AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog

Telemedicine is Providing Improved Access to Neurological Care

Before the introduction of telemedicine, small to medium sized rural hospitals often played the role of stabilize and transport centers, a brief stop-over for patients needing specialized treatment and care. Patients would receive treatment to stabilize their condition, were packed-up and then transported to urban healthcare centers where specialist were standing-by to administer much needed specialized treatment.

The process often results in delay for patients receiving important, often life-saving, treatment, inconvenience and increased costs. “Attracting and recruiting medical specialists is an ongoing challenge for smaller, regional hospitals who must balance the needs of their patients with the financial realities of healthcare in this demanding economy,” says Dr. Matthews Gwynn, Director and Founder of the Stroke Center of Northside Hospital and AcuteCare Telemedicine CEO.   The merging of telemedicine with neurology is changing the “stabilize, pack and ship” role of smaller hospitals and is bringing life-saving neurological and advanced stroke care to their patients within their own communities.

AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT), the leading practice-based provider of Telemedicine services for hospitals seeking around-the-clock stroke and other urgent Neurological care is continuing to expand their portfolio of client hospitals with the recent addition of Dodge County Hospital. Located in Eastman, GA, the 94 bed healthcare facility is a Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) affiliate that is dedicated to meeting the challenges of a changing healthcare environment.

Dodge County Hospital is a prime example of how telemedicine is helping smaller regional medical facilities achieve their mission of delivering the highest quality healthcare services to their patients and their communities. “Having the ability to consult with a neurologist remotely for treatment of stroke and other neurological maladies is allowing these hospitals to meet the needs of the patients in the communities they serve,” says Dr. Gwynn.

ACT partners with InTouch Health (InTouch), a leading developer and provider of remote presence devices and software, to bring remote telemedical care to its client hospitals. InTouch and ACT closely collaborate with their hospitals to easily integrate and improve the efficiency of the new remote service workflow processes as well as improve clinical performance and cost containment.  The client hospitals dedicated staff of medical professionals receive important, on-site training in the operation of the telecommunication robots and its software and form critical consultative relationships with ACT neurologist to ensure the highest quality patient care.

Smaller hospitals all across America are finding the cost of telemedicine an affordable solution to ensuring improved accessibility of critical care and specialized treatment for their patients no matter where they live

With Stroke, Time Lost is Brain Lost

Matthews Gwynn, MD Internal Medicine/Neurologist will be a lead-off speaker at The Stroke Care Network Conference to be held on November 20. The event promises to be a great opportunity for attendees to expand their knowledge in stroke care and to identify new improvements in stroke treatment. The Southeast Alabama Medical Center (SAMC) is sponsoring the conference titled, “Expanding the Knowledge Base”. In addition to Dr. Gwynn, the conference will feature presentations by Terry Neill, MD Critical Care Neurologist and Jonathan McNeal, DO Neurosurgeon.

SAMC is the trusted healthcare leader in the southeast and is dedicated to improving the health and quality of life for the residence of southeast Alabama, Georgia and the Florida panhandle. A leading member of the Stoke Care Network, SAMC operates as a 420-bed regional referral center, serving approximately 600,000 people throughout its neighboring communities and counties and offers a full range of healthcare services through its main campus in Dothan.

Dr. Matthews Gwynn is board certified in Internal Medicine and Neurology, has a special interest in movement disorders and has developed a special expertise in the use of botulinum toxin and is known professionally as a leader in this field in the Southeastern United States. He is the chief of Neurology at St. Joseph’s Hospital of Atlanta and is on the board of directors of the Medical Association Of Atlanta and the CEO of AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT), the leading practice-based provider of telemedicine services for hospitals seeking around-the-clock stroke and other urgent neurological care.

Terry Neill, MD Critical Care Neurologist is board certified in neurology, vascular neurology and neuro-critical care and serves as Medical Director of the Sacred Heart Regional Stroke Center with expertise in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of stroke. He also serves as the medical director of neuro-critical care at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola. Dr. Neill has special interest in neuro-critical care including stroke, intracerebral hemorrhage and traumatic brain injury.

Dr. McNeal received his doctor of osteopathic medicine degree from Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine where he graduated with honors. After an internship in general surgery, Dr. McNeal completed his Neurosurgical residency at the Virginia Tech/Carillion Clinic, in Roanoke, where he served as chief resident. He is now practicing with NeuroSpine Center in Dothan.

The Stroke Care Conference will get underway at 4 pm on November 20, 2014 at the Clarion Inn & Suite located at 2195 Ross Clark Circle in Dothan, AL.

The Importance of Data and Clinical Documentation on the Future of Telehealth

Telemedicine continues to raise considerable excitement and expectations for its potential impact on the delivery of healthcare. But with much of the initial attention focused on the technical aspects of telehealth, a lack of confidence in the level of data measuring the effects and benefits of telemedicine and telehealth has emerged. Although the feasibility of various telemedicine applications have been tested for decades, the data on costs, effectiveness, quality of care, accessibility and consumer acceptance remain comparatively limited.

Besides cost savings and healthcare access barriers clinical data on treatment and their outcomes will provide improved medical insights. By gathering continuous health data through wearable devices or remote monitors, doctors are able to unleash the full potential of big data analytics to make healthcare delivery more effective and personalized.

The challenge for early practitioners of the new technology is now shifting from the application of the mechanics to developing a framework for documenting and evaluating its progress in practice. As the portfolio of applications of the technology continue to evolve and mature, integrating data collection into routine clinical and administrative functions is vital to capturing critical information on the effects of the technology on practical operations. Credible information is essential to identifying and implementing improvements in service and promoting acceptance by the larger healthcare community.

As the confidence debate continues to circulate many early practitioners of telehealth are reporting results that appear to lend support to the projected benefits to telehealth, but questions concerning the reliability of the data and their stated conclusions should not be ignored. When evaluating the organizational and professional factors involved in implementing an industry-wide telehealth system, the quality of the decisions will be enhanced by more data, not less. As the practice of telemedicine and telehealth continues to evolve, perspectives on what will work best in practice will prevail and lead to more creditable insights as to how to improve telehealth applications across the full spectrum of healthcare service providers.

Peer-provided research concerning the effectiveness of telemedicine and telehealth is very important to gaining provider support and patient confidence for telemedical technologies role in revolutionizing the healthcare delivery model. By creating a systematic process of data collection and credible evaluation, the promised benefits of utilizing telecommunication technology in healthcare will be more fully realized.

This Could be the Year the Predictions are Realized

Telemedicine has been around for nearly a generation but its universal adoption remains restrained and its best promises to revolutionize the delivery of healthcare unrealized. With each approaching year a prediction that “it’s time has come” echoes throughout the industry and each year the gap to full realization closes only incrementally.

For more than one generation now sweeping improvements in treatment and changes in how healthcare providers deliver their product and service has been a benchmark example of an industry experiencing continuous improvement. Even concerns over how telemedicine will handle the lack of a direct in-person physical examination, the management and maintenance of patients medical records and the assurance of follow-up patient care have been widely debated and in large part addressed by medical professionals with the implementation of standards, protocols and guidelines for the practice of telemedical care.

Private insurers are recognizing the potential benefits of telehealth to controlling rising costs and improving access to improved medical care. Federally funded Medicare and other state payers are deliberately moving to approve payments for telehealth services for many of their constituents and the Veterans Administration (VA) has shown leadership in advancing new communication technologies to improve access to specialized care for their veterans.

But the regulatory groups responsible for multi-state licensing continue to adversely influence the rate of expansion of telemedical care nationwide. Recent offers from state medical licensing boards to streamline the licensing process has left many to doubt the effectiveness these changes will have in removing the barrier to meaningful progress. Advocates of the traditional licensing procedures are quick to point out the importance of these procedures to patient safety and assurance of care quality. Opponents see their limited effort in changing the process as an attempt to preserve a regulatory function that is out of date with the reality of today’s global economic environment.

In an era where geographic lines and narrowly defined market distribution models have all but disappeared from nearly every other industry, the healthcare industry continues to struggle with outdated regulatory processes which impede the full implementation of the benefits of telemedicine.

If the shared goal of both proponents and opponents of change is to improve the quality and efficiency of medical care for all consumers, then why does a more dynamic solution to removing the licensing barrier appear to be so difficult?