AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


Foundation Study Identifies Telehealth as the Cutting-Edge Future of Health Care

A new study, “Telehealth & Patient-Centered Care” conducted by Ron Bachman, a Senior Fellow at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, provides a comprehensive analysis of the potential of telehealth and how policies in Georgia can accelerate, or inhibit, its benefits. Georgia has accepted the leadership role in the development, implementation and increased utilization of telecommunication technology in delivering quality, affordable and more accessible healthcare to its consumer-patients. Today, more than half of Georgia’s hospitals are capable of delivering virtual care to their patients and state law makers have passed legislation requiring private insurers to cover telehealth services.

Ron Bachman is one of the foremost experts on health care consumerism, consumer-centric Medicaid and Medicare, the uninsured population and mental health. His study found an estimated half a billion smartphone users worldwide will be using a health care app to connect to a healthcare giver by 2015. An emerging, technology-using generation is becoming increasingly comfortable with using mobile devises to access their medical care through smartphones, tablets and laptops. Entrusted with an increased responsibility for paying the rising costs of healthcare, these new consumers are embracing disruptive technologies to command lower cost, more convenient, higher quality, consumer oriented medical care. “It is impossible to stop a mega-trend,” says Bachman. “Telehealth is the cutting-edge future of health care worldwide. Telehealth, in its various forms, will provide convenient medical services because consumers will demand it.”

A full expansion of the benefits of telemedical services continues to be hampered by established, well-intentioned industry groups and governmental agencies. For decades, these market deciders have successfully influenced a healthcare delivery model that is the envy of the world. Their concerns and reluctance to boldly apply such wide ranging and disrupting technologies to a historically successful model is understandable. But Bachman argues that, “Too often existing self-interest groups, established guilds and status quo advocates can stifle disruptive innovations, the role government plays in providing oversight and clarity is important to prevent litigiousness and overregulation from holding Georgia, Georgia’s patients and physicians back in an era of growing needs and limited resources.”

The study concludes that health care consumerism and telehealth technology are here to stay and will offer tremendous benefits to both caregivers and patients. Kelly McCutchen, President of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, said “The findings of Bachman’s study offer excellent opportunities to expand low-cost, quality health care to the poor and to rural parts of the state. Health care costs will bankrupt families and our country unless we find effective, high-quality solutions. Telehealth is exactly the type of innovation that can solve many of these problems, as long as we remain vigilant and ensure it is not shackled by overregulation.”



Telemedicine Contributes to the Education and Treatment of Autism

Using web-based technology to teach parents the strategies of applied behavior analysis (ABA) could offer big gains for kids with autism, new research suggests. In a small study of rural parents who participated in a series of online tutorials and videoconferencing sessions, researchers found that they could help moms and dads substantially increase their knowledge of ABA and apply the techniques without forcing the families to make long drives to a clinic. The finding could have particularly big implications for families living in remote communities that lack therapy offerings, researchers said.

“Autism spectrum disorders, now estimated to affect 1 in 68 children, are just as common in rural America, but ABA-trained professionals are rare,” said Linda Heitzman-Powell of the University of Kansas who worked on the study published in the journal Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities. Heitzman-Powell and her colleagues said the training method they developed, known as Online and Applied System for Intervention Skills (OASIS) helped parents increase their knowledge of ABA strategies by an average of 39 percent. What’s more, parents who took part in the training improved their implementation of the strategies by 41 percent overall, researchers said.

Four families with children on the spectrum participated in the study, each of whom completed a series of online tutorials and at least 13 videoconferencing sessions with a coach. Parents also used an online interface to report on their use of the strategies with their child. Since completing the initial study, researchers say they’ve further tested OASIS with nearly 40 families with similarly promising findings.

According to recent research, some 42 percent of U.S. hospitals have implemented telehealth platforms, with the highest levels of adoption occurring in rural areas. At Tift Regional Health System in Tifton, Ga., a telehealth frontrunner, they are operating several rural telehealth programs including programs providing telehealth at schools, an ADD and autism clinic, an emergency department stroke program, a program for patients undergoing kidney transplants, a geriatric psychiatric program and a program where patients can reach a provider 24 hours a day. “We believe in telehealth. We believe it’s the future,” says Jeff Robbins, director of the organization’s telehealth effort.

The ADD and autism clinic annually works for 600 children who often don’t have access to psychiatrists, endocrinologists, geneticists and other specialists. Some live more than three hours away, making monthly appointments challenging in terms of finding quality transportation and taking time off for caregivers. The program especially has impacted children from families with limited means, Robbins says.

On the eastern shore of Maryland, Atlantic General Hospital is the first hospital in the nation to partner with Kennedy Krieger Institute to provide telemedicine services to children with autism, ADD/ADHD, intellectual disabilities, and other developmental disorders living far from specialty care. Often a referral for specialty care means a trip to Baltimore and a six-hour round trip drive, with additional expenses for gas, food, parking and tolls. This can leave patients and their families exhausted before they even say hello to the doctor.

Dr. Deepa Menon, the assistant medical director at Kennedy Krieger’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders, and Dr. Paul Lipkin, the director of Kennedy Krieger’s Center for Development and Learning, are providing complete care, with initial evaluations and follow up visits, using encrypted telemedicine technology transmits both audio and video of the patient and doctor in real time. The physicians are able to interact with patients and their families in the same way they would in an actual exam room.

Children’s health care is a growing concern on a domestic and global scale among parents, specialists, and policymakers. Treating this special population, particularly among those living in rural communities, ignites continual challenges including insurance concerns, limited transportation, and the low number and availability of pediatric specialists. Telemedicine provides the best solution for providing much needed specialized treatment and education to those in need.