anita sees a positive effect on the follow-up of the patients, and she now wants to expand the use of Visiba Care to other treatment areas.