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AUA 2023 Quality Improvement Summit: Improving Quality and Access by Integrating Virtual Care

By: Kara Watts, MD, Montefiore Medical Center, The University Hospital for Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York; Jennifer Robles, MD, MPH, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee, Tennessee Valley (VA) Healthcare System, Nashville | Posted on: 18 Mar 2024

On December 2, 2023, the AUA convened the 2023 Quality Improvement (QI) Summit, “Tackling Telehealth: Improving Quality and Access by Integrating Virtual Care in Urology.” Telehealth was originally designed to increase delivery of health care services to patients in rural locations and has been shown to improve efficiency, increase flexibility, decrease costs, and increase satisfaction with care for both patients and providers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth rapidly became an integral and necessary tool to deliver care to urology patients, regardless of their geographic location or socioeconomic status. As the height of the pandemic has softened, telehealth has continued to be a mainstay in many urologic practices; however, numerous barriers and challenges to widespread adoption still exist. To this end, the aims of the QI Summit were to provide attendees with tools, evidence, and guidance to safely and effectively integrate or expand telehealth into their practice, with the ultimate goal of improving access and quality of care for all urologic patients.

The summit, cochaired by Dr Kara Watts and Dr Jennifer Robles, featured a diverse and multidisciplinary group of subject matter experts in telehealth who offered their unique perspectives and expertise on the integration and optimization of telehealth in urological practice. Speakers and attendees, including a group of trainees who received travel stipends to attend the summit, actively participated in in-depth conversations covering topics such as the history, current landscape, and challenges of telehealth policy, innovative telemedicine technologies, including those relevant to trainees, and strategies for integrating telehealth into urologic practice, among others. Panel members and the audience highlighted essential strategies for integrating telehealth into practice, encompassing nearly all subspecialty domains within urology. These strategies involve identifying appropriate patients for telehealth visits and e-consults within your practice, implementing follow-up communication, utilizing virtual scribes and predefined phrases, and organizing clinic schedules to optimize the integration of televisits into an in-person clinic panel.

During the summit, Dr Chad Ellimoottil emphasized that telehealth, contrary to concerns, does not result in excessive spending, does not compromise quality, and actually enhances access to care. The type of telehealth modality does not impact patient satisfaction or outcomes. Having the flexibility to complete visits by phone addresses patient technological barriers and is necessary for continued adoption of telehealth.

At the conclusion of the summit, attendees discussed potential QI resources to be developed to assist other practices in effectively integrating telehealth into their practice. The audience highlighted specific areas where urologists could benefit from guidance, including general recommendations for the discretionary use of telehealth in urologic practice, strategies for scheduling clinics, establishing trust as a telemedicine provider, and proper coding for telemedicine visits.

Additional detailed proceedings and products from the summit will be posted on the AUA website in the near future. We look forward to future discussions on how urologists can continue to offer quality care through telemedicine and expand urologic services to more patients through the use of telehealth, and future endeavors in public policy and advocacy to ensure the sustained provision of telemedicine as a high-quality mode of care.