7 best practices for supporting telehealth, virtual care, and remote visitation amid COVID-19

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare organizations were already implementing shared mobile devices in both inpatient and outpatient settings to improve care quality and the patient experience. However, the current emergency has shortened the timeline of deploying these shared devices in hospitals, presenting acquisition, security, and device management challenges. 

Given the urgent need to deploy mobile devices amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges presented by the rapid deployment of mobile devices at scale, we’d like to share some best practices for deploying shared devices quickly while reducing the burden on hospital staff.

  1. Use donated devices, but ensure a process is in place. When asking for device donations, health systems should first determine which device types and models will be accepted. The hospital also needs to make it clear if the donor will be responsible for wiping the device, or if the health system will do so. In addition, for iPad donations, health systems need to make sure that the donor has switched off their activation lock for that specific device.
  2. Keep it simple when it comes to selecting applications. When it comes to selecting the applications that will be loaded onto the shared devices, select those that are easy to use, are no-cost for patients and families and are OS agnostic. In addition, providers should consider leveraging applications that are already available and familiar to healthcare staff for telehealth initiatives.
  3. Develop a standardized process for wiping the device and setting up applications. To protect patient privacy, IT teams should develop a standardized process to ensure the device is wiped clean before it is given to a new patient. If this process is manual, IT teams should develop a detailed checklist with steps to ensure the device is fully wiped and apps are reinstalled. However, digital sanitization can be achieved through a completely automated process.
  4. Remove manual burdens when possible. To reduce the burden on IT staff and clinicians, providers should look to remove manual touches whenever possible. One way to cut out the burden of provisioning, wiping, updating, and managing a shared device is by using GroundControl, a cloud-based automation software for provisioning shared mobile devices. This has become even more relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic, when a lot of IT staff is working remotely.

    For example, if the first deployment of a shared iPad has five apps and the health system decides they want to add two additional apps, GroundControl allows providers to add those two apps via its cloud-based software. After a patient is discharged, a staff member just needs to plug the device in and the software will automatically complete a full factory reset to wipe any data and reload all of the apps the health system wants on the device.
  5. Make the devices as "touchless" as possible for patients. While completely touchless is not possible, providers have been making shared devices as touch-free as possible to cut infection risk. Some health systems are looking into allowing auto-answer functionality for applications that support video conferencing or buying convenient iPad stands for the patient rooms so the patient doesn't need to hold the device during an inpatient telehealth visit.
  6. Educate staff, patients and patients' families. It is important to teach staff, patients, and patients' loved ones the basics of how to use the device and applications. Health systems can provide this education to patients and family members several ways, including creating websites, using email templates, or providing physical handouts in the waiting room.
  7. Learn about funding opportunities. Health systems should learn about various opportunities to obtain funding, such as the Federal Communication Commission's COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Through this program, the commission will distribute $200 million to help healthcare providers fund the deployment of telehealth services to patients. Providers are eligible to receive funding for remote telehealth solutions, inpatient telehealth and cloud-based management of devices.

In summary, there are several challenges to rapidly deploying shared devices to support telehealth initiatives. However, there are several best practices that health systems can use to ensure they are effectively deploying these shared devices quickly while reducing the burden on hospital staff.

One of the solutions, Imprivata GroundControl, can completely automate the provisioning, wiping, updating and managing of a shared device, giving valuable time back to clinicians and IT staff.

To learn more about Imprivata GroundControl and how it can help providers provision and update shared devices, visit imprivata.com/patientipads.