AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


What’s In Your Digital Health Tool Box?

The early implementers of telemedicine faced resistance, skepticism, and predicted peril from an industry that has followed a standard of care, governed by regulations. Those initial trailblazers have prevailed in their efforts to improve access to specialized care for patients living afar from major medical centers, enhancing patient’s healthcare experiences and reducing the unnecessary cost of specialized treatment and ongoing chronic care. Their persistent efforts to merge the latest digital technologies in communication with modern medical care has spawned new terms to languages all around the world; Telepsychiatry, Telestroke, Telemedicine, TeleICU and Telehealth, just to name a few.

Technology is having a wider impact on how healthcare providers connect with their patients and dispense treatment. This connected health revolution is making everyone active participant’s in their healthcare through an ever expanding network of devices and platforms. But as is often the case, development of new technology can outpace the ability of an industry and their consumers to accept and engage the new methods.

Consumers have demonstrated an impressive demand and utilization of digital healthcare tools like activity trackers, smart watches and their accompanying health apps, but nearly half of the users complain that their caregiver is failing to integrate the data into a personalized healthcare plan. A survey, conducted by HealthMine, called “The State and Impact of Digital Health Tools,” found that “a significant amount of digital health data is not reaching doctors or health plans and that there appears to be a disconnect between where consumers would like their self-collected health data to go and how easy it is to share it.”

Many physicians articulate an understandable concern about the accuracy of many of these devices and the process of collecting and transferring the data. In a recent article Vaughn Kauffman, a global practice leader in PwC’s Health Industries Advisory, indicated that physicians have some apprehension around taking in data from mHealth devices and wearables. “Some providers are further down the road than others around utilizing these kinds of data for engagement. There’s the potential to extend the doctor-patient relationship to beyond the direct doctor visit interaction. And obviously, this would involve individuals opting in, as opposed to kind of a Big Brother phenomenon.”

While wearables continue to be popular, many once avid users are discontinuing their engagement with the technology. Some indicate their waning interest is due to not understanding how the data collection will benefit them or enhance their digital health plan. Education and better understanding of the technology and how it can benefit both providers and patients in improving the delivery of healthcare will solidify the acceptance and use of the technology. The early pioneers of telemedicine have opened the trail to a much larger spectrum of services but wider engagement is still dependent on the ability of technology to deliver on its promises.



The 21st Annual ATA Telemedicine Meeting & Exposition

The American Telemedicine Association (ATA), the leading international resource and advocate promoting the use of advanced remote medical technologies, announces the dates for its annual meeting and exposition for 2016. For 20 years, the ATA has focused fully on telemedicine solutions to transform healthcare systems. The results of the ATA’s efforts have generated significant impact for overall quality of care, equity and healthcare affordability.

The 2016 American Telemedicine Association Meeting and Exposition is expected to host as many as 6,000 thousand attendees at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis, MN. The four day event will get underway on May 14 and conclude on May 17, 2016. ATA 2016 is the largest trade show in the world for healthcare professionals and entrepreneurs in the telemedicine, telehealth and mHealth space. The event will showcase a wide range of educational seminars, speakers and products and services related to telemedicine industry from over 300 exhibitors.

“AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT) looks forward to participating at the event in 2016,” comments Dr. Matthews Gwynn, Partner, ACT. “We applaud the efforts of the ATA in advancing telemedicine opportunities and providing a platform for practitioners to share insights, research, and best practices.”

Established in 1993, The American Telemedicine Association is a non-profit association of individuals, healthcare institutions, companies and other organizations with an interest in promoting professional, ethical and equitable improvement in health care delivery through telecommunications and information technology.

For more information on the event, click here.

ATA Trade Show



Telemedicine Creates Opportunities to Improve Access to Neurologists

Discussions over an impending shortage of doctors in America are nothing new. The debate and predictions of an increasing shortage of general practitioners, neurologists, radiologists and other medical specialties has raged for nearly a decade. A study by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), a lobby for medical schools and teaching hospitals, said “the doctor shortage is real” with total physician demand projected to grow by up to 17 percent as a population of baby boomers ages. The nation’s shortage of doctors may rise to between 46,000 and 90,000 by 2025. “The doctor shortage is worse than most people think,” says Steven Berk, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine at Texas Tech University. “The population is getting older, so there’s a greater need for physicians. At the same time, physicians are getting older, too, and they’re retiring earlier,” Berk says.

Neurology is one specialty impacted by the shortage. With stroke being the number four cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States, lack of access to neurologists who specialize in stroke care threatens to deprive many patients the best chance of surviving the effects of stroke. More than 800,000 strokes occur in the United States each year and the number of strokes is expected to grow significantly due to a growing elderly population. The need to encourage more young physicians to specialize in stroke is critical.

Dr. Harold P. Adams, Jr., of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and Dr. Jose Biller, of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine believes, “Unless the number of neurologists focusing their careers on the diagnosis and treatment of patients with cerebrovascular diseases increases, a professional void will develop, leaders of professional neurology associations “need to develop and vigorously support a broad range of initiatives to encourage residents to enter vascular neurology. These efforts need to be started immediately. Time is short.”

Other experts believe that new technologies may hasten the response to the pending crisis and may extend the reach of medicine in ways that will address the problem. Health care professionals can serve more people by using telemedicine technologies to examine, treat and monitor patients remotely as well as providing patients increased access to advanced stroke care. These technologies are already keeping patients out of hospitals and doctors’ offices and providing improved recovery results. Whereas many hospitals with existing neurology departments simply do not have the resources to maintain around-the-clock clinician capacity, AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT), a leading practice-based provider of Telemedicine services, has managed to successfully disrupt the trend and bring patient and physician together, regardless of geographic boundaries. AcuteCare CEO, Dr. Matthews Gwynn says, “Increasing access to stroke specialists requires a certain level of investment in technology and trust in the people behind it. Technology affords healthcare organizations the ability to select a platform that meets budgetary and organizational parameters while extending the highest quality of neurological care to the patients they serve.”

Telestroke is one of the most adopted forms of telemedicine, providing solutions to healthcare providers looking for 24/7 neurology coverage for patients. “Telestroke is filling a gap in terms of the speed and accuracy of stroke diagnosis and start of critical therapy, says Lee Schwamm, vice chair of the Department of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and director of the hospital’s Telestroke and Acute Stroke Services, “Telestroke is the poster child of telemedicine. It’s a really nice example of where the business case is so evident and the benefit to patients is well-documented.”

“The shortage of doctors is definitely impacting the future of medicine,” comments Gwynn. “In response, we remain focused on providing access to quality neurologists to small hospitals in underserved communities as well as to enterprise level healthcare organizations via telemedicine.”



ACT and Bon Secours Committed to Improving Patient Outcomes

ACT Bob Secour photo1

(Left to Right: Rahul Patel, ACT Data Manager, Dr. Keith Sanders, Partner at ACT, Patricia Lane, Administrative Director Neuroscience at Bon Secours Health System Richmond, Suzanne Doolan, Hospital Systems Manager at Genentech, and Dr. Lisa Johnston, Partner at ACT.)

Atlanta, GA: AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT), the leading practice-based provider of Telemedicine services for hospitals seeking stroke and other urgent Neurological care, and the Bon Secours Neuroscience Institute (BSNI) established a collaborative partnership earlier this year to enhance BSNI’s “around the clock” neurological service. ACT and Bon Secours have developed a telemedicine model focused on improving the delivery of care and overall patient outcomes.

The fourth largest and only faith-based health system in Virginia, Bon Secours Virginia offers a full range of services including cardiac, women’s, children’s, orthopedics, oncology, neurosciences and surgery at eight award-winning hospitals. Bon Secours established its teleneurology program 5 years ago with a goal of having all of its area hospitals joint commission certified. Patricia Lane comments, “Working with the AcuteCare Telemedicine partners feels like an extension of the internal practice. They are truly in alignment with Bon Secours’ efforts to identify the right path to create continuity of care from the time the patient is admitted to our Emergency Room to the time they leave the hospital. AcuteCare is not just a provider, but an invested team member who takes pride in providing the best quality of neurological care to our patients.”

BSNI patients are the focus and the most important benefactors of this collaboration. Patients are able to receive timely, remote, emergency consultations with AcuteCare Telemedicine neurology specialists. “Our commitment to providing the highest quality of care and ongoing collaboration with BSNI is sure to have a significant impact on the patients and the communities BSNI serves,” say Dr. Keith Sanders, Partner, ACT.

ACT hosted Patricia Lane, Administrative Director Neuroscience at Bon Secours Health System Richmond, and Suzanne Doolan, Hospital Systems Manager at Genentech to review stroke treatment processes and patient outcomes. “The advancements in teleneurology not only allow us to access more patients in need of our specialized care, but in providing acute stroke care we are able to improve patient outcomes overall,” commented Sanders. “The success of this collaboration hinges on a seamless execution and a continued effort to evaluate and implement improvements.”

AcuteCare Telemedicine continues to expand its geographic imprint in telestroke care, advancing the opportunity for healthcare institutions to gain access to highly-respected, expert neurologists and telemedicine technologies. For more information on how to implement teleneurology services at your healthcare organization, contact ACT. 

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 Bon Secours Virginia Health System

Bon Secours Virginia provides good help to thousands of Virginians through a network of hospitals, primary and specialty care practices, ambulatory care sites and continuing care facilities across the Commonwealth. The not-for-profit health system employs more than 12,500 people, including nearly 800 providers as part of the Bon Secours Medical Group.

The fourth largest and only faith-based health system in Virginia, Bon Secours Virginia offers a full range of services including cardiac, women’s, children’s, orthopaedics, oncology, neurosciences and surgery at eight award-winning hospitals.

– Bon Secours Richmond is St. Mary’s Hospital, Memorial Regional Medical Center, Richmond Community Hospital, Rappahannock General Hospital and St. Francis Medical Center.

– Bon Secours Hampton Roads is Maryview Medical Center, DePaul Medical Center and Mary Immaculate Hospital. 

About Bon Secours Virginia Health Care Foundation

The Bon Secours Virginia Health Care Foundation raises charitable funds to help Bon Secours Virginia Health System address the community’s growing health care needs with compassion and excellence. Through charitable support, we are dedicated to helping create healthy communities, advancing clinical innovation and providing an extraordinary experience of care. For more information on giving, visit www.bsvaf.org.



Patching the Current System Will Not Advance the Great Promise of Telehealth

The deliberate march towards meeting the Federation of State Medical Boards’ (FSMB) goal of streamlining medical licensing of physicians continues. The FSMB promises that a new compact of seven states will trigger changes that will ultimately help reduce redundant licensing requirements by creating one place where physicians submit basic information such as their education and credentials. Last month Idaho and Utah were the latest states electing to join Montana and West Virginia as this compact attempts to speed up the process of licensing doctors across state boundaries. While some question why only seven states are required for implementation of this compact, just three more states are now needed to initiate the process that promises to remove a formidable barrier to telemedicine growth nationwide.

Despite being one of the most promising technologies to improve patient care and lower the rising costs of healthcare, telehealth is surviving in a regulatory environment that was established during an era devoid of modern telecommunication devices and technology. State physician licensing is currently controlled by 50 state medical licensing boards, each with their own requirements, policies and credentialing criteria. The current licensing process is a substantial impediment to the advancement of telehealth across state lines, sparking an intense debate over the need for a traditionally unpopular nationalized licensing system.

In an attempt to ward off yet another federal intrusion into states affairs, last year the FSMB proposed a voluntary national compact on joint licensing for the states. The goal is to secure the cooperation of enough states to quiet any calls to replace state-based physician licensing with a national program. The reason for the compact is that the FSMB previously approved a telemedicine policy that defines the location of the practice of medicine as the state where the patient is located, not the physician. The model legislation calls for at least seven states to participate in the compact in order to form a governing commission made up of representatives from the participating states.

From the outset industry leaders and telemedicine supporters saw the effort as a weak attempt to stem the growing tide to replace an outdated and inefficient system. The FSMB compact does little to address the cost associated with acquiring a license in each state and in fact increases the costs by adding fees associated with handling and processing the information.

Washington Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery Executive Director Blake Maresh says, “For some, the interstate compact offers a tested Constitutional precept that could creatively forestall federal intervention that might otherwise supplant the longstanding authority of state medical boards, for others the possibility of other state boards licensing physicians who practice in their states, coupled with the establishment of new governmental organizations, leaves them uneasy at best.”

It is certain that the authors of state and federal constitutions could not have envisioned the advance of modern technology and the impact of those advances on preserving and improving the lives of their constituents. Delivering the benefits of increased access to the latest and best medical care, improved patient outcomes and lower costs must trump preserving outdated constitutional precepts. We must intensify our focus on implementing new processes designed to advance the great promises of telemedicine.



AcuteCare Telemedicine Advancing Stroke Care

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 life-saving treatments for stroke. In a time when medical specialist are in short supply  among the nations smaller to mid-sized hospitals and increasing financial pressures make maintaining a neurology service difficult even at larger hospitals, many are turning to telestroke programs to assure their patients have access to the finest quality care available.  “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 in Atlanta and AcuteCare Telemedicine CEO. The combination of improving patient care, a growing shortage of neurology specialist and concerns over rising healthcare cost have converged to produce a significant increase in the utilization of communication technologies in the delivery of advanced stroke care

In a recent study, telestroke units helped increase the number of rural stroke patients treated and delivered treatment faster. In the 10-year evaluation of telestroke programs the study, published in the journal Stroke, found that the number of patients receiving the clot-busting drug tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) for ischemic stroke rose from 2.6 percent to 15.5 percent and the median time between a patient’s arrival at a regional hospital until tPA was administered fell from 80 minutes to 40 minutes. In addition, the median time between onset of stroke symptoms and receiving tPA fell from 150 minutes to 120 minutes. During the same decade, the number of patients transferred from regional hospitals to stroke centers declined from 11.5 percent to 7 percent.

Telemedicine continues to make significant progress in providing quality, specialized care for stroke and other neurological ailments and is improving access to this care for patients who live in remote outlying areas not served by major urban medical centers. According to the American Telemedicine Association, more than half of all U.S. hospitals now use some form of telemedicine.

According to a new study by Mayo Clinic researchers, telestroke programs are leading to lower cost. Stroke patients living in rural areas who receive care via a telestroke network experience, on average, nearly $1,500 in lower costs over their lifetime compared to stroke patients who do not receive telestroke care. The savings are primarily attributed to reduced resource utilization, including nursing home care and inpatient rehabilitation. The researchers evaluated a particular kind of telestroke care, with the healthcare provider acting as a hub that connects with a network of multiple hospitals, or spokes. They determined that when a telestroke system connects a hub with seven spokes it’s effective and cost-friendly for the patient. “This study shows that a hub-and-spoke telestroke network is not only cost-effective from the societal perspective, but it’s cost-saving,” said neurologist Bart Demaerschalk, MD, director of the Mayo Clinic Telestroke Program, and lead investigator of the study.

Thomas Hospital has been serving the communities of Baldwin County and Mobile Alabama for more than 50 years. A 150 bed hospital with a staff of more than 1300 dedicated medical professionals, Thomas Hospital has established a tradition for earning accolades for excellent service. Recently, in an effort to complement their existing neurological care department, the Hospital partnered with AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT) and the Alabama Partnership for Telemedicine to provide virtual, 24 hour, seven days per week treatment for stroke and other neurological maladies. With its exemplary track record for providing outstanding care it is no surprise that it would seek to improve its neurological care services through the use of the latest communication technology. Dr. James M. Kiely, says “When you engage with AcuteCare Telemedicine you are engaging in more than a technical solution. You are gaining quality individuals to augment your medical staff.  Patients are able to engage with neurologists who are invested in their care.”

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. “The interaction between patients and families and us with the two-way, secure videoconferencing system that we have, it’s the same as being there,” says Dr. Keith A. Sanders, AcuteCare COO. “The Neurologic exam for stroke and emergency Neurology can be as safely and reliably done remotely as it is in person, I don’t think we miss anything by not being there.” 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.

At Dodge County Hospital ACT partners with InTouch Health (InTouch), a leading developer and provider of remote presence devices and software, to bring remote telestroke 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. “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. “We look forward to expanding our family of client partnerships throughout the region.

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. Dr. Lisa Johnson, AcuteCare CFO, sees the healthcare environment for telemedicine as an increasingly expanding area. “Unfortunately there is an exodus of neurologists away from hospital work and on call duty. There is a particular lack of neurologists in many rural hospitals,” as the trend continues, the need for telemedicine is only going to grow, especially in the field of Neurology, where assessing an acute stroke patient can be swiftly and completely performed via remote presence.”

If your hospital or hospital system is looking to establish a stroke center to offer the best in telestroke care, AcuteCare Telemedicine, as a practice-based provider, is the best solution. For more information, please contact ACT at info@acutecaretelemedicine.com.



Major Advance in Chronic Stroke Treatment

For those who dedicate their professional careers to providing medical care to patients suffering from persistent and chronic disease, treatments that reduce disability and save lives do not come along often enough. And when they do come along, promising new technology and treatments all too often do not deliver on their initial promises after being subjected to critical clinical trials. But stroke experts are reporting a major advance in the treatment of chronic stroke which, after numerous clinic studies and trials, appears to be living up to the initial promises.

Stents similar to the ones used to open clogged heart arteries can now be used to clear a blood clot in the brain, greatly lowering the risk a patient will end up disabled. Most of the 800,000 strokes in the U.S. each year are caused by a blood clot lodged in the brain. Now an Endovascular device, a metal mesh cage called stent, can be inserted thorough a blocked blood vessel to more quickly retrieve and remove a clog. At a recent American Heart Association (AHA) International Stroke Conference in Nashville, TN doctors reported that patients treated with these brain stents were far more likely to be alive and able to live independently three months after their stroke. The treatment was so successful that three studies testing it were stopped early, so it could be offered to more patients. One study also found the death rate was cut almost in half for those given the treatment.

“This is a once-in-a-generation advance in stroke care,” said the head of one study, Dr. Jeffrey Saver, stroke chief at the University of California, Los Angeles. Early endovascular clot removal is improving stroke outcomes beyond those patients who received treatment with thrombolytics alone. “This is a real breakthrough,” agreed Patrick Lyden, MD, director of the stroke program at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, “There’ve been very few people as critical as me about this procedure, but even I have to take a look at the data and say we have to believe this.”

The results shown from the three trials is a major verification of the treatments previously promised benefits. An independent expert, Dr. Lee Schwamm of Massachusetts General Hospital, called it “a real turning point in the field.” For those many patients who can be offered this treatment, “This is the difference between returning home and not returning home.”

The procedure could be offered to patients regardless of whether they’re a candidate for clot-dissolving medicine called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), but the evidence supports the patient getting both treatments if eligible. Stroke care “needs to be completely changed” to make the treatment more widely available, said Dr. Walter Koroshetz, acting director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “This has taken stroke therapy to the same place that heart attack therapy is now,” he said.

Stent treatment of stroke has a narrow time window for use and is less effective for those who seek help too late. The key to surviving a stroke is recognizing the warning signs including; numbness or weakness on one side, confusion or trouble speaking, visual changes, and trouble walking, and then getting help within three to four hours after the onset of any of these symptoms.