AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


New Technologies Improving Health Care

Much has been said and written about technology and its effects on the practice of medicine regarding how telemedicine and telehealth promises positive economic availability of health care going forth into the future.  As the doctor shortage and increase in the costs of medical services continue to front and center the debate, medical technology companies focus their resources on providing less expensive, faster and more efficient patient care.

To speed up and simplify the approval process of new medical devices, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) recently formed the Medical Device Innovation Consortium (MDIC).  The organization seeks input from industry, government, and other nonprofit organizations and will prioritize the regulatory science needs of the medical device community and fund projects to streamline the process.  “By sharing and leveraging resources, MDIC may help the industry to be better equipped to bring safe and effective medical devices to market more quickly and at a lower cost,” says Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

Every year industry observers and media select their favorite technology trends that propose to have the most favorable impact on overall medical care costs, patient care quality and safety.  Here are just five of this year’s technologies that fit the criteria.

The Optical Scanner

Melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, has always been impossible to diagnosis without an invasive surgical biopsy.  The MelaFind optical scanner is not for definitive diagnosis but rather to provide additional information a doctor can use in determining whether or not to order a biopsy.  The new device is manufactured by MELA Sciences and uses missile navigation technologies originally developed by the Department of Defense and scans the surface of suspicious lesions.  The data is collected and processed using heavy-duty algorithms and matched against a registry of 10,000 digital images of melanoma and skin disease.

Electronic Aspirin

A reliable, long-lasting treatment for the most severe form of headache, chronic Cluster Headache (CH), is lacking. CH has long been associated with the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG), a sensory nerve bundle in the head. Blocking pain directly at the SPG has been an elusive goal. A technology under clinical investigation at Autonomic Technologies, Inc., is a patient-powered tool for blocking SPG signals at the first sign of a headache.  The system involves the permanent implant of a small nerve stimulating device in the upper gum on the side of the head normally affected by CH.   The lead tip of the implant connects with the SPG bundle, and when a patient senses the onset of a headache, he or she places a handheld remote controller on the cheek nearest the implant. The resulting signals stimulate the SPG nerves and block the pain-causing neurotransmitters.

Needle-Free Diabetes Care

Anyone who suffers from Diabetes has to deal with the constant need to draw blood for glucose testing, the need for daily insulin shots and the heightened risk of infection from all that pricking and poking.  Echo Therapeutics is developing technologies that would replace the poke with a patch.  The transdermal biosensor reads blood analytes through the skin without drawing blood. The technology involves a handheld electric-toothbrush-like device that removes just enough top-layer skin cells to put the patient’s blood chemistry within signal range of a patch-borne biosensor. The sensor collects one reading per minute and sends the data wirelessly to a remote monitor, triggering audible alarms when levels go out of the patient’s optimal range and tracking glucose levels over time.

Autonomous Navigation Robots 

Telemedicine is well established as a tool for triage and assessment in emergencies, but new medical robots are taking the process one step further.  With the capability to patrol hospital hallways on more routine rounds, checking on patients in different rooms and managing their individual charts and vital signs without direct human intervention these new robotic devices are improving routine health care to hospitalized patients.  One of these new devices, the RP-VITA Remote Presence Robot produced jointly by iRobot Corp. and InTouch Health is the first such autonomous navigation remote-presence robot to receive FDA clearance for hospital use. The device is a mobile cart with a two-way video screen and medical monitoring equipment, programmed to maneuver through the busy halls of a hospital.

The Sapien Valve

The Sapien trans catheter aortic valve is a life-saving alternative to open-heart surgery for patients who need new a new valve but can’t endure the rigors of the operation. Manufactured by Edwards Life Sciences, the Sapien valve is now finding its first use in U.S. heart centers where it is being limited only to the frailest patients. The Sapien is guided through the femoral artery by catheter from a small incision near the grown or rib cage. The valve material, made of bovine tissue, is attached to a stainless-steel stent, which is expanded by inflating a small balloon when correctly placed in the valve space. This new device and simpler procedure promises dramatically shorter hospitalizations and is bound to have a positive effect on the cost of care.

Medical industry leaders agree that today’s most desirable technologies, whether telemedical communications or Sci-Fi-gadgets, strike a balance between reducing the overall cost of medical care while increasing safety and survival rates among patients.   While not immune from controversy and push-back from both health care providers and patients alike, new technologies hold the greatest promise to bringing higher quality and more efficient and affordable health care to millions of people around the world.



AcuteCare Telemedicine to Join the Leading Forum on Telemedicine Technology

The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) will be hosting its 18th Annual International Meeting & Trade Show on May 5th thru May 7th in Austin Texas.  Expected to be the largest meeting ever, the event will be the premier forum for healthcare professionals and entrepreneurs in the telemedicine, telehealth and mHealth environments.

The show will feature more than 450 educational sessions focused on training, information and updates on issues important to the telemedicine industry.  Keynote Speakers include Lynn Britton, President and CEO Mercy, a 31 hospital healthcare system, Jeffrey O. Henley, Chairman Oracle Corporation and Reed V. Tuckson, MD, Managing Director Tuckson Health Connections, LLC.  The educational program will track topics such as; Best practices and Service Models, Finance Innovations, public policy issues and more.

In addition to the education programs the anticipated 6000 attendees will be offered an opportunity to participate in the Trade Show and Exhibit where hundreds of vendors will be on hand to showcase the latest equipment, wireless technology, specialty services, hardware, software and all things to do with telemedicine.

Acute Care Telemedicine (ACT), the Southeast region’s largest practice based telemedicine provider will be on hand to demonstrate their significant resources and experience in improving hospital stroke care. ACT offers cost-effective solutions that deliver complete on-call coverage, improve patient outcomes that adhere to HIPAA / HITECH requirements and establish a sustainable financial model for patient care.  The ACT Team of Neurological specialist are in the business of creating relationships that will serve as the foundation for improving healthcare for millions of patients.

“Acute Care Telemedicine is excited about being part of the ATA Meeting and Trade Show in Austin, Texas” comments Keith Sanders MD, COO of ACT.  “We look forward to participating in this premier event, and welcome the opportunity to demonstrate our level of expertise and commitment to advancing the benefits of telemedicine.”



Telemedicine Increases Access to Critical Stroke Care

Researchers in studying the effectiveness of telemedicine programs in Oregon found that stroke coverage was pushed into previously uncovered less populated areas and expanded stroke coverage to rural areas. The results were found in a new study by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania studying telemedicine programs.

By employing telemedicine in concert with in-person care, nearly 80 percent of residents had access to expert stroke care within “the golden hour”.  Immediate access to high-quality emergency care is less common than one might think, leading to strokes being the fourth most common cause of death in the United States.  In-person stroke care is usually centered in large urban areas, and while telemedical stroke care is also available in urban centers, it is able to reach less populated areas that have low rates of uninsured patients.

The new study by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania was presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 65th Annual Meeting in San Diego in March.  The study found that telemedicine programs in Oregon expanded coverage by approximately 40 percent.

“Telestroke programs can reach patients in smaller communities and provide time-critical treatment to previously unreached people,” said senior study author Brendan Carr, MD, MA, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Surgery, & Epidemiology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Increasing telestroke networks gives everyone a better chance of surviving a stroke.”

While many hospitals recognize the enormous benefits of providing immediate treatment to a patient using this technology, insurance plans are unlikely to cover the charges, and lack of financial support was cited by a third of hospitals as significantly limiting the growth of their programs.  Other factors, such as the absence of a robust, secure internet connection that can stream high-quality video, also prevent some hospitals from joining in regional programs.  Such inequities lead to disparities in access to health care.

Some supporters of the technology’s expansion argue that a combination of government and private initiatives will be necessary to ensure wide spread access to secure high-quality and high-speed bandwidth for telehealth applications.



AcuteCare Telemedicine and Ty Cobb Regional Medical Center Team Up to Improve Access to Immediate Stroke Care

Throughout Georgia and all around the country, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) responders are charged with reacting to emergency calls for assistance, providing emergency evaluation and treatment of a vast array of injuries and illnesses and delivery victims to emergency rooms for more advanced treatment.

The work requires split-second decisions that may affect the patient’s recovery.  Often the decision to bypass the nearest, more rural hospital for an urban medical center, known for its specialized treatment for such illnesses as stroke, can delay the patient’s arrival to that facility beyond the “golden hour”, the first sixty minutes after a patient begins to experience stroke symptoms and the critical window for providing care that can minimize long-term disabilities or prevent a stroke death.

At a recent conference at Ty Cobb Regional Medical Center (TCRMC) in Lavonia, GA, area EMS responders learned of a new program at the hospital that offers advanced critical, specialized care for victims of stroke. The goal was to educate emergency responders about its new telestroke program and how it can benefit the community, and TCRMC by capturing potential stroke patients that may have been otherwise bypassed by EMS personnel in the past.

The new teleneurology/telestroke program is a relationship between TCRMC and AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT), a leading practice-based provider of Telemedicine services for hospitals seeking advanced around-the-clock stroke and other urgent Neurological care.  Presenting the conference was Dr. David Stone, TCRMC Emergency Room Director and ACT’s CIO Dr. James M. Kiely, who is also partner at Atlanta Neurology, P.C. and Medical Director of the Neurophysiology Departments at Northside Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital of Atlanta.

Members of the Franklin County and Hart County EMS were on hand to receive information about the new service line and EMS’ role in triaging potential stroke patients.  “The goal of this new relationship with TCRMC is to build awareness in the area about ACT’s 24/7 stroke treatment coverage and to advance the area residence understanding of stroke, its symptoms and the importance of receiving immediate specialized treatment, said Dr. Kiely.”

Attending EMS personnel received information regarding strokes “golden hour”, and when it is appropriate to take patients directly to TY Cobb Regional Medical Center or when it is better indicated to take patients directly to an advanced tertiary treatment center.

Recent studies indicate that telestroke programs, like the one provided by AcuteCare Telemedicine, may improve access to immediate stroke care by 40 percent and bring advanced care within reach of millions of stroke victims now located outside the hour of critical care for the fourth most common cause of death in the United States.