AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


Telehealth is Disrupting the Traditional Healthcare Delivery Model

Walgreens has announced that it is teaming up with MDLive to offer virtual healthcare visits through their pharmacy mobile app. Walgreens customers have been able to connect with pharmacist and Walgreens staff via the app for several years, but a new expanded telemedical service will soon be offered to Walgreens customers in their California and Michigan retail outlets. Customers, or patients, will be able to consult with physicians virtually about routine acute conditions. Walgreens’ management plans to expand the new service to their retail centers in other states.

Telemedicine has found considerable success and acceptance as a tool to connect patients located in rural areas with medical specialist in urban medical centers, bringing much needed neurological and other medical specialties to patients previously denied convenient access to advanced, specialized care. Time sensitive virtual treatment for stroke and other neurological ailments are now readily available to patients regardless of where they live, saving valuable time, improving patient outcomes and saving lives.

But the expansion of telecommunication technology to broader telehealth applications is just beginning to be introduced to consumers through retail outlets and the workplace and is likely to disrupt the normal delineation of services in the medical care industry.

Walgreens is being joined by competitors CVS and Target in an aggressive entry into virtual, in-store healthcare clinics through partnerships with a growing number of emerging or established healthcare providers. Kaiser Permanente, a leading clinical healthcare provider, is now experiencing nearly half of their patient encounters virtually, in their Northern California clinics, which has grown from 4.1 million visits in 2008 to approximately 10.5 million at the end of 2013. Permanente Medical Group CEO, Robert Pearl is predicting that Kaiser’s virtual clinic visits will exceed in-person encounters by 2016.

Typically consumers use retail clinics for services such as vaccines, strep throat tests and treatments for other common maladies but the new entrants into the retail telehealth market are predicting that patients will also use the new virtual clinics for pediatric care, well-woman care, family planning and chronic-illness management.

Investors in the expanded retail telehealth market are banking on consumer/patients to continue to respond positively to the convenience and cost savings offered by telemedicine in order to successfully navigate through the start-up to profitability curve. It has been predicted for nearly a decade that advances in telecommunication technology would lead to a vastly different and innovative medical care delivery model. It would appear that the predictions are well on the way to becoming reality.



Preparing for the New Reality of Telehealth

A little more than a decade ago, telestroke and teleneurology were words that where not even part of our language but today are synonymous with the delivery of remote life-saving treatment for stroke and other neurological maladies. Telemedicine has provided vast improvements in medical care for our nation’s troops and veterans who are deployed in remote areas across the country and around the world, and is now poised to expand to a much larger telehealth initiative which promises to bring virtual, routine medical care to the home, workplace and public facilities of millions of patients throughout the country. With this expansion, telehealth will not only change the method of delivery of healthcare but proposes to alter the dynamics of the traditional caregiver/patient relationship. Yesterday’s patients are today and tomorrows consumers.

A new study from consulting company Oliver Wyman titled “The Patient to Consumer Revolution,” is revealing how empowered-consumers and outside industry innovators are influencing important changes to a centuries-old healthcare delivery model. “Empowering the consumer is what’s toppled many markets,” says Tom Main, partner at Oliver Wyman and co-author of the report. Companies like Walgreen’s, CVS, Google and Apple are beginning to enter what was traditionally an industry driven market. These new influencers are consumer experienced and able to successfully initiate telemedical products and services to a more aware and influential consumer.

In order to adjust to the new reality of virtual care delivery; hospitals, physicians and healthcare professionals across the care giving spectrum will need to alter not only their hard technology skills but learn new methods of personal interaction with their patients. Practitioners accustomed to performing good bedside manners will need to add “laptop manners” to their set of skills.

Relating to patients in person requires a much different approach than interacting with them virtually. Randy Parker, CEO of MDLIVE, a Florida-based telehealth provider says, “There’s a whole comfort level and professionalism involved (in telehealth) that many doctors don’t get, there’s even a dress code, and a way you present yourself” in a video encounter.” The new skills are not yet taught in medical school and few practitioners have yet had the opportunity to develop and fine-tune them in practice.

Peter Antall, medical director of the Online Care Group, says “Online doctors face two unique challenges that they don’t encounter in the exam room. First, they should have a familiarization with the technology they’re using, in case the patient on the other end of the encounter isn’t tech-savvy and needs help. Second, they have to learn “how to evaluate patients without the ability to examine by touch. Developing these skills requires a physician to be open minded and willing to learn and grow.”

It could be safe to say that very few healthcare professionals envisioned the disruptive effects the arrival of the internet, social media, wearable devices and mobile technology would have on the delivery of healthcare in the 21st century.



The Building Momentum of Telehealth

Some proponents of telehealth are predicting that 2015 will be the year consumers will discover the convenience and cost benefits of accessing common health care through a virtual encounter. Telehealth has been reported to be on the precipice of rapid expansion for several years now, only to have the predictions fall short of expectations, mainly due to an established industry infrastructure that seemed to be well behind the present day technology curve. As service reimbursement, licensing and technical issues continue to fall-away many predict the time for a break-out in telehealth is upon the industry.

Entrepreneurs are taking the lead in providing opportunities for consumers to access common medical care services through virtual technology. More than 200 entities have entered the “doctor on call” market, connecting patients with a doctor for remedies for common every day ailments. In some parts of the country the service is becoming routine.This year more than 300,000 users will connect with a medical care provider over the internet, with that number predicted to grow to more than 7 million by 2018 as consumers discover the ease of use, convenience and lower costs. The initial concern that consumers would resist abandoning the traditional face-to-face office visit with their doctor has quickly dissipated as savvy; tech accepting consumers embraced the convenience of the new experience. The momentum continues to build, but is the other side of the doctor patient equation as prepared and eager to accept and embrace the new technological aspect of healthcare delivery?

For decades medical care has become increasingly industrialized and structured, primarily out of a need to control costs and manage available resources effectively and efficiently. The personal relationship between care giver and patient suffered as time was allocated to attending to increased numbers of patients. As primary care physicians integrate virtual encounters into their practice of care, the technology promises to provide new opportunities to once again place the relationship at the center of the care delivery. The addition of virtual encounters to the doctor/patient relationship promises many challenges to the largest and arguably the most important segment of the medical care industry, the general practitioner (GP), however, delegating the majority of follow-up or less critical visits to telecommunication may leave more time for developing the quality of the personal relationship through the face to face visit.

The clamor from the consumer is loud and clear but the growth rate of telehealth may be more dependent upon the medical professional’s willingness and preparedness to lead the way to the advancement of the new healthcare delivery model.

Your patients appear to be ready, are you?



Technology to Play Significant Role in Helping Solve China’s Healthcare Woes

As impatient telemedical advocates in America continue to work around barriers to rapid advancement of what they recognize as an historic opportunity to revolutionize the nations delivery of healthcare, medical professionals inside the world’s largest nation look admiringly at the potential that communication technology could have on their nations broken healthcare system.

China’s huge population of 1.4 billion people is scattered throughout one of the planets largest landmasses, creating significant variances in the quality and available of healthcare. In a country without a modern intra-country transportation system of modern highways, closing the distance-gap to receiving medical care can be exponential when compared to countries like the United States.

Technology, from electronic patient records to remote healthcare, is already widely used in developed markets such as the United States and Europe, but China lags far behind much of the developed world. However, China’s healthcare management system is determined to catch-up with the rest of the world. The sector is experiencing a 40 percent annual growth and is expected to reach $38 billion by 2019, although progress is hampered by more than money, distance and time.

The country’s government owned healthcare system is strapped with chaotic patient data information systems, underfunded rural healthcare facilities and overburdened urban hospitals. China’s more than 25,000 hospitals are facing a serious shortage of doctors and healthcare professionals. Low pay and long hours often exaggerate an already stressed doctor-patient relationship and magnify the difficulties of accessibility and quality of service. Yan Jianhua, who oversees the remote healthcare program at the state-run Hangzhou hospital says, “Technologies like remote health fit China’s current situation because we have a large country with a rural-urban gap and medical resources spread unequally,”

A successful technology makeover will be expensive, requiring the state, private investors and corporations to step up with the $5.5 billion in estimated new capital that will be needed over the next three years to help close the gap.

Communication technology has a key role to play in resolving some of the issues the world’s largest country is facing. It will all take time, and money but Beijing appears to recognize that technology is a potentially significant ground gainer for solving many of its healthcare challenges.



A Telehealth Summit: Transforming the Delivery of Healthcare

The third-annual Alabama Rural Health & Telehealth Summit is scheduled for October 15 through October 17, 2014 at the Embassy Suites in Birmingham, AL. The Summit is sponsored by the Alabama Partnership for Telehealth (APT) and is the only statewide gathering of telehealth advocates in Alabama. This year’s theme is “Transforming the Delivery of Healthcare” and will feature a diverse and experienced group of presenters who will discuss the value of telehealth technology and how it is revolutionizing the delivery of healthcare across rural and urban America.

The Summit is open to primary and specialty care physicians, advanced practice nurse practitioners, physician assistants, registered nurses, medical care facilities administrators and anyone who is interested in learning more about healthcare reform through the application of modern telecommunication technology. More than a dozen topics and forums will be available for attendees over the three day summit, featuring the foremost experts in telemedical services and technology. The Summit is a great opportunity to learn more about state, regional and international Telemedicine initiatives.

On Thursday, October 16, James Kiely, PhD, MD, Chief Information Officer, AcuteCare Telemedicine, will moderate and present a session titled “The Reality of Telestroke: Real People, Real Results.” Dr. Kiely will be joined in the presentation by Cecilia Land, Division Director, Rehab Services, Southeast Alabama Medical Center, and Steven L. Skeen, BSN, CNO, Mizell Memorial Hospital.

Dr. James Kiely is board certified in Neurology and Clinical Neurophysiology and is the medical director of the neurophysiology labs at both Northside and St. Joseph’s Hospitals, and a partner at Atlanta Neurology in Atlanta. He was recently named one of America’s Top Doctors by US News and World Report, as well as being named a “Top Doctor” in Atlanta by Atlanta Magazine for the past five years. Dr. Kiely also serves as the Chief Information Officer for AcuteCare Telemedicine, LLC, an Atlanta-based corporation advancing the opportunity for healthcare institutions to gain access to expert neurologists and telemedicine technologies for 24/7/365 emergent neurological care.

Registration is available online for all those who wish to attend. The Embassy Suites Birmingham-Hoover is located at 2660 John Hawkins Parkway, Birmingham, AL 35244. For additional information on the Summit, contact Samantha Haas, Alabama Partnership for TeleHealth, Inc.



AcuteCare Telemedicine and Coliseum Health System Partner To Improve Patient Access To Specialized Neurological Care

OCTOBER 2, 2014 – MACON, GA: AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT) continues to expand its presence in the Southeastern region with the addition of two new client hospitals. Coliseum Medical Centers (CMC) and Coliseum Northside Hospital (CNH) of Macon, GA, have recently introduced ACT’s leading neurological specialists to their dedicated staff of medical professionals and patients. The two facilities are associated with the Nashville-based Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), the nation’s leading provider of healthcare services.

HCA is comprised of locally managed healthcare facilities that include about 165 hospitals and 115 freestanding surgery centers in 20 states and England. The more than 200,000 HCA medical professionals are committed to the delivery of high quality, cost effective healthcare in the communities they serve.

Coliseum Northside Hospital recently introduced a robot named TESS, or “Telestroke Station” to its staff and patients. TESS, an InTouch Health premium RP-Vita robot, can be stationed throughout the facility to remotely connect Coliseum’s dedicated medical team with ACT’s experienced neurological specialists 24 hours a day. Coliseum Northside Hospital’s sister facility, Coliseum Medical Centers, uses an identical robot named Bazinga meaning “an exclamation indicating a successful outcome”. Connecting hospital-based medical professionals with off-site specialists through the use of new telecommunication technologies is improving access of specialized care for patients in smaller, regional hospitals and medical centers. April Watson, Sepsis & Stroke Coordinator at Northside Hospital says, “The team of doctors at ACT are very professional and are great to work with. We look forward to teaming up with them to provide our patients the best in telestroke care.”

“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 chief executive officer. “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. ACT is extremely proud to associate with Coliseum Medical Centers and Coliseum Northside Hospital.”

“ACT has been focused on providing the highest quality of care to our client hospitals and our patients. We are continuing to expand opportunities for acute stroke care to hospitals across nine states,” comments Gwynn. “We look forward to providing the most advanced telestroke care to more partners like Coliseum Medical Centers and Coliseum Northside Hospital who are also committed to advancements in telemedicine.” This announcement follows ACT’s recent partnerships with Emory John’s Creek and Colleton Medical Center (CMC) earlier this year.

 

About AcuteCare Telemedicine

Founded in 2009, AcuteCare Telemedicine is a limited liability corporation advancing the opportunity for healthcare institutions to gain access to highly-respected, expert neurologists and telemedicine technologies. AcuteCare offers a range of services including first-rate neurological emergency response care with around-the-clock support and hospital accreditation education. AcuteCare primarily provides remote emergency neurology consultation which fills staffing needs and reduces the costs associated with 24/7 neurologist availability. As a result, healthcare institutions provide full service emergency neurology care and can earn Joint Commission Certification as a Primary Stroke Center.

About Coliseum Health System

Owned by Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), Coliseum Health System is comprised of Coliseum Medical Centers and Coliseum Northside Hospital, two medical/surgical campuses with a total of 413 beds. The hospitals feature an expansive range of state-of-the-art services designed to meet the comprehensive medical needs of central Georgia. Both facilities include a 24-hour emergency room, inpatient and outpatient surgery options, rehabilitation programs, and diagnostic services. In addition, Coliseum Health System’s breadth of care options includes specialty facilities such as the Coliseum Heart Institute, an advanced cardiac center offering all services from non-invasive cardiology to open heart surgery, Coliseum Primary Stroke Center, Coliseum Orthopaedic & Spine Institute, Coliseum Cancer Institute, Coliseum Robotic Institute, Georgia Bariatric Center, Coliseum Diabetes Management Center, Coliseum Center for Pelvic Health, Coliseum Rehabilitation Center, and the Family Ties Birthing Center, which includes a level III neonatal nursery. The Coliseum Center for Behavioral Health provides treatment to adults with psychiatric and addiction issues through inpatient and outpatient programs, as well as, a specialty program for senior adults.   http://coliseumhealthsystem.com



AcuteCare Telemedicine and Colleton Medical Center Partner To Improve Patient Access To Specialized Neurological Care

JUNE 30, 2014 – ATLANTA, GA: AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT) continues to expand its presence in the Southeastern region with the addition of new client hospitals. Following the announcement of its partnership with Emory John’s Creek, Colleton Medical Center (CMC) in Walterboro, SC recently introduced ACT’s leading specialists to their dedicated staff of medical professionals and patients. ACT in collaboration with the South Atlantic Division of HCA worked to bring teleneurology services to Colleton Medical Center.

Colleton recently debuted a robot named ELVIS, an acronym for “Early Neurological Intervention That’s Successful.” ACT can remotely consult with doctors and patients through ELVIS. While the robot is currently located in the emergency department, “It can be used throughout the entire facility,” reports Colleton Medical Center Emergency Department Director Christy Judy. As a result, ACT is standing by 24 hours a day anywhere they are needed throughout CMC. Connecting hospital-based medical professionals with off-site specialists through the use of new telecommunication technologies is improving access of specialized care for patients in smaller, regional hospitals and medical centers.

“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. “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. ACT is extremely proud to associate the South Atlantic Division of HCA and the Colleton Medical Center.”

Brad Griffin, CEO of Colleton Medical Center, is also very pleased with Colleton’s new relationship with ACT. “This is our first venture with telemedicine and the experience is proving to be very positive for both the patients and our team of medical professionals at Colleton,” he says. Griffin reports that the hospital staff has found their experience with ACT to be very comforting, easy to work with, and very professional. He sees Colleton’s first telemedicine venture as just the beginning and is looking forward to expanding the utilization of telemedicine to other medical specialties.

“ACT has been focused on providing the highest quality of care to our client hospitals and our patients. We’ve made significant progress in expanding opportunities for acute stroke care to hospitals across numerous states,” comments Gwynn. “We anticipate adding more partners like Colleton who are also committed to advancements in telemedicine.”

About AcuteCare Telemedicine

Founded in 2009, AcuteCare Telemedicine is a limited liability corporation advancing the opportunity for healthcare institutions to gain access to highly-respected, expert neurologists and telemedicine technologies. AcuteCare offers a range of services including first-rate neurological emergency response care with around-the-clock support and hospital accreditation education. AcuteCare primarily provides remote emergency neurology consultation which fills staffing needs and reduces the costs associated with 24/7 neurologist availability. As a result, healthcare institutions provide full service emergency neurology care and can earn Joint Commission Certification as a Primary Stroke Center.