VNA of Greater St. Louis Launches TapCloud to Help Patients in Crisis

Telehealth systems have long been a part of the medical landscape, and in the current global health crisis, such technology is in need more than ever. Most care providers are adapting as quickly as possible.

The Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis (VNA) adopted a leading telehealth program called TapCloud at the beginning of March. As a small, nonprofit care provider, the VNA can leverage the program to maintain and even expand its service capacity to patients and families in need of essential care services like hospice and advanced illness management (AIM) despite current logistical challenges.

Designed on an easily navigable platform, TapCloud is a HIPAA-secured application that allows for remote patient management for clinical staff, and simplified, customizable care plans for patients - all from the convenience of a computer, tablet or mobile device. Upon development, TapCloud was first used to bring care to patients with chronic disease in the rural Carolinas. Since then, it has evolved to become a widely used tool across various medical fields.

"VNA recognized the importance of having this platform," President and CEO Nesa Joseph, MHA, Ed. D, says. " We are proud to be able to use this program in caring for our hospice patients and those who are homebound in our advanced illness management program. We can give comfort, knowledge, and peace of mind to patients and their families through this virtual technology."

The benefits of this newly implemented system are tenfold, and its capabilities are far-reaching. Patients in the AIM program can use the platform as a symptom management tool by selecting any of the preloaded symptoms within the free downloadable app. Based on a patient's answers, TapCloud uses artificial intelligence to offer supplemental questions that enable clinicians to pinpoint the origin of the issue.

Patient Care Coordinator Amy Michaelson explains, "Everything we do in palliative care is disease-driven, so from the patient's point-of-view, this tool notifies the clinicians on how patients are feeling in ways they may not think to communicate."

Michaelson gives the example of patients with heart failure who may not make the connection that a swelling ankle can signal heart trouble, as a clinician would. Depending on other factors transmitted within the app, TapCloud would then offer an algorithm of follow-up options, such as "shortness of breath," "chest-heaviness," and "breathing difficulty with exertion," all symptoms that would raise the alarm among medical professionals. Michaelson says that the purpose of the tool is to put symptoms "in the patient's language."

Another useful aspect of the software is the capacity for virtual visits. Allowing up to four callers at one time, TapCloud can connect physicians with caregivers, patients and even other loved ones on one virtual appointment. Though this software cannot replace in-person visits, it has proven to be helpful in challenging times.

"I had a patient in a senior facility that's on lockdown, meaning medical personnel could come and go, but not family. On our virtual visit, I was able to call the patient's daughter, two grandsons and her son-in-law at one time. The family members hadn't seen their loved one in three weeks and were worried about her. It was touching to witness their family visit," says Advanced Illness Management program director, Deb Jeffrey, DNP. "Because of the geography of things, we can supplement our face-to-face visits with additional virtual visits to better keep in touch when patients have concerns."

Along with providing peace of mind for involved family members with sick loved ones, the tool's capabilities can also connect with other physicians and care specialists as needed to preserve the continuum of care. Additionally, it allows medical professionals who are already at capacity to account for everyone's needs in a simple, cost-effective way.

Though the implementation of TapCloud is evolving as patient care practices continue to change during the pandemic crisis, patients and their families can trust that the VNA will stay ahead of every development to deliver the same leading, compassionate care as it has for over 100 years.