AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


ACT Expands to Meet the Increasing Demands for Technology-Based Care

ResearchMoz.us recently published the results of new market research study titled ‘Telehealth and Telemedicine Market in HealthCare Industry 2015-2020’ which projects the global telemedicine market to grow 18.5 (CAGR) percent through 2019. It is clear that the healthcare industry is experiencing considerable growth in the use of digital technologies across a wide range of healthcare specialties such as telehealth, telestroke, wireless health monitoring, wearable health devices, and EMR.

One of the earliest adopters of telemedicine continues to advance in popularity with hospitals who seek around-the-clock stroke and other urgent Neurological care. As the demand for Neurologists increases, there is a growing shortage of experienced physicians available to provide continuous coverage at many facilities throughout the United States. AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT), the leading practice-based provider of telemedicine services located in Atlanta, GA was founded in 2009 to help hospitals overcome medical staff obstacles, ER diversion and help improve patient outcomes for stroke and other Neurological conditions. Since the fourth quarter of 2015, ACT has added numerous client hospitals to their expanding network and is responding to the increased demand for these services by adding qualified neurologists to their team.

“We are dedicated to preserving and strengthening our reputation as leaders in the field of telestroke care and continue to be fully committed to serve the needs of both our patients and client hospitals in a manner that is personal and highly professional,” says James M. Kiely, ACT Partner.

ACT is experiencing an impressive performance by demonstrating its values of integrity, transparency, accountability, collaboration and expertise. Matthews W. Gwynn, CEO, and ACT Partner comments, “We’ve set the standard of care for teleneurology and acute stroke care. We also believe in the importance of remaining technology agnostic and agile, permitting our client hospitals and enterprise-level systems to select the specific technology that best fits the needs of their respective facilities.”

The growing firm is also focused on results, continuously measuring performance across all of the healthcare organizations it serves to identify how to improve the process so as to positively impact patient outcomes. “We are one of the only telestroke providers publishing data centered on the success of our program,” says Lisa H. Johnston, ACT Partner. “We’re proud of setting a standard for other providers to follow.” The study, titled “Improving Telestroke Treatment Times in an Expanding Network of Hospitals”, was published by the Journal of Stroke & Cerebrovascular Diseases and authored by Keith A. Sanders, MD, James M. Kiely, MD, PhD, Matthews W. Gwynn, MD, Lisa H. Johnston, MD and Rahul Patel, BS. The results indicate that a practice-based telemedicine system can produce meaningful improvement in markers of telestroke efficiency in the face of rapid growth of a telestroke network.

“ACT has developed a model of telestroke care that many of our competitors aren’t able to replicate,” comments Dr. Keith Sanders, Partner, ACT. “Our results prove that our business is able to create telestroke programs that are not only effective but sustainable. As clinicians, we measure our success on consistently providing the highest level of stroke care.”



AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT) Exceeds Mid-Year Projections

AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT), the leading practice-based provider of telemedicine services for healthcare organizations seeking around-the-clock stroke and other neurological care, exceeds mid-year projections, adding to its previous 5 years of successive growth.

“As we expand our geographic footprint, ACT has been able to attract enterprise level healthcare systems looking for acute stroke care to support a network of hospitals,” comments Dr. Matthews Gwynn, Partner, ACT.  “Our practice-base model enables us to seamlessly integrate with our client hospitals.”

In March, ACT announced a collaborative partnership with Bon Secours Neuroscience Institute (BSNI), the neuroscience division at the not-for-profit Catholic health system sponsored by Bon Secours Ministries. Patricia Lane, Bon Secours Richmond Administrative Director of Neurosciences says, “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 invested team members who take pride in providing the best quality of neurological care to our patients.”

The American Academy of Neurology reports that stroke is the No. 4 cause of death in the United States and is also a leading cause of disability, creating a shortage of neurologists focused on stroke or acute stroke care.  “With the shortage of neurologists and increased demand for stroke care, especially in rural or underserved communities, ACT works with healthcare organizations to establish teleneurology programs that increase access to critical neurological care,” comments Dr. James Kiely, Partner, ACT. “We remain agile with each client so as to integrate with an existing teleneurology program or assist in establishing a new program, whether a rural hospital or a large healthcare system.”

“We are pleased with the growth of our business and even more excited about the number of hospitals and patients we positively impact,” comments Gwynn.



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.



Expanding the Reach of Teleneurological Care

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. In 2014 it was named among America’s 100 Best Hospitals for Patient Experience and a 2014 America’s Best Hospitals for Obstetrics by Women’s Choice Award. For four consecutive years the facility has been named among the Top 100 Cardiovascular Hospitals by Thomson Reuters and was named a Blue Distinction Center for Knee and Hip Replacement by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama. With such an exemplary track record it is no surprise that it would seek to improve its neurological care services through the use of the latest communication technology.

In a time when medical specialist are in short supply and increasing financial pressures are common place among the nations smaller to mid-sized hospitals, many are turning to telemedicine to assure their patients have access to the finest quality care available. In an effort to complement their existing neurological care department, Thomas Hospital is partnering with AcuteCare Telemedicine and the Alabama Partnership for Telemedicine to provide virtual, 24 hour, seven days per week treatment for stroke and other neurological maladies. The service is scheduled to go into effect in early January, 2015 and will assist the dedicated caregivers at Thomas Hospital in providing the finest around the clock neurological treatment to the patients in their community.

AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT) is the leading practice-based provider of Telemedicine services for hospitals seeking around-the-clock stroke and other urgent Neurological care. As the demand for Neurologists increases and new regulations impact hospitals, there is a growing shortage of experienced physicians available to provide continuous coverage. ACT offers cost-effective solutions that deliver complete on-call coverage to improve patient outcomes. “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. “We look forward to expanding our family of client partnerships throughout the region with the addition of Thomas Hospital.” Alabama Partnership for Telehealth will be providing the technical assistance and infrastructure for the project.

Alabama Partnership for TeleHealth (APT) is a charitable nonprofit corporation with a focus on increasing access to healthcare through the innovative use of technology. APT’s goal is to serve the citizens of Alabama by promoting and supporting new and existing telehealth programs across the state.

Thomas Hospital is an associate of Infirmary Health, Alabama’s largest non-government healthcare team, and is devoted to patient care through three acute-care hospitals, three rehabilitation hospitals, three outpatient facilities and 22 medical clinics which serve an 11-county area along the Gulf Coast of the state.



Dr. Lisa Johnston, as CFO, finds AcuteCare experience to be priceless

Knowing how to analyze, organize and execute made her a star point guard on her undefeated high school basketball team, on Long Island, N.Y.

Those same qualities now in her professional life enable Lisa H. Johnston, M.D., to shine as the chief financial officer and founding partner of AcuteCare Telemedicine.

From Queens, N.Y., originally, it was at a young age that she decided to become a doctor. “I remember going to see my doctor at his house and thought, ‘Wow, he gets to work at home and make sick people feel better’,” Dr. Johnston says. “I remember looking through encyclopedias to figure out how old I would be when I graduated from medical school. Funny how it was so old then and so young now,” she laughs.

Initially, she wanted to become a physiatrist, but studying Neurology as an elective caused her to change course. “I remember seeing a man in a wheelchair whose left arm kept hanging out of the chair. I thought, ‘doesn’t he know it’s getting caught in the spokes,’” Johnston says, “and the resident said, ‘he had a stroke in his right parietal lobe. He has neglect and doesn’t know that’s HIS left arm.’ And that was it for me. I was completely sold after that.”

Dr. Johnston received her BA and MD degrees from Brown University and completed her initial post graduate training at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago. She was trained in Neurology at Emory University Hospital, where she also completed a fellowship in Sleep Medicine. Dr.  Johnston is a partner in Atlanta Neurology, P.C. and served as Medical Director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northside Hospital. She is board certified in Neurology and Sleep Medicine.

Creating AcuteCare Telemedicine in 2009 was an easy decision for Dr. Johnston and her partners. “We had an opportunity as a group to provide telemedicine services at a community hospital nearby,” Dr. Johnston remembers. “We realized that we could provide the same service to other similarly situated hospitals; alas, ACT was born.”

Knowing the value of teamwork, Dr. Johnston says she and her colleagues share a work environment that is trusting, reliable, and cohesive. “We four partners of ACT are very fortunate that as physicians we have worked together for the past 15 years, sharing patient cases, new ideas and future goals. On call duty, in certain ways, can be a very solitude and at times daunting part of being a physician. There is comfort in knowing that there is always a partner that is willing and able to provide backup if needed.”

Dr. Johnston notes their commitment is multi-faceted. “Not only are we the physicians taking care of patients through ACT, we are the owners of ACT,” Dr. Johnston says. “We have a vested interest, not only in providing superior quality care of patients, we have an interest in making our company thrive. There is an all-around positive energy into everything we do – caring for our patients, and caring for our company. It’s a great environment to be a part of.”

She 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,” Dr. Johnston says. “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.”

Dr. Johnston finds her inspiration in the fast-paced, challenging work that emanates from remote presence. “You are talking about trying to intervene either to save someone’s life or improve their quality of life, within a limited period of time. You have to be there ‘now’ and you have to be on,” she says. “You have to decide whether to take the jumpshot or pass the ball inside … and the clock is ticking.”

Edward Herring’s relationship with his daughter is a pillar of Dr. Johnston’s success today. Her late father would have been 90 years old this year. “My dad (with mom’s support of course!) made tremendous sacrifices for me and my brother; some sacrifices that took me until adulthood to appreciate,” Dr. Johnston says. “His own dreams were deferred in order that ours could be realized. I know that he would not have had it any other way.”

In what spare time she gets, Dr. Johnston enjoys traveling, photography and spending time laughing and simply enjoying life with her husband and their teenage son.

For Dr. Johnston, being able to care for patients on an emergency basis through AcuteCare Telemedicine is invaluable. “I know that when ACT is called to see a patient for an acute stroke, there is no other neurologist at that time at that facility who is available to provide care and that’s what makes the work ACT does so impactful. We are providing care to patients that otherwise might be delayed or simply unavailable,” she says. “To me, to be able to serve in this manner, is priceless.”



Recognizing the Symptoms of Stroke

While stroke awareness is a major concern for both men and women, a recent study concluded that women are less likely to recognize stroke symptoms. Only half of those surveyed know that sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the face, arms or legs is a warning sign of a stroke. 44 percent are aware that speech difficulty is a stroke sign while less than 1-in-4 could identify sudden severe headache, unexplained dizziness and sudden vision loss, or vision loss in one eye as the top symptoms of stroke. The study surveyed more than 1,200 women in the United States to assess their understanding of stroke’s warning signs.

The signs and symptoms of a stroke vary from person to person but usually begin suddenly. As different parts of the brain control different parts of the body, your symptoms depend upon the part of the brain affected and the extent of the damage.

The main stroke symptoms can be remembered with the word F.A.S.T.: Face-Arms-Speech-Time.

  • Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile or their mouth or eye may have drooped
  • Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift one or both arms and keep them there because of arm weakness or numbness
  • Speech – speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake
  • Time – it is time to dial 911 immediately if any of these signs or symptoms at the earliest onset of these symptoms

For those living with or who care for somebody in a high-risk group, such as someone who is elderly or has diabetes or high blood pressure, being aware of the symptoms is even more important.

The acronym “FAST” is also meant to underscore the importance of rapidly delivering treatment to stroke patients. If given in time, a clot-busting drug administered during a stroke can lead to better outcomes and a decrease in the likelihood that a patient will suffer long-term disability. A recent study examined the effectiveness of tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) relative to the delay in administering this clot busting drug. Researchers found that every minute tPA was delayed cost nearly 2 days of disability free survival. The researchers commented that their message is literally “Save a Minute, Save a Day.”

Although many Americans live relatively close to a hospital where emergency stroke treatment is available, few actually receive the recommended therapies. Researchers found that only 4 percent of the more than 370,000 Medicare patients who suffered a stroke in 2011 were treated with tPA. Most stroke victims fail to recognize the symptoms of stroke or call 911 early enough to receive the necessary treatment. tPA is most effective when administered within a 4 hour window of time.

Every minute counts for stroke patients. Remember to act F.A.S.T.!



AcuteCare Telemedicine Leading Acute Care Telemedicine

The effort to provide high-quality healthcare solutions to every patient, regardless of geographic location, while reducing delivery costs is at the foundation of industry leaders efforts to revolutionize the traditional healthcare delivery model. Telemedicine is becoming the cornerstone of the solutions. Advances in telecommunication technologies is providing increased opportunities to decrease complications for patients in areas of high acuity like the critical care unit, as well as provide assistance in time-sensitive treatment decisions for emergencies such as stroke care.

InTouch Health® is the leader in acute care remote presence telemedicine. The company through its network of clinical care providers delivers innovative healthcare solutions that extend a doctor’s ability to manage patient care remotely, thereby removing critical time and distance barriers. The InTouch Telemedicine System allows physicians and other healthcare providers to conduct highly reliable, real-time, remote consultations.

AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT), the largest practiced based provider of acute stroke and neurological care is now linked as a preferred provider with InTouch Health. Acute care telemedicine is an approach to urgent healthcare delivery in which specialists are focused on providing comprehensive, end-to-end remote presence clinical services, enabling a remote clinician to be interactively present in the patient environment and gather pertinent medical information through examination and data access to form a medical decision and care plan. With their remote expertise available at a moment’s notice, ACT is able to increase the likelihood that patients will obtain necessary stroke care within the critical “golden hour” following stroke recognition. The importance of using acute care telemedicine in the advancement of emergency healthcare is supported by the efforts of InTouch Health.

The ACT team of expert Neurologists is being recognized for setting new standards for excellence in Telestroke and urgent Teleneurology care. As clinical partners with hospital based and emergency physicians, they are positioned to successfully deliver remote, live and interactive Telestroke and other Teleneurology solutions that deliver the highest quality, affordable services and superior clinical outcomes for hospitals all around the world.