While the COVID-19 pandemic made clear the need for virtual visits, Jefferson experts had already established themselves as leaders in the field.
COVID-19 highlighted the dire need for efficient telehealth offerings around the globe. The pandemic also drew attention toward Jefferson’s work to provide the state-of-the-art connected care in the years prior to the coronavirus’ arrival in Philadelphia and beyond.
Reflecting that forward-thinking mindset, the University has announced the launch of the National Center for Telehealth Education and Research (NCTER) to further establish its place as a nationally recognized leader in the field.
JeffConnect and the Institute of Emerging Health Professions within Jefferson’s College of Health Professions have undertaken this effort as a way to bring novel telehealth education and research into practice. It was spurred on by the unexpected reality of the pandemic forcing many healthcare professionals to use telehealth without any training.
The “Connected Care: Telehealth and Digital Health Innovation” certificate-program—which runs from Oct. 19 through Dec. 18—aims to provide advanced training to clinicians currently practicing telehealth in an effort to ensure the best care possible. This joins a growing array of programming offered by NCTER to meet the needs of a community providing care in the midst of a pandemic.
Dr. Michael Dryer, dean of the Jefferson College of Health Professions, and Dr. Judd Hollander, associate dean of strategic health initiatives at Sidney Kimmel Medical College, spoke about the program’s importance. Each also noted that the University is uniquely qualified to blaze more telehealth trails.
“If you’re going to create the future of medicine, you have to train people to do it. You can’t just roll it out. You need to be able to provide that education,” says Dr. Hollander, adding that internal training and discussions both escalated at the pandemic’s outset and accelerated efforts already moving in that direction.
What’s unique about this is how we’ll bring research, clinical and other academics together to provide a center that can provide education, training and a research infrastructure. –Dr. Michael Dryer
To put that latter aspect into perspective, Dr. Hollander notes that Jefferson celebrated the milestone of 100,000 total video visits in the summer of 2019.
“During COVID, we were doing that every four weeks,” he says. “We were unique in doing this before COVID because we knew telemedicine training was important. It was an evolution, and now, we need to be better and more robust post-COVID.”
Dr. Dryer concurs that COVID-19 laid bare the need to “establish an infrastructure to train and educate professionals in how to provide effective, high-quality services that are sustainable during and after the pandemic.”
“What’s unique about this is how we’ll bring research, clinical and other academics together to provide a center that can provide education, training and a research infrastructure,” Dr. Dryer says. “Jefferson’s group members are pioneers in this.”
We recognize that there’s a huge gap of what’s needed to ensure the health of the country, and COVID brought that to light. –Dr. Michael Dryer
He also shares that Jefferson’s unique approach will stand out at a time when there are programs providing telehealth and connected-care training elsewhere.
“Our goal is training and building a foundation for education to prepare for the future as telehealth grows: from how it works and what the regulations are, to a whole picture of what’s involved which will enable people to take their skills and build on them over time,” he says. “We’ll be offering everything from a one-hour course up to a doctoral degree.”
While an advanced course (which can be taken individually or as part of the certificate program) launched several weeks ago, the duo says it won’t be time for “champagne-bottle” celebrations until the center itself is launched. There’s no distinct timetable for that, but they will share a seven-minute video at an American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) event in November to serve as a national introduction to the effort.
It’s no minor point that Jefferson Health’s Dr. Shruti Chandra was integral in helping establish the AAMC’s competencies and develop standards for telehealth.
“We recognize that there’s a huge gap of what’s needed to ensure the health of the country, and COVID brought that to light,” Dr. Dryer says. “The world, and healthcare, changed. Telehealth is part of that. We’re prepared now, and preparing for a nation that needs telehealth in the future.”