Long distance virtual care on offer at Boston hospital
Healthcare teams overseas have adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic by setting up virtual consultations with Bermudian patients.
Tatiana Sultzbach, the director of the Centre for International and Specialised Healthcare Services at Massachusetts General Hospital, said that staff were looking at how the use of technology could be expanded to help people who could not – or would rather not – leave the island over the coronavirus crisis.
She added: “This global pandemic disrupted international travel into and out of the US from almost everywhere in the world.”
Ms Sultzbach said: “In light of ongoing travel disruptions, we have been working diligently to find new and more ways that Mass General can be there for our patients long distance.
“We are exploring how we might work together even more closely with colleagues and leadership in Bermuda to leverage virtual visits and technology to continue caring for our patients who might not be able to or ready to come to the US right now.”
She added that patients from Bermuda had raised concerns about “their safety and potential exposure to Covid-19 while travelling, while being in a hospital setting or even just being in the US”.
Ms Sultzbach said: “Some patients have questions about what it’s like to be in an airplane or how to avoid infection risk in airports and hotels, while other patients have questions about what it will be like at Mass General – will they be tested for Covid when they arrive, can they bring a loved one to their appointments and more.
“We assure our Bermudian patients that Mass General has deepened our safe care commitment to patient health and safety by implementing a number of additional tests and procedures related to coronavirus.
“We guide our Bermudian patients through these measures before, during and after their appointment in Boston.
“Before a Bermudian patient flies to Boston for their appointment, our staff here in the international patient centre now conduct a video-based face-to-face call with each patient.
“We connect and talk through what the patient can expect when travelling, what to expect when they arrive here at Mass General, and it allows us to screen for Covid risks and gives the patient the chance to ask any and all questions.”
Ms Sultzbach added that the aim was to have consultations with doctors in Bermuda to decide if a patient “truly needs to travel at this time”.
She said: “For people who are immunosuppressed, such as some types of cancer patients, the clinical teams in Bermuda and at Mass General consult together on that patient’s particular case in order to provide the safest treatment and/or travel as possible.
“Everyone travelling is highly encouraged to do so when it is safe for them and while adhering to travel regulations to avoid exposure."
Ms Sultzbach added: “We’re exploring ways to use virtual visits or technology in Bermuda to continue caring for our patients who might not be able to or ready to come to the US.
“That said, we strongly encourage patients to seek immediate care for treatments that can’t be delayed or concerning new medical issues. Whether you seek care on-island or here in Boston, the vital message is the same – don’t delay care.”
Anne Marie Blondin, a client liaison at Massachusetts General Hospital, said that the international patient centre, “works closely with all parties involved in a Bermudian patient’s care decisions”.
She added that included the patient, their doctors on the island and in Boston as well as the insurance provider.
Ms Blondin said: “Together, we collaborate on each patient’s case.
“We take into consideration multiple factors, recognising that each patient is unique and therefore create an individual plan for the best treatment approach, whether it is an established or new patient.”
A Bermuda Hospitals Board spokeswoman said this week that the organisation continued to “support our patients who require referrals to overseas medical facilities“.
She added: “Needs vary depending on the patient, their condition and the medical facility they plan to attend.
“BHB works with our patients and overseas colleagues to assist each patient to the best of our ability.”