AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


A Moment of Clarity

In order to make true progress in any industry, there must first be a clear vision, with goals and milestones laid out to define the path forwards. For telehealth, this vision must be extremely fluid, due to the constant introduction of new technologies and new research findings shaping best practices for successful implementation.

2012 was an important year, with new developments in government regulation shaping policy and procedure as well as a great deal of newsmedia coverage of the benefits of telehealth programs for healthcare systems and the patients they serve. Thanks to this progress, the vision for 2013 and beyond is becoming clearer.

First, 2012 helped us form a better understanding of the difference between telemedicine and telehealth. Whereas the power of telemedicine lies in its ability to connect doctors and extend care to new frontiers, telehealth places more emphasis on the role of patients. Traditionally, physicians and payers decided how healthcare was delivered. Today, consumers and employers have more say. Granting patients a voice in the dialogue has resulted in new avenues for improving the speed and quality of healthcare delivery – better home monitoring, non-emergency teleconsultation, and other services that reduce the use of valuable time and resources.

Going hand-in-hand with patient knowledge has been focused awareness of the steps that technology needs to take to enable better delivery. Generally speaking, usability is a major consideration. Improving infrastructure, particularly the availability and speed of broadband access will be pivotal to moving the needle on healthcare delivery. There is also a need for simpler, user-friendly hardware. Smartphones and tablets are far more likely to enter patient’s lexicon than diagnostics systems and more complex robotics.

Combining a more open dialogue with patients and giving them the tools they need and will bolster telehealth’s role in the healthcare ecosystem in 2013. Fortunately, hospitals have gained this clarity and are placing high priority on adopting telehealth programs. As this understanding becomes clearer, the impact will be greater.



Extreme Telemedicine and the Urgency of Now

January and the New Year bring the Consumer Electronics Show, an exposition of tremendous scale where the newest and flashiest concepts and prototypes for technological marvel are put on display for the public. Innovation in medicine was a hot-button topic at this year’s show, as more and more attention has been focused on the state of the US healthcare system.

There is a new television commercial from a leading innovator in communications technology making its rounds. A segment of the ad shows a group of climbers on a snow covered mountain communicating with a doctor on a tablet computer. The doctor is explaining how to set the apparently broken leg of one of the members of the crew. This 5 second scene, interspersed with other vignettes displaying the company’s visions for the future of its technologies, is an intriguing and exciting flash forward into the vast potential that telemedicine holds for the future.

Of course, one could imagine countless such scenarios in which powerful telemedicine will eventually play a game-changing role. We are on the cusp of a huge revolution in medicine, fueled by relentless innovation like that on display at CES or in the television spot.

The fact of the matter is that telemedicine has already brought this future to our doorstep. While the ‘dreamers’ consider what capabilities advanced technology might ultimately unlock, many physicians are already working with very advanced tools to address issues that are urgent now. For AcuteCare Telemedicine, the focus remains on offering sustainable and highly effective resources to deal with the increasing prevalence of stroke and other neurological emergencies. Through means made possible by telemedicine, ACT is already hard at work shaping the future of the fight against this epidemic.

Allocating resources towards new and innovative technologies and practices is an important part of creating tomorrow’s healthcare culture equipped with the right tools to care for patients. But it is also imperative that until we achieve that goal, we concentrate on applying the amazing technology already available to us to focus on the task at hand. In solving today’s problems, we set the stage for a better understanding of where to go next.



AcuteCare Telemedicine in 2013: Cutting Edge Neurological Care, Anywhere

Following a third consecutive year of growth in 2012, AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT), an Atlanta-based partnership of 4 board-certified neurologists, is expanding its efforts to become the leading provider expert neurological care to rural and underserved areas throughout the Southeastern United States via cutting edge telemedicine technology.

Telemedicine, once regarded as an exciting new frontier, has now been fully realized as a part of the mainstream lexicon of medicine as we enter 2013. For a large number of hospital systems, telemedicine programs are now becoming a mandate as the nation faces a growing shortage of specialized physicians.

ACT has established itself as an innovator on the forefront of the industry, taking a unique approach to telemedicine by leveraging new technologies and techniques to enable personal neurology consultation when doctor and patient are in different locations. ACT offers a broad range of customizable services including 24/7 emergency neurological consultation and support programs for facilities seeking Joint Commission accreditation as a Primary Stroke Center, but primarily specializes in telestroke: the application of telemedicine to the treatment of the acute stroke patient. With the help of ACT’s powerful and personalized services, patients throughout the ‘Stroke Belt’ states of the Southeast have drastically improved access to the care they deserve, and medical facilities increase efficiency while reducing the costs associated with maintaining a traditional emergency neurology staff.

Whereas many hospitals with existing neurology departments simply do not have the resources to maintain around-the-clock clinician capacity, ACT has managed to successfully disrupt the trend and bring patient and physician together, regardless of geographical boundaries. Achieving this goal requires a certain level of investment in technology and trust in the people behind it. ACT is truly technology-agnostic.  This agility affords healthcare organizations with the ability to select the platform that meets budgetary and organizational parameters.

ACT provides access to the best 24X7 acute neurological care. Contact Michael Woodcock to hear how teleneurology can impact your business and patients in 2013.



Not Yet Out of the Woods

As most Americans celebrated the New Year, our elected representatives met in Washington to approve legislation narrowly avoiding the ‘fiscal cliff.’ As part of its extensive provisions, the new legislation saved Medicare providers from an impending 2% payment reduction that would have gone into effect on January 1 and postponed spending cuts to Medicare, but only for two months. Within the terms of the agreement, negotiations on ways to cut spending are expected to resume after this period, meaning hospitals are still facing the risk of cuts triggered by uncertainty and further harm if the reduction does eventually takes effect.

While overall Medicare spending may not be affected now, hospitals are still face a long-term decrease in payments. The compromise legislation includes the “doc fix,” which negates a 26.5% decrease in Medicare payments to physicians, with hospitals bearing the brunt of financing it. The tally will come to about $15 billion over 10 years, or roughly half the total cost of the one-year fix. On top of those made by the passage of major healthcare reform in 2010, the new cuts include decreases in payout from both projected Medicare payment increases for inpatient or overnight stays and Medicaid disproportionate share payments, as well as reducing risk-adjusted payments to Medicare Advantage plans.

The kind of last-minute action taken by Congress is a reminder of the severe need to address the provider payment formula for Medicare reimbursement with a long-term solution. Short-term fixes ultimately result in a reduction of important healthcare services detrimental to both patient and provider. Until a solution is reached, hospitals simply cannot afford to cover the difference.



Breaking the Rules

The Georgia Composite Medical Board recently voted against implementing a rule requiring that any patient must be seen by a physician before receiving care from nurses or PAs via telemedicine technologies, a requirement that realistically cannot be met in most non-telemedicine encounters. It was a small but important victory for practitioners and patients alike.

Prior to being voted down, the proposed rule was drawing widespread criticism from proponents of telemedicine, and for good reason. The motivation for suggesting the rule was to ensure that all mid-level providers caring for patients via telemedicine were being properly supervised by doctors who are more familiar with the technologies. Certainly, taking steps to guarantee the quality of care and safety of patients, especially when dealing with new tools and methods, is of utmost importance to everyone involved in the care process. However, the rule would have been damaging to the improved access to care that is a hallmark of telemedicine, placing an additional an unnecessary step between patients who need immediate attention and the care they require.

With the increasing shortage of physicians, not just in Georgia, but nationwide, telemedicine has opened avenues for the delivery of quality care to individuals living in rural and underserved locales where providers simply are not available. As more practitioners educate themselves on the virtues of telehealth, the reach of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals will extend further than ever before.

Telemedicine will ultimately enter our vernacular and be known simply as ‘medicine.’ In the meantime, as our technology and methodology continue to evolve, we must be careful to steer clear of implementing laws such as the redundant rule proposed in Georgia to avoid setting precedents that will preclude telemedicine from playing its role in assisting our healthcare system reach new heights.