AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


Healthcare Regulatory & Policy Environment Impacts Telehealth Adoption

For those who first thought telemedicine’s role would be limited to a supportive, “add-on” process focused on a narrow list of ailments and other procedures and treatments, today’s reality must be shocking, if not a bit frightening.

Unlike technology where advances are frequent and common, changes to industry governing regulations are often found at the other end of the spectrum, and perhaps rightfully so. While some may argue that the healthcare industry is overly regulated, others argue that well designed regulations and practice standards is the fundamental reason that our healthcare system is the envy of the world. The suspicious practices of past centuries of treating patients have been replaced by a complex set of regulations that are diverse across all fifty states but is universally founded on all responsible care givers guiding mantra, “First, do no harm”.

But no matter how well intentioned and successful, the massive healthcare regulatory system with its myriad of governing bodies, Boards, and legislatures is a formidable foe when it comes to interjecting new technology that promises to greatly improve and enhance the experience between healthcare provider and patient. The changes perhaps once thought to require mere tweaking around the edges of the regulatory giant are proving to be far more involved and are likely to require a restructuring of the healthcare regulatory environment, a process that will certainly slow the advancement and adoption of telehealth. Progress is occurring, at a disruptive but deliberate pace perhaps, as dedicated industry leaders tackle the challenges of integrating advanced remote medical technologies into the existing mainstream healthcare delivery model.

The American Telemedicine Association, the leading international resource and advocate promoting the use of advanced remote medical technologies is leading the way and monitoring the progress of change across all fifty states through two annual publications; The 50 State Telemedicine Gaps Analysis, Physician Practice Standards & Licensure and The State Telemedicine Gaps Analysis, Coverage & Reimbursement.

Ultimately, the future of telemedicine and its rate of adoption are dependent on reimbursement and regulatory policies at the industry, federal and state level. Jon Linkous, the CEO of the American Telemedicine Association, counts understanding healthcare’s regulatory and economic structure as one of his top To Do’s for companies active in the telehealth industry.



Technology & Telehealth At The Center of Healthcare Debate

Many industry pundits are predicting that 2016 will be the year that technology and healthcare will become the center of the healthcare industry. With advances being made to modify century old regulations and processes governing the established patient/doctor relationship, telehealth services are positioned to become main-stream in the delivery of care all across the country. Rapid adoption of technology driven health services is expected to accelerate as payment for services, interstate licensing and accreditation issues, currently complicating expansion, are resolved. “2016 is the time for telehealth,” said Nathaniel Lacktman, a partner at Foley & Lardner who specializes in telehealth. A major factor, he said, is that providers are taking on more financial risk for managing the health of enrolled populations. “What a provider can do on the front end is use telehealth to make the patient more likely to interact with a clinician,” he said.

As an increased number of states are allowing physicians to provide telehealth services across state lines through collaborative licensure arrangements, insurers across the industry are discovering the cost advantages of reimbursing for virtual care. However, a recently published survey conducted in 2014 by The American Academy of Family Physicians indicated that while 78 percent of respondents believed that telehealth would improve access to healthcare, only 15 percent actually used telemedicine during the year. The survey also pointed to other barriers to wider acceptance which include the need for additional training for caregivers, continued reimbursement issues, cost of the technology and potential liability issues. 

“Telehealth use is in the early stages of adoption,” states the paper. “Many of the barriers to wider adoption may be addressed by policy changes. Strategies to address the top two barriers identified by this survey include health care stakeholders offering new opportunities for training in the use of telehealth services and payers increasing awareness of their current reimbursement for telehealth services, as well as developing new ways to reimburse the services.”

On the consumer side, awareness appears to be a major factor in the level of use. While consumers are quick to buy into the benefits of a marriage between technology and their interactions with care givers, the mechanics of actually making a virtual connection, and when it is appropriate, has many potential users pausing at the first step. Providers will need to embark on a strategy to guide patients through the process of making that first connection and reinforcing the experience.

It’s safe to say that telehealth and technology will continue to dominate healthcare conversations in 2016.



AcuteCare Telemedicine Team of Neurological Specialists Publish New Study

A new study published by the Journal of Stroke & Cerebrovascular Diseases indicates a practice-based telemedicine system can produce meaningful improvement in markers of telestroke efficiency in the face of rapid growth of a telestroke network. “Improving Telestroke Treatment Times in an Expanding Network of Hospitals” is authored by Keith A. Sanders, MD, James M. Kiely, MD, PhD, Matthews W. Gwynn, MD, Lisa H. Johnston, MD and Rahul Patel, BS.

AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT) has remained committed to working with healthcare organizations to establish telestroke programs that not only improve access to specialty care but also significantly improve patient outcomes,” comments Dr. Keith Sanders, Partner, ACT. “It is critical to prove that our business is able to create telestroke programs that are not only effective but sustainable.”

As stated in the background for this study, telestroke must demonstrate successful outcomes to achieve sustained growth and acceptance. Asserting that telemedicine is faster, employs the latest technology, or promotes a better use of limited re-sources is laudable but insufficient. An analysis of stroke treatment within a telemedicine network in 2013 showed that tissue-type plasminogen activator (tPA) could be safely and reliably administered within a practice-based model of telestroke care. Since then, hospital volume and tPA administration within this network have tripled. We hypothesize that a practice-based model of telestroke can maintain positive outcomes in the face of rapid growth. As a result, the study demonstrates meaningful improvement in markers of telestroke efficiency in the face of rapid growth of a telestroke network.

“Success in our business isn’t just about adding new healthcare organizations to our client portfolio,’ says Dr. Matthews Gwynn, Partner, ACT. “As clinicians, we measure our success on consistently providing the highest level of stroke care and improving patient outcomes.  This study is representative of our ongoing commitment to serve as a leader in telestroke care, establishing a standard of care and a model that supports the positive growth of telestroke programs across the country.”

Download the full article here.

 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.



Robots and Doctors Help Improve Stroke Treatment

The issue of delivering consistent medical care across all geographic areas from large populated urban centers to the outlying rural communities has been a critical area of focus for healthcare organizations. Typically smaller, financially stressed rural hospitals and clinics suffer from limited access to medical specialists, particularly in emergency situations involving stroke and other neurological and coronary events. These medical emergencies demanded quick and immediate treatment to save the affected patient from significant disability or death.

In the three years since the first telestroke robot was installed at Covenant Health Hospitals in East Tennessee, doctors at LeConte Medical Center (LMC) have used the technology on a weekly basis. Using the latest in virtual presence technology the dedicated medical professionals at LMC can connect immediately with a team of neurological specialists at AcuteCare Telemedicine in Atlanta, GA. “It’s an amazing thing that we have this expertise in a small rural hospital,” said Steve Dronen, M.D., Emergency Room at LeConte Medical Center. While the hospital has a well demonstrated history of providing quality care to stroke patients, the extra advantage of having highly trained and experienced neurological specialist available for consultation around the clock, 24/7 assures LMC patients the highest level of stroke care available anywhere in the country.

Dr. James Kiely, a partner in Atlanta Neurology, P.C. and AcuteCare Telemedicine said, “As Medical Director of the Neurophysiology Departments at St. Joseph’s Hospital of Atlanta I was aware of how fortunate our patients were to have the most immediate lifesaving treatment for stroke 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” The most effective stroke care requires that it be delivered to the patient within the “golden window” of stroke onset. 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 recovery after a stroke. “AcuteCare Telemedicine was created”, Dr. Kiely says, “to impact the well-being of patients with severe neurological emergencies who otherwise wouldn’t have rapid access to vital expertise simply because of where they live.”

The other major benefit of the technology, described by Dr. S. Arthur Moore, Medical Director of Stroke Program at Covenant Health’s Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, is how quickly the tele-robot allows doctors to make life-saving decisions. “We can now do something about it. It doesn’t matter if you are in rural East Tennessee or in Knoxville, we can provide the same care,” said Dr. Moore. Doctors only have a small window of time to make a treatment decision before the damage from stroke becomes permanent. The new technology is helping to accelerate the treatment process.



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



Is Telemedicine and Telehealth the Future of Healthcare Delivery?

With the global telemedicine market predicted to soar past the $30 billion mark by 2020 it is becoming increasingly difficult to overestimate the impact telemedicine, or it’s broader application telehealth, is about to have on the broader healthcare delivery model. Much of the considerable focus of discussions thus far has been about the effects of virtual technology on the safety and quality of service to patients, the creation of new methods of payment for virtual services rendered and massaging the concerns of the industries evaluators and licensors. But the ongoing advance of mobility and affordability of communication technology is opening up vast new opportunities to apply telemedical technology to a much larger spectrum of healthcare delivery.

It is true that even if the whole of telemedicine’s promise were to be fully realized, it is likely never to completely replace the face to face relationship between the healer and the afflicted. But with the rising cost of healthcare, anticipated physician shortages and a general increase in demand for healthcare, virtual medical care is attracting a much wider audience of support across the medical care industry. In a recent Wall Street Journal report on private equity firms, investors are increasingly interested in investing in the health-care sector, creating a tipping point for a newer early stage virtual healthcare industry. Until recently the technology, devices, applications, operating platforms and processes have been the elements receiving most of the attention, but with the increasing appearance of virtual telehealth centers at shopping malls and big box retailers, it may be time to expand our thinking on just how dramatic the disruption on the industry will be.

Some well-established healthcare systems are now facing a decision on where to most effectively invest their capital. Should it be in traditional brick and mortar facilities or in the newest telehealth information technology? While advancement of diagnostic technology and ground breaking progress in treatment options has been common in the industry for decades, the “hard” methods of engaging patients by the healer has seen little change since the “industrialization” period of healthcare more than a half-century ago. As mobile health monitoring devices become more reliable and capable, patients with chronic diseases are being monitored, evaluated and often treated without leaving the confines of their home or work areas, reducing the usefulness of centralized physical structures used to connect and treat patients with chronic diseases. Advances in surgical robotics, techniques and technology has resulted in less invasive surgeries being “off-loaded” from heavily supported hospital based surgical suites into less costly outpatient surgical facilities.

Telemedicine has made significant changes in delivery models for clinical and acute care in the last 5 years and is certain to provide expanded application and creative solutions for meeting challenges across the whole of the healthcare delivery spectrum. It’s time to expand our vision for utilizing communication technology in the delivery of healthcare. Telemedicine and telehealth is the future of healthcare delivery.



Best Integrated Campaign for Stroke Month Awarded to Bon Secours Richmond

ACT Blog Bonsecour Award

From Left to Right: Bob Silverstein, Enterprise Executive Sales Director, ACT; Dionne Henderson Director of Community & Multi-Cultural Initiatives at American Heart Association, American Stroke Association; Patricia C. Lane MBA, SCRN|Bon Secours Richmond Administrative Director Neurosciences, Bon Secours Richmond Health System; Dr. Stacey Epps, Executive Medical Director Bon Secours Virginia Neuroscience Institute.

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association recognizes American Stroke Month by focusing on efforts to teach family, friends and coworkers how to recognize the signs of stroke.

This year The American Heart Association awarded Bon Secours Richmond Health System the Best Integrated Campaign Award for 2015. The fourth largest and only faith-based health system in Virginia, Bon Secours Virginia provides full range of services to thousands of Virginians through a network of hospitals, primary and specialty care practices, ambulatory care sites and continuing care facilities across the Commonwealth.

Bon Secours is accustomed to taking a leadership role in Neurological care, having established teleneurology initiatives more than five years ago with a goal to have all of its area hospitals joint commission certified. AcuteCare Telemedicine, the leading practice-based provider of Telemedicine services for hospitals seeking around-the-clock stroke and other urgent Neurological care is collaborating with Bon Secours Neuroscience Institute (BSNI), the neuroscience division at the not-for-profit Catholic health system sponsored by Bon Secours Ministries.

Dr. Keith Sanders, Partner, AcuteCare Telemedicine, comments, “ACT is aligned with Bon Secours and its ongoing commitment to utilizing the finest and latest technology for the treatment of stroke. This award is evidence of their outstanding efforts to promote a fully integrated stroke program that improves awareness of the dangers of stroke and provides the best in acute stroke care to the communities we serve.”