40 Years of Technological Leadership at VITAS Healthcare
From the early days of handwritten intake forms to today’s use of virtual reality, VITAS Healthcare has been a leader in innovating patient care over the last four decades.
Long-tenured VITAS team members celebrate the extensive transformation in the tools used to deliver quality end-of-life care to patients and their families. While our mission remains the same, the tools available to us have changed considerably over the years.
Working More Efficiently, Effectively and Compassionately
“We only have one chance to make our patients’ and families’ experience as good as it can be,” says Executive Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer Bob Miller. “We’re providing the people who are out there doing the care with the tools that they need in order to do their work more efficiently and effectively, but more importantly, more compassionately.”
VITAS maintains a culture of continuous improvement. Whenever new technology is proven to provide patients and families with an improved experience, we plan to implement it. Sometimes adopting new tools requires in-house development of entirely new systems and methods to support their use, and living up to our value of putting patients and families first is always worth the effort.
Developing Digital Infrastructure from the Ground Up
Documentation and record keeping were performed manually in the formative years of VITAS. Clinical teams were skeptical of early computer systems, and handheld devices were seen as a distraction from patient visits.
Despite these concerns, the convenience and functionality that computers afforded was undeniable. VITAS built its proprietary digital infrastructure from the ground up, resulting in “a world-class patient management system,” Miller says.
The new system – and our clinical teams’ eventual adoption of mobile devices – ensured fewer gaps in patient care. This created more engaged interactions with patients and families and a safer “workplace” for our hospice teams, whose cars often served as secondary office space.
How Far We’ve Come
VITAS has made considerable progress over the past decade. In 2012, VITAS launched a hospice referral app for mobile devices, streamlining referrals for physicians and their hospice-eligible patients. Ongoing improvements to the app continue to make it simpler for clinicians to get answers to their hospice-eligibility questions and refer their patients to VITAS.
In 2018, VITAS announced a collaboration with AT&T to explore the potential of 5G mobile networking technology in hospice settings. Using 5G and virtual/augmented reality, VITAS and AT&T are reducing chronic pain and anxiety in appropriate patients.
“I look at where we are today and realize how far we’ve come,” says Maggie Macfarlane, senior director of medical claims review. “[We’re] more efficient, and we can still be with the patients and families.”