NMHS Upgrades Wired, Wireless Networks to Enhance COVID-19 Care
Infectious disease physician Malinda Prewitt, M.D., uses telehealth to consult on patients at NMHS community hospitals.
TUPELO, Miss.—North Mississippi Health Services recently upgraded the wired and wireless networks at all six of its community hospitals to enhance care for COVID-19 and other patients, thanks to CARES Act Provider Relief Funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
North Mississippi Health Services includes North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo and community hospitals in Amory, Eupora, Iuka, Pontotoc and West Point, Mississippi, and Hamilton, Alabama. “All of our community hospitals have now been updated to state-of-the-art equipment,” said Benton Kilman, M.D., NMHS interim chief information officer. “This upgrade advances our ability to deliver high quality audio video communication, improving the experience for both COVID-19 patients, as well as all other patients we serve.”
The project, which totaled more than $2.5 million, will enable the community hospitals to:
- Reduce the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). When it is not necessary for the nurse to enter a COVID-19 patient’s room, he or she can communicate via video with the patient from the nurses’ desk or hallway. This limits the use of PPE which has been in short supply during the pandemic. Both the patient and the nurse have a robust audio-video experience.
- Provide specialty consultation. Patients who are less acutely ill with COVID-19 can remain at community hospitals rather than being transferred to NMMC in Tupelo. The doctors caring for them can consult through video telehealth with specialists (such as pulmonologists, cardiologists, nephrologists and others).
- Enhance the quality and dependability of ER-to-ER video consultation. This technology will enhance collaboration among providers in Tupelo and community hospitals to improve access to health care providers throughout our region and avoid unnecessary transports.
- Provide routine rounding. Hospitalists at NMMC hospitals can make virtual rounds on COVID-19 patients to enhance access to physicians where and when needed.
- Provide specialty consultation into the nursing homes. To limit exposure of nursing home residents to COVID-19 and other transmissible illnesses, patients can have video visits with their health care provider.
NMHS’ Information Technology Services staff has worked on an unprecedented timeline to complete the upgrades and installation of video devices in a record two months. The last hospital upgrade was completed Sept. 30. Nurses and physicians are now being trained in the use of the telehealth technology.
While the technology is geared toward COVID-19 patients, others will benefit as well. “Through this technology, patients at our community hospitals can receive consultations with specialists just as if they were in Tupelo,” Dr. Kilman said. "It has been wonderful to see the excitement in the staff at the community hospitals knowing that they will be able to improve patient care through this new technology."
Via telehealth, patients at community hospitals like NMMC-West Point can see medical specialists on staff at NMMC-Tupelo.
Comments from Community Hospitals:
“For them it means faster communication with the patient, ability to just ‘check in’ as often as wanted or needed so the patients do not feel so isolated and lessen the exposure not only to themselves but to their families as they go home from their shift,” said Cathy Mitchell, NMMC Gilmore-Amory chief nursing officer. “Without the partnership of NMHS, we would not have been able to provide this service for our community and our staff. We are very thankful for the connectedness.”
“We are excited about being able to provide integrated specialty care at the bedside in all patient care areas,” said Robin Mixon, administrator of NMMC-Eupora.
“Telemedicine is part of the future, and I am glad to see that we are moving in that direction,” said Robert Trimm, administrator of North Mississippi Medical Center-Hamilton. “This technology investment will allow our community to access health care specialties that have not previously been available here.”
“We are excited to implement this new technology in our hospital to benefit the patients in our community,” said Kathy Patrick, NMMC-Iuka chief nursing officer. “We foresee that patients will be able to stay at our small community hospital and receive consults from specialists the same as if they were at a larger facility. Some patients may not have to travel to a larger hospital, which is much easier on them and their families.”
“We are so thankful for the upgrades and equipment received,” said Leslia Carter, administrator of NMMC-Pontotoc. “This will increase our monitoring capabilities as well as create a seamless approach to care.”
“This technology investment for our facility will allow our community to access health care specialties that have not been previously available in West Point,” said Barry Keel, administrator of NMMC-West Point. “This is a milestone marker for our medical community and another indication of the investment that North Mississippi Health Services is making in our local hospital to provide exceptional care to our residents.”