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Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin: Engaging patients in a crisis

It was 2:30 a.m. on the first night of 24/7 remote patient monitoring when a patient reached out to the Froedtert Hospital COVID-19 Care Team (Froedtert team) through GetWell Loop.

“Just think what an impact that must have had,” says Natalie Mortensen, MSN, RN, Manager at Inception Health, a digital technology innovation partner of Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. “Someone was scared enough to reach out that late at night...and got a response.”

Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin’s health network includes five hospitals, more than 1600 physicians and almost 40 health centers. Although they have been using the GetWell Loop solution since 2016, 24/7 patient monitoring on GetWell Loop was uncharted territory.

The rapid emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic encouraged the Froedtert team to identify an opportunity within the GetWell Loop solution set. They immediately turned to GetWell Loop’s COVID-19 care plans. This was an obvious choice and offered a digital solution for patients to engage with care providers during a time of isolation and social distancing.

Froedtert team members additionally participated in providing input on the initial drafts of the GetWell Loop COVID-19 care plans. Staying close to the content helped ensure they were aligned with appropriate symptoms, most recent developments and best practices from the Centers for Disease Control.  

Staying in touch, even apart

GetWell Loop is used for the monitoring of patients outside of the traditional hospital care setting, allowing the Froedtert team to track the health of patients who are quarantined or self-isolating at home. To assist, the central pandemic triage group (a group of APPs who managed all testing and results for the health system), introduced GetWell Loop to the patient, which facilitated activation.

“Patients are scared,” says Mortensen. “But they are so thrilled to be in contact with their providers.”

"I felt that during a time of loneliness, I had professionals available to ask questions," wrote one patient.

Transitioning to 24/7 care

When Froedtert first launched their COVID-19-specific Loops, including an Active Symptom or Exposure Loop and a Self-Monitoring Loop, patient comments and questions were monitored during business hours. Two full-time nurses who ran Froedtert’s traditional orthopedic Loops redeployed in the fight against COVID-19 to assist with monitoring, and soon found that COVID-19 symptoms did not fit standard “business hours.”

“Before the establishment of 24/7 monitoring, patients would trigger red alerts between 9 and 10 at night,” says Mortensen. “We would see them come into the inbox and couldn’t ignore them, so we would pick up the phone to triage. We could not let the red alert sit until the next morning knowing that a patient may need a higher level of care at that moment in time. It felt like too much of a risk to let it be.”

The Froedtert team worked hard to find a plan and partnered with the eRNs on their Virtual Care Team who currently provide inpatient units with 24/7 monitoring and assistance. The eRNs were excited and willing to offer support for evening hours to address red alerts and comments, allowing the Loops to be monitored 24/7. Together, the nursing teams were able to offer a seamless experience for patients in need of monitoring and reassurance, removing all boundaries to symptom management.

Mortensen continues: “Maybe the overnight hours are slow — or dare I say, quiet — but for that one patient who needs us, that’s who we are looking to impact.”

With a response time of less than two hours from the providers, and patient satisfaction of 95% with the COVID-19 Loops, the Froedtert team is certainly making that impact.

Leave no one behind

In moving to 24/7 monitoring, the Froedtert team made tremendous efforts to focus on patients who were minimally engaged in their Loops. Even if they never wrote back, the team would check in persistently, ensuring that the patient knew they had a resource available to them in times of concern. This strategy paid off.

"It was nice to know that someone was checking in on my symptoms everyday,” shared one patient. “It can be hard to get to a person at a doctor's office so it was nice to know that someone was checking in daily."

Another concurred: "Everything was a positive experience. They communicate and check and double check and made sure I was getting everything I needed."

Staying agile in tough times

For other health systems in a similar situation, Mortensen offers some advice.

“The most important thing is the ability to stay agile. Everything is changing so frequently. It’s not like in other situations where you have a nice timeline to plan, review, and adjust. This is more of a situation where you go live, do what you can, stay in touch with your patients, and collaborate with other teams to meet patient needs.”

She continues: “When things are incredibly unpredictable, you have to pivot at a moment’s notice, so it’s important to ensure you have the right people in position, who are comfortable with the rapid pace of change. With COVID-19, we have seen several new symptoms arise in a short period. Rely on people and tools that are flexible and can operate outside of the box. GetWellNetwork has allowed us to continually and effectively engage with our patients, despite the change.”

The bottom line

The GetWellNetwork COVID-19 Loops provided a virtual bridge between patients and providers during a time of social distancing, enabling Froedtert’s patients to feel well cared for and giving providers access to the information necessary for caretaking. 24/7 monitoring further demonstrated Froedtert’s commitment to keeping the community healthy and patients safe at all hours. 

In a time of anxiety, fear, confusion and uncertainty, Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin leveraged GetWell Loop through technology and patient engagement to provide education, reassurance and comfort to those in need.