A Practical Guide
In healthcare IT since 2005, ScienceSoft designs and develops efficient virtual hospital solutions to help healthcare providers shift towards remote patient care.
A virtual hospital solution is a way to provide remote hospital-level care and monitoring to patients with communicable (e.g., COVID-19) and non-communicable diseases (e.g., diabetes). Virtual hospital solutions leverage telehealth for audiovisual communication and messaging, Internet of Things to access to data from connected medical devices, AI for disease patterns identification, and more.
According to Deloitte, 60% of surveyed large health systems plan additional investments into virtual care. Virtual hospitals enable patients to actively engage in managing their health, and bring benefits like increased efficiency of medical staff, reduced expenses on personal protective equipment, improved patient outcomes.
Solution composition: A patient app, a care team app, an admin web panel, a cloud server.
Key solution integrations: Smart connected devices, EHR, a practice management system.
Key elements of a virtual hospital solution:
- A patient app – to schedule and visit virtual appointments, message doctors/nurses to consult about the symptoms, track health state (e.g., vitals and symptoms) and medication intake, view treatment plans, request medication refills, etc. The app can also be used by a patient’s caregiver (e.g., a relative) to help better coordinate the care.
- An app for the virtual hospital care team (e.g., nurses, general physicians, cardiologists, physical therapists) – to provide online patient consultations, examinations, suggest treatment changes, access and evaluate patients’ vitals, tests results, medical images, manage patients’ medication, etc.
- A video streaming server for real-time audiovisual communication between patients and the virtual hospital care team.
- A cloud data storage and processing module for storage of PHIs, consultation recordings, etc., and analysis of patient information (e.g., device-generated data, treatment plans).
- An admin web panel (for virtual hospital administrators, etc.) – to manage user access to virtual hospital software, view the list of patients, etc.
Virtual communication between a patient and medical staff
- Regular check-ins with the patient (e.g., once a day) and scheduled consultations via audiovisual communication.
- On-demand consultations via messages or video calls (e.g., for patients to consult on medication plan adaptation).
- (for patients) Requesting medication refill and delivery.
- Consultations on patient support for family members.
- Emergency call to a local ambulance team.
Patient treatment coordination
- Monitoring a patient’s health state and medication intake using manually entered data or data automatically uploaded from connected medical devices (e.g., blood pressure monitor, smart thermometer, smart pill bottle).
- Online medication plan creating and editing.
- In-app medication prescription, including prescription renewals.
- Tests scheduling.
- Scheduling additional patient consultations with doctors (e.g., physical therapists, mental health specialists).
Virtual hospital data analytics
- Dashboard with real-time data on the health state of virtual hospital patients.
- AI-based detection of patterns in patients’ symptoms.
- Notifications to a doctor or a nurse on abnormal health parameters and vitals’ trends.
- AI recommendations on treatment plan optimization.
- Analytics of expenses on virtual hospital patients (e.g., time spent by a care team on each patient).
Personal health data management (for patients)
- Updating and editing personal information in the patient profile (e.g., billing address, contact information).
- Upload of previous medical records and reports, medical images, and test results acquired from third-party providers.
- Logging of medication intake, new symptoms.
- Access to a care plan featuring medication plan, latest appointment reports, etc.
Patient support and accessibility features in the patient app
- Personalized in-app health education materials for patients and families to improve care.
- AI-based chatbots to provide support to patients with chronic diseases (e.g., to consult on disease symptoms).
- Text-to-speech capabilities
- to enable virtual hospital usage by visually impaired patients.
- Voice control for patients with vision impairments, motor dysfunctions, etc.
- A large font option.
Data security for virtual hospital patients
- Multi-factor authentication for virtual hospital users (patients, nurses, doctors, etc.).
- Role-based access management.
- End-to-end data encryption (e.g., of PHIs, appointment recordings).
- Secure storage and transmission of PHI between a patient and a healthcare provider.
- HIPAA and HITECH compliance.
Billing management for virtual hospital services (for patients)
- View of insurance plans coverage, bills for virtual and on-site care, tests, etc.
- Access to explanations of benefits.
- Online bill payment via secure payment gateways.
Alena Nikuliak, ScienceSoft’s Healthcare IT Consultant with 9+ years of experience, shares insights:
"The implementation of a virtual hospital is especially suitable for chronic diseases, rehabilitation, and mental health divisions, as they generally don’t require urgent medical attention. Using virtual hospital software, the healthcare organization can distribute the workload of doctors and nurses and allow them to monitor more patients at the same time."
Vital Integrations for a Virtual Hospital Solution
To ensure access to cohesive and comprehensive patient information across all apps, ScienceSoft’s experts recommend integrating virtual hospital software with all relevant healthcare IT systems. Here are the most common integrations:
- Smart medical devices for patients – to provide the virtual hospital care team with real-time data on vitals, medication intake, etc., for disease monitoring.
- EHR/EMR – to provide immediate access to a patient’s medical history, chronic conditions, allergies, and contact information for the virtual hospital care team, etc.
- Practice management system – to facilitate patient’s access to the healthcare specialists’ schedules, automate patient billing data entering to the system, etc.
- Medical imaging software and a laboratory information system – to enable an instant view of a patient’s X-rays, CT scans, etc., and lab test results for the care team to decide on treatment adjustment, patient readmission to a hospital, etc.
With 100+ successful healthcare projects under their belts, ScienceSoft’s consultants name four key factors which help ensure efficiency and maximize patient adoption of a virtual hospital solution, leading to a faster ROI.
Patient engagement techniques
To encourage patients to follow the treatment process consistently, you can implement tools like notifications on medication intake, upcoming appointments, personalized educational materials on a patient’s disease, quizzes on their chronic conditions, achievement badges for thorough symptoms tracking, etc.
Cross-platform compatibility and optimization for mobile devices
As a virtual hospital app can be used by patients on their own devices, the app should be compatible with various smartphones, tablets, laptops, PCs, and displayed properly on various screens.
When integrated with the patient monitoring devices (e.g., glucose monitors), the virtual hospital solution enables the medical staff to make informed care decisions based on the accurate real-time patient data.
Take the burden off the nursing staff! Analytics of patient-generated health data in real time will help automate patient monitoring and reduce the load of the medical professionals.
Depending on the functionality of virtual hospital software, the costs range from $800,000 (for a solution with RPM functionality, online communication with patients, data analytics of the incoming patients’ vitals) to $3,000,000 (for a large-scale solution with advanced clinical decision support functionality).
Key financial benefits
Mitigated medical staff shortage due to patient monitoring tasks automation, improved medical specialists’ efficiency, optimized schedules. Virtual hospitals bring an increase in the number of patients a nurse can assist, compared to the inpatient care.
Efficient bed allocation and reduced operational expenses per patient due to decreased complications and hospitalizations of remotely monitored patients. After implementing a virtual hospital ward, Northampton General Hospital Trust reported that 76% of asthma patients avoided hospitalizations.
Decreased length of hospital stay and lowered readmission rate due to virtual hospital care and rehabilitation. With a virtual hospital ward, the Glenfield Hospital managed to cut bed days by 40% amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The University of New England (Australia) implemented a virtual hospital solution to monitor over 350 patients with moderate COVID-19 symptoms in their homes. This solution helped tackle high patient flow, reduced health risks for medical staff, and prompted the roll-out of virtual hospitals across the country.
- Leeds Community Hospital (United Kingdom) launched a virtual ward providing support and monitoring services for up to 40 senior patients a day. As a result, a virtual hospital solution saved nearly 10,000 bed days in 2 years.
- Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (United Kingdom) launched a COVID-19 virtual hospital ward to cater to an area with a population of 500,000 residents. Within a year and a half, they managed to shift around 45% of patient assessments to the virtual hospital and helped 90% of patients stay at home.
Virtual Hospital Implementation: Success Stories by ScienceSoft
Development of a Remote Care Solution
Customer: A US-based provider of healthcare solutions.
Solution: ScienceSoft delivered a remote patient monitoring and care delivery solution, which aggregated and processed data from multiple Bluetooth sensors (e.g., tracking vitals). The solution included a communication app, a home app for patients, and more.
Telehealth App Development for Chiron Health
Customer: A US telemedicine platform, Chiron Health.
Solution: ScienceSoft has developed a HIPAA-compliant Android telehealth app that allows patients to book and attend online appointments with physicians through secure video communication. The app integrates seamlessly with the existing apps (EHR or EMR, RIS, LIS).
Mobile Care Coordination App Development
Customer: A US leading health information exchange (HIE) vendor.
Solution: ScienceSoft created a mobile care coordination app that creates a continuum of care by connecting patients with their caregivers across organizations and specialties.
Virtual Hospital Pitfalls and Ways to Overcome Them
Medical staff hesitance to adopt virtual care
According to McKinsey, 43% of physicians would prefer to offer only offline services.
How to overcome
How to overcome: Design a virtual hospital solution around the specific needs of your medical staff. User-friendly software with convenient functionality will help reduce the staff’s manual workload, automate routine paperwork, and let them focus on the care itself. Train your medical staff on the use of virtual care software, as well as on the efficient ways to provide care and build rapport with a patient remotely.
PHI privacy and security
Deloitte reports that 60% of healthcare executives name it as a prominent long-term concern.
How to overcome
How to overcome: Plan and conduct regular security assessments of a virtual hospital software, focus on proactive software and infrastructure monitoring. To reduce the risk of human error, train the medical staff on the key information security practices.
ScienceSoft is experienced in delivering virtual hospital functionality
We engaged ScienceSoft to build an Android app that complements our web-based telemedicine platform. The platform allows caregivers to connect with patients for routine follow-ups and similar use cases.
ScienceSoft advised and successfully led the way from end to end through the technical challenges and considerations with development of the Android app. We have also engaged them to introduce a few enhancements to the app and would certainly consider ScienceSoft as a technology partner in further software development initiatives.
Justin Turner, CTO, Chiron Health
Some healthcare providers choose to use a set of OOTB products to provide virtual care (e.g., a telehealth app, a patient portal) instead of building a custom virtual hospital solution to cover all their needs at once. Off-the-shelf apps serve as a quick and cost-effective way to start offering remote care to your patients. However, ScienceSoft recommends opting for a custom virtual hospital solution if you need to:
Ensure seamless integration with connected medical devices and required medical software (EHR, medical imaging software, etc.), including legacy solutions. For example, when ScienceSoft developed a telehealth solution for a US business running several medical practices, we integrated the custom software with the healthcare organization’s EHR system.
Get tailored functionality for advanced specialized care you plan to provide via a virtual hospital (e.g., neurological, cardiovascular care).
Implement advanced data analytics of virtual hospital patients’ data to predict the course of the disease, including potential complications (for treatment improvement and research purposes). In our project for a US leading HIE vendor, ScienceSoft implemented patient data analytics to identify medical risks probability.
Being an ISO 13485-certified technology partner, ScienceSoft can help you implement your virtual hospital solution to provide continuous monitoring and treatment of remote patients, optimize hospital bed allocation, and minimize the hospital readmission rate.
Established in 1989, ScienceSoft is an international IT consulting and software development company headquartered in McKinney, Texas, US. ScienceSoft holds ISO 13485 certificate and designs and develops medical software according to the requirements of the FDA and the Council of the European Union. Based on healthcare software development expertise obtained since 2005, ScienceSoft offers virtual hospital consulting and development services to help you leverage the benefits of virtual healthcare delivery.