AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


Telehealth Can Play a Key Role in Saving Rural Hospitals

No matter the location, rural communities across America have one thing in common. Residents tend to be older and sicker than their fellow, “urbanites”. The introduction of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), designed to provide millions of previously uninsured or underinsured patients access to health insurance, accompanied by Medicare reimbursement cuts and other regulations is beginning to negatively impact rural hospitals. The trend has many pondering; “If you decide to live in a rural community, are you deciding to have a worse outcome if you have a stroke?” asked Dr. Jeff Feit, vice president of population health at the Valley Health system.

To date, 51 rural hospitals have closed in the US since 2010, according to the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Southern states have been disproportionately affected by the increase in closing of rural facilities. Texas has seen 10 rural hospitals close, while Alabama and Georgia have each lost five just in the past five years. The National Rural Health Association has identified 283 more rural hospitals in danger of going out of business. Many rural hospitals “have been struggling on the cusp for a long time,” said Mark Holmes, director of the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program. The future of many rural hospitals is threatened by the ongoing cuts to Medicare and the failure of more than 20 states to expand Medicaid.

Maggie Elehwany, vice president of government affairs for the National Rural Health Association, says significant Medicaid cuts in the past few years have been suffocating rural hospitals. “The greatest crisis right now is the hospital closure issue,” she said. In Kansas, The Kansas Hospital Association has repeatedly told its lawmakers that failure to expand Medicaid will have dire consequences, leading some rural hospitals to shut down. Terry Hill, a senior policy adviser at the National Rural Health Resource Center has predicted, “You’re going to see a predominance of closures in the next year or so in those states that have not expanded their Medicaid eligibility.” Congress is attempting to respond to the crisis by initiating several bills to help rural hospitals recover, but they are receiving little attention by the majority of lawmakers.

In the interim, an increasing number of rural hospitals are looking to virtual healthcare options to remain financially viable and operationally relevant in a new, emerging healthcare delivery model. Telemedicine can provide many of them the means for resuscitating a community’s hospital by connecting rural patients to primary care and medical specialists as well as remote monitoring of many chronic diseases.

Establishing virtual healthcare solutions requires investment, but the investment will pay significant dividends for patients, providers and hospitals by creating broader access to healthcare networks, experts and outlying resources. While some small hospitals are debating whether they can afford to implement telemedicine, others are debating if the hospital can afford not to make the investment.



AcuteCare Telemedicine in 2013: Cutting Edge Neurological Care, Anywhere

Following a third consecutive year of growth in 2012, AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT), an Atlanta-based partnership of 4 board-certified neurologists, is expanding its efforts to become the leading provider expert neurological care to rural and underserved areas throughout the Southeastern United States via cutting edge telemedicine technology.

Telemedicine, once regarded as an exciting new frontier, has now been fully realized as a part of the mainstream lexicon of medicine as we enter 2013. For a large number of hospital systems, telemedicine programs are now becoming a mandate as the nation faces a growing shortage of specialized physicians.

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. ACT offers a broad range of customizable services including 24/7 emergency neurological consultation and support programs for facilities seeking Joint Commission accreditation as a Primary Stroke Center, but primarily specializes in telestroke: the application of telemedicine to the treatment of the acute stroke patient. 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.

ACT provides access to the best 24X7 acute neurological care. Contact Michael Woodcock to hear how teleneurology can impact your business and patients in 2013.



Helping Healthcare Go Green

Telemedicine has leveraged technology to help hospitals overcome challenges associated with staffing and transportation extend higher quality healthcare to patients, regardless of their location, while simultaneously reducing costs. Now, we are beginning to understand that telemedicine not only helps hospital facilities run leaner; it may also help them be greener.

Hospital facilities are traditionally located in areas of higher population, often far away from patients living in rural communities. The transfer of these remote patients to hospitals for inpatient treatment demands relatively high energy consumption. With a foreseeable increase in numbers of patients requiring care in the future, these costs can be expected to rise if left unaddressed.

Within the context of changing environmental policy, increased focus must be placed on reducing emissions and energy usage in healthcare policy. Telemedicine has demonstrated positive effects, creating a more environmentally sustainable process by improving inpatient treatment in local community hospitals and improving monitoring of complex diseases in outpatient settings, avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions.

Physicians have traditionally placed a priority patient care over any environmental responsibility, but telemedicine offers opportunities to minimize environmental impact while developing a higher standard of care across the country. By combating energy consumption, telemedicine is improving not only the health of patients, but also the planet.