Richard S. Isaacs, MD, and Tatjana Kolevska, MD, discuss telehealth innovations

Health care organizations that want to do virtual care right might look to Kaiser Permanente for expert instruction, according to a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine Career Center.

The story about telemedicine opportunities for physicians notes that Permanente physicians have been delivering telemedicine and using virtual visits for preventative and follow-up care, behavioral health, and dermatology for more than 15 years. The COVID-19 pandemic has subsequently spurred innovation in other clinical areas, according to 2 Permanente physician leaders quoted in the story.

Richard S. Isaacs, MD, CEO and executive director of The Permanente Medical Group (TPMG), said that a pilot in “tele-critical” care has become part of a sophisticated hybrid-care model in which specialists perform remote monitoring and proceduralists provide direct patient care in intensive care units.

“Our physicians are really enjoying this — it’s as if they’re part of a team like the Navy SEALS,” said Dr. Isaacs, who also serves as president and CEO of the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group and co-CEO of The Permanente Federation.

More recently, Permanente oncologists switched to primarily video visits for cancer patients.

“We moved from 15% before the pandemic to 98% [virtual visits] within a week, and it’s been very successful,” said Tatjana Kolevska, MD, TPMG chair of Oncology and Hematology.

Dr. Kolevska added that survey findings show, somewhat surprisingly, that the majority of cancer patients are amenable to discussing sensitive issues such as a new diagnosis or a treatment failure during virtual visits.

NOTE: To read the full story, visit the NEJM Career Center website.