AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


Now is the Time

Like any other year, the beginning of 2013 brings a great deal of optimism about what surprising changes and exciting opportunities and a new year will bring, not just to healthcare, but to our everyday lives. We are living in an age of constant innovation and untamed enthusiasm for what is new. Every day, we read news about the pioneering of new solutions for age-old problems and find ourselves astonished by what we can accomplish with the collective knowledge of generations past and a zeal for moving towards the future.

Telemedicine is a prime example of an entire industry fueled by this fervor for innovation, and the resulting advances it has brought to the way we think about healthcare are nothing short of remarkable. Unfortunately, the level of investment in terms of initial costs and putting trust in new technologies has been enough of an obstacle to prevent many facilities to postpone the adoption of telemedicine.

Embracing telemedicine is about far more than flashy new technology and the promise of saving costs; it is about taking steps forward to make our world a better place. For example, the latest tragedy to make national news out of Newtown, CT served as a stark reminder that there are still great strides that need to be made in order to address the needs of individuals with psychiatric conditions. Fortunately, through telepsychiatry programs and the drastic improvements in patient monitoring capabilities afforded by telemedicine, it is easier than ever before to get help. Extending the attention and the care that is so desperately needed in cases such as these will undoubtedly help us prevent many such worst-case scenarios.

It is the hope of AcuteCare Telemedicine and other proponents of telehealth that the plethora of new equipment and methods available to providers will continue to propel healthcare towards an era in which every individual has unhindered access to the care they need. There has never been a more important time to push the many benefits of telemedicine into the spotlight, and take the first steps towards achieving this goal.



Investing in People

Telemedicine has garnered more attention as of late as a truly game-changing emerging field on the cutting edge of healthcare. Perceptions of the field have become increasingly favorable, but there is still a long road ahead to becoming part of the mainstream lexicon of medicine for patients and providers.

Presently, one of the most significant barriers to entry for new companies in telemedicine is the level of investment required on the part of potential client facilities. Revolutionary technology does not typically come cheap, and as healthcare spending continues to swell (albeit at a slower rate than previously), most facilities are working diligently to combat rising costs rather than add new programs to already bloated budgets.

The good news is that practical new technologies, regardless of how disruptive or expensive at the outset, have a habit of eventually finding their way into adoption. A common adage proclaims that every few years, the power of technology doubles and its price tag is halved. This implies that facilities which have temporarily chosen to forego the extensive advantages that telemedicine programs offer based upon steep startup costs will ultimately find the same solutions to be far more cost effective in the not-too-distant future. However, late adopters of telemedicine services do run the risk of losing their competitive edge. This is especially true in light of the rapid changes ahead in the healthcare landscape; the integration of telemedicine can make a hospital more independent of, or attractive to, consolidation by larger healthcare systems, depending on the goals of the client.

When considering teleneurology as a discipline in particular, hospitals must recognize that an investment in telemedicine is far more than an investment in the newest, best equipment; it is the foundation of a relationship with physicians who are among the most knowledgeable and experiences practitioners in their field. AcuteCare Telemedicine is truly technology- agnostic, meaning that regardless of the price tag of the machines that we leverage to connect with a facility’s patients or staff, a partnership with our physicians means that behind the machinery is the expertise needed to drastically improve the quality of care a patient can receive. We place value in finding quality tools to accomplish our mission, but our accessibility is by no means restricted by them.

Many healthcare leaders are still hesitant to make the investment in something new, but the time has come that the highest level of expert care be available to everyone, everywhere. It is our vision that hospital facilities will share in our agnosticism towards technology and invest in the people who will improve healthcare’s next generation.



Good Things Come in Small Packages

As the fall approaches and we reach the third anniversary of AcuteCare Telemedicine, we have spent some time reflecting on our company and personal growth over the last three years. From simple beginnings, serving one health care facility in the metro Atlanta area, ACT has expanded to include facilities in rural communities of both Georgia and Tennessee. We have developed alliances with Emory University Hospital and the Georgia Partnership for Teleheath, two partners who enable us to provide the highest quality of acute neurologic care where it may otherwise be lacking. Turning our attention forward, ACT continues to push to ensure that every emergency department is staffed with adequate 24/7 neurology coverage, whether in person or via remote presence.

ACT has always believed that our successes are primarily due to the quality of services we offer. Despite our expansion over the past three years, ACT has remained a small, intimate company, still owned and operated by its four founding physicians. We find unique value in our size; it allows for outstanding continuity of care, frequent “meetings of the minds,” and quick, effective identification of problems and subsequent solutions.

Weekly meetings with all four physicians cultivate innovative ideas, enable problem identification, and facilitate the creation of solutions in a timely and efficient manner, advantages rarely possible in larger corporations. Thanks to the size of the company, each physician of ACT has a specific role, but can be flexible and share duties when needed, strengthening the consistency of the quality care we provide.

Being smaller has other rewards. In the world of acute neurological emergencies, there is little time for complex communication and red tape. When problems or concerns arise at any of our serviced facilities, an ACT physician can immediately make contact remotely and work directly with a facility member on issue resolution. Try calling up the CEO of your car’s manufacturer when your check engine light comes on.

The four physician-owners of ACT continue to practice neurology in a group that has been caring for patients for more than 65 years combined. We are highly trusted neurologists in our own community, and we are committed to bringing our expertise to other communities in need. Our small size ensures that we will stay focused on keeping our standards high and our integrity intact along the way.



ACT Speaks at Connecting Alabama Summit

AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT) Partner Dr. Keith Sanders and Sales Executive Michael Woodcock are travelling to Prattville, Alabama to attend the first annual Connecting Alabama – Telehealth and Broadband Summit from October 17th – 19th.

The event is hosted by Connecting ALABAMA, a government-sponsored initiative working with citizens and community leaders from across the state to improve high speed internet deployment, and the Alabama Partnership for TeleHealth, a charitable nonprofit corporation with a focus on increasing access to healthcare through the innovative use of technology. Together, the organizations hope to provide an opportunity to extend telehealth services throughout all 67 counties of the state.

Topics of discussion at the event range from technical considerations, to the state’s role in deployment, to policy issues, to the current state of telehealth.  Dr. Sanders will speak on Thursday, October 18th about the future of telemedicine, specifically stroke teleneurology. The work of Dr. Sanders and the other physicians of ACT in the field of teleneurology is particularly relevant in any discussion of healthcare in Alabama, as the state is located in the region of the southeastern United States known as the ‘Stroke Belt’ for its unusually high incidence of stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.

Dr. Sanders’ presentation will address necessary tactics for successful and sustainable implementation of telestroke programs, and the characteristics of effective regionally-oriented stroke care that are enabled by telehealth. “I am excited for the opportunity to share ACT’s vision of extending expert neurological care throughout the rural and underserved parts of Alabama and the rest of the country,” says Sanders. “Opening the dialogue at this inaugural event is a key step towards achieving a future with a better standard of care in a more interconnected world.”

For more information about ACT, visit www.acutecaretelemed.com.



A Lens to View Technological Innovation in Healthcare

Keeping up with new technology feels like a sisyphean task. One way to think about technological innovation in healthcare is considering whether the innovation brings services to the patient or requires that the patient be brought to it. The former distributes care, while the latter centralizes it. Both have advantages; by distributing care, it is possible for many resources to contribute to care, and by centralizing care, treatment is focused at one site. Recognizing this technological dichotomy allows savvy hospitals to maximize their return on investment.

Dramatic improvements in radiology over the last 35 years exemplify centralizing care. New MRI and CT scanners dramatically improve our ability to diagnose complex conditions, but the machines’ bulk and expense mean that patients must be brought to them. The same rings true for the latest catheter-based therapies for heart and brain disease, requiring that the patient be brought to the specialized providers.

By contrast, telecommunications innovations distribute care, leading to improved patient outcomes regardless of locality. Translation services are a shining example: in the past, finding someone to translate a language like Amharic or Hmong was daunting, and in an emergency situation, it was simply unavailable. Thanks to new standards set by the Joint Commission, more attention will be paid to proper translation services. The Joint Commission standards reflect federal nondiscrimination laws regarding care of patients with limited English proficiency and recommend that patients be addressed in their preferred language. Now, thanks to successful providers such as CyraCom, dual handset phones can be brought to the bedside and certified translators in hundreds of languages are available in seconds

Telemedicine provides the best example of the power of distributive technological innovation. In stroke care, having experienced stroke neurologists readily available via telemedicine means that stroke patients have unlimited access to state of the art care. Being able to remotely conduct a video interview with the patient and family, examine the patient, and review the brain CT scan equates to faster and better care. AcuteCare Telemedicine’s stroke neurology experts, based in Atlanta, GA, contract with hospitals that need this type of coverage. By distributing care, these hospitals successfully avail their patients with top notch care and reduce treatment times, all while conserving a vital resource: the fossil fuel needed to physically bring the neurologist to the hospital.