In February and March 2020, the inevitable happened: COVID-19 came to the United States, hitting the country’s healthcare system like a 10-pound sledgehammer. By March 18, when CMS announced that all “non-essential medical, surgical and dental procedures” had to be delayed, it was clear that the pandemic was having an unprecedented impact on patient care—and things would likely never be the same.
As COVID-19 continued to spread, cardiologists were asked to embrace telehealth with open arms. Patient visits morphed into phone calls and video conferences, for instance, and working remotely became an essential part of the job. These changes overwhelmed some specialists, causing additional stress at an already chaotic moment in time. But David Braden, MD, a pediatric cardiologist in Jackson, Mississippi, was able to adapt much easier than many of his colleagues.
Braden specializes in transthoracic echocardiograms (TTEs), reading nearly 2,000 each year for his own solo practice and another 2,000 for other providers. Like other cardiologists throughout the country, he felt the financial effects of COVID-19, losing roughly 60% of his business by early April. Instead of panicking, however, he had a secret weapon that helped him bounce back to nearly full strength in just two months: Hitachi’s Vidistar Platform, an advanced informatics solution capable of multi-modality viewing, structured reporting, analytics and much more.
“There was no drop in care at all,” Braden says. “I’m sure glad I didn’t have to hustle and find a remote platform in the middle of the pandemic. Vidistar was already in place for me, and it made a big difference.”
Braden has been a loyal Vidistar customer for more than seven years now, first discovering the company’s platform back in 2013. And when Hitachi Healthcare Americas acquired Vidistar in 2018, everything he originally loved about the platform remained in place—Hitachi used its resources to continue Vidistar’s vision instead of distorting it.
A culture of collaboration
One of Braden’s favorite things about working with Vidistar is its eagerness to collaborate. He recalls first using the platform, how he felt there was still room for improvement when it came its reporting options for pediatric cardiologists. When Braden brought this up to Vidistar, the company ended up personally bringing him in to help address those issues head-on.
“I sat down with them and we worked on a new and improved package,” Braden says. “They were very open to my input about drop-down menus and other details. Now, with everything modified to make the cardiologist’s life as easy as possible, you can generate an entire report in just five minutes. It’s very easy and convenient, and I know I always have the opportunity to suggest new updates as I see fit.”
David Wilson, director of corporate communications for Hitachi Healthcare Americas, says continued collaborations between healthcare providers and vendors are necessary to succeed in today’s quality-focused landscape. There’s no better way to demonstrate the value of your solutions than to interact—and learn from—the people who use them on a daily basis.
“You want to make sure your software isn’t a burden on the cardiologist’s workflow,” Wilson says. “It’s important to learn as much as you can about how the user will act and react in certain situations. There’s some risk to that, because not all doctors do everything the same way, but we combine the cardiologist feedback with various industry standards and then use that knowledge to implement systems that make everyone happy.”
Close collaborations also help Hitachi stay up to date with he latest policies, techniques and trends impacting the industry. Wilson notes that the biggest breakthroughs don’t happen in corporate offices—they happen in research labs and on the frontlines, where cardiologists are working around the clock to treat the very patients they serve. If you don’t hear from these specialists on a regular basis, you simply miss out on the key information they bring to the table.
Now, Braden gets to experience the benefits of those early collaborations every time he completes a final report.
“I click one button, I generate the report and then the referring doctor receives it almost immediately,” he says. “It’s just so convenient from that standpoint.”
Improved efficiency, clear images
Braden notes that Vidistar impacts almost every aspect of what he does on a day-to-day basis. The platform can be used to view patient images, upload preliminary reports, complete final reports, update the EMR, communicate with referring physicians and auto-populate data—and it allows all of that to be done remotely.
In fact, Braden says, the platform does so much that he sometimes takes it for granted. And then he’ll read a TTE for a customer that has yet to link its data to Vidistar, forcing him to access the EMR the old-fashioned way, and reminds him yet again how efficient patient care can be when a single solution does so much.
“I read studies for some hospitals that don’t have Vidistar yet, and I have to go through two or three different steps just to start working,” he says. “I groan a little bit when that happens, because I know it’s going to take more time and labor to do my job.”
Another key sticking point to Braden is the high quality of the platform’s images. Transferring those large datasets over a network can cause challenges for some vendors, but Vidistar has always made clarity a top priority.
“Some applications do a progressive download, where the image is blurry at first and then it slowly gets more clear,” Wilson explains. “In my experience, though, cardiologists aren’t necessarily patient enough to wait for that; they start scrolling right away before the full image is even showing up. With Vidistar, the cardiologist gets a high-quality image from the very beginning.”
A long, lasting relationship
Braden also tips his hat to Vidistar’s strong customer service. Downtime has been incredibly rare over the years, he says, but whenever there has been an issue, it’s always been addressed quickly and with great sincerity. Even after the Hitachi acquisition, when some companies might focus solely on revenue and let customer relationships evaporate, Braden says he has always felt respected, like an equal as opposed to just another customer.
“I may just be a small fish in a big ocean, but I’m a big supporter of Vidistar and everything they do,” he says. “I’ve become friends with these guys over the years, and I really believe in them. During this pandemic, it has been especially beneficial to have such quick and easy remote access to my patients’ information and images. I could not do what I do without Vidistar.”