Moffitt Works to Optimize Virtual Visits to Make the Most of Clinic Space

By Corrie Pellegrino - December 11, 2023

When a handful of Moffitt Cancer Center physicians decided to launch a telehealth pilot program in 2017, they never imagined what was to come.

“I believe we were doing 20 to 30 visits a month back then,” said Philippe Spiess, MD, assistant chief of Surgical Services and medical director of Virtual Care at Moffitt.

Then came the pandemic. In a span of two weeks, virtual visits shot up 5,000%, with Moffitt providers completing 15,000 telehealth visits by the end of fiscal year 2020. The growth has only continued since then, with 54,879 virtual visits completed in fiscal year 2023. That number is expected to continue to increase in the years to come.

With this explosive growth in mind, in October 2022, the Moffitt Medical Group launched a virtual visit optimization plan to expand access to care for patients. The goal is to have virtual visits accounting for 15% of existing outpatient clinic visits over the next five years, not including procedural visits. In fiscal year 2022, virtual visits made up 9.8% of all nonprocedural existing patient visits.

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"The goal is to be offering telemedicine for those clinically appropriate visits, meeting the patients where they’re at — meaning at home. Meanwhile, we are increasing access for new patients to be able to physically come onto our campus."

- Cristina Naso, director of Virtual Health

“The goal is to be offering telemedicine for those clinically appropriate visits, meeting the patients where they’re at — meaning at home,” explained Cristina Naso, director of Virtual Health at Moffitt. “Meanwhile, we are increasing access for new patients to be able to physically come onto our campus.”

The first step in the optimization plan was to determine what types of appointments are appropriate for telemedicine. That decision is based on the individual patient’s needs. For existing patients, many types of planning visits, check-ins and even postoperative visits may be done virtually. In certain circumstances, virtual visits may even be appropriate for new patients who live in other parts of the state and just want information about Moffitt’s innovative services or a second opinion.

As more visits shift to virtual, the plan aims to optimize scheduling by dedicating blocks of time when providers can conduct virtual visits from outside of clinic spaces. This saves time for both the patient and the provider, and it frees up clinic space for patients who need to be seen in person.

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"Telemedicine visits can often be incorporated in patients’ day-to-day schedule so they can complete their appointments at convenient times such as before or after work, or during a break. It gives them flexibility and ultimately increases access."

- Dr. Philippe Spiess, assistant chief of Surgical Services and medical director of Virtual Care

For many patients, the option to visit with their health care team virtually is very appealing. “Telemedicine visits can often be incorporated in patients’ day-to-day schedule so they can complete their appointments at convenient times such as before or after work, or during a break,” Spiess said. “It gives them flexibility and ultimately increases access.”

On May 11, 2023, the federal government announced the end of the public health emergency created by COVID. But for Moffitt’s Virtual Care team, the lessons learned about the power of telehealth will continue to drive innovative solutions to expand access to care.

“There’s definitely a lot more that we want to do in the virtual care space,” Spiess said. “I’m excited to see how this will evolve over the next couple of years while we continue to provide the highest quality cancer care to our patients but doing so meeting all of their needs and expectations, including the seamless integration of innovation and practicality.”

TELEHEALTH VISITS - BY THE NUMBERS

As the number of telehealth visits skyrocketed during the pandemic, Moffitt experts closely studied the effects of the shift on patients. In fiscal year 2023, Krupal Patel, MD; Philippe Spiess, MD; and their colleagues published three eye-opening studies demonstrating the benefits of telehealth.

$147.40 to $186.10

Savings to patients per telehealth visit, taking into consideration travel expenses and lost income

148.6 miles

Saved per visit for roundtrip travel

2.9 hours

Roundtrip driving time saved per visit

1.2 hours

Saved per telehealth visit, compared with in-clinic visits

19.8 kg

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions saved per visit for patients living within a 60-minute drive of the cancer center

98.6 kg

Carbon dioxide emissions saved per visit for patients living more than 60 minutes away

75.8%

Of telemedicine patients were satisfied with their access to care, compared to 62.5% of patients seen in person

90.7%

Of telemedicine patients were satisfied with the level of concern demonstrated by their provider, compared to 84.2% of patients seen in person

Contact the Author

Corrie Pellegrino Senior Managing Editor 813-745-0833 More Articles

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