Background/Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic poses enormous resource challenges to hospitals. Telemedicine is increasingly recognized as an attractive tool to alleviate resource strains. Herein we describe the rapid implementation and sequential process improvement (PI) of a centralized telehospitalist service to coordinate and optimize management of large number of COVID-19 patients in a tertiary and quaternary care hospital very close to the New York City epicenter. Methods: Prospective multidisciplinary PI meetings were held weekly between March 23 and May 10, 2020, and consensus service modifications were implemented for the following week. Inpatient census data, telehospitalist intervention volumes, and service utilization statistics were collected. Results/Discussion: Between March 23 and May 10, 2020, a total of 745 COVID-19 patients were admitted to the general medical wards. The telehospitalist service performed 1,136 audiovisual (AV) patient assessments, 379 best practice interventions, cohorted 108 patients, and conducted 170 remote family conversations. During the consecutive PI cycles, a number of adaptations in AV setup, care standardization, patient logistics, communication, and consultative functions were made to load balance the bedside hospitalist teams. As the COVID-19 hospital census increased to peak levels, the most value was added through facilitation of communication and collaboration between the bedside clinical teams, the infection prevention and control teams, and patient logistics team. Conclusions: A telehospitalist service can be rapidly implemented with basic telemedicine equipment. Processes/this functions can be sequentially adapted to quickly changing needs during conditions such as the COVID-19 pandemic that very quickly can place extraordinary strains on hospital resources.
Keywords: communications; disaster medicine; economics; pandemic; telehospitalist; telemedicine.