AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


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



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.”



Patching the Current System Will Not Advance the Great Promise of Telehealth

The deliberate march towards meeting the Federation of State Medical Boards’ (FSMB) goal of streamlining medical licensing of physicians continues. The FSMB promises that a new compact of seven states will trigger changes that will ultimately help reduce redundant licensing requirements by creating one place where physicians submit basic information such as their education and credentials. Last month Idaho and Utah were the latest states electing to join Montana and West Virginia as this compact attempts to speed up the process of licensing doctors across state boundaries. While some question why only seven states are required for implementation of this compact, just three more states are now needed to initiate the process that promises to remove a formidable barrier to telemedicine growth nationwide.

Despite being one of the most promising technologies to improve patient care and lower the rising costs of healthcare, telehealth is surviving in a regulatory environment that was established during an era devoid of modern telecommunication devices and technology. State physician licensing is currently controlled by 50 state medical licensing boards, each with their own requirements, policies and credentialing criteria. The current licensing process is a substantial impediment to the advancement of telehealth across state lines, sparking an intense debate over the need for a traditionally unpopular nationalized licensing system.

In an attempt to ward off yet another federal intrusion into states affairs, last year the FSMB proposed a voluntary national compact on joint licensing for the states. The goal is to secure the cooperation of enough states to quiet any calls to replace state-based physician licensing with a national program. The reason for the compact is that the FSMB previously approved a telemedicine policy that defines the location of the practice of medicine as the state where the patient is located, not the physician. The model legislation calls for at least seven states to participate in the compact in order to form a governing commission made up of representatives from the participating states.

From the outset industry leaders and telemedicine supporters saw the effort as a weak attempt to stem the growing tide to replace an outdated and inefficient system. The FSMB compact does little to address the cost associated with acquiring a license in each state and in fact increases the costs by adding fees associated with handling and processing the information.

Washington Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery Executive Director Blake Maresh says, “For some, the interstate compact offers a tested Constitutional precept that could creatively forestall federal intervention that might otherwise supplant the longstanding authority of state medical boards, for others the possibility of other state boards licensing physicians who practice in their states, coupled with the establishment of new governmental organizations, leaves them uneasy at best.”

It is certain that the authors of state and federal constitutions could not have envisioned the advance of modern technology and the impact of those advances on preserving and improving the lives of their constituents. Delivering the benefits of increased access to the latest and best medical care, improved patient outcomes and lower costs must trump preserving outdated constitutional precepts. We must intensify our focus on implementing new processes designed to advance the great promises of telemedicine.



Researchers Use Telemedicine to Identify Patients for Clinical Trials

Using telecommunication technology to advance the delivery of healthcare is nothing new. Each day telestroke programs are demonstrating their value to patients who suffer acute ischemic stroke, particularly for those patients who live their daily lives beyond the easy reach of advanced urban healthcare centers. Well-developed “spoke and hub” telestroke programs at small to mid-sized hospitals throughout rural areas are providing advanced life-saving and quality of life benefits to thousands of stroke victims who once were just too far removed from medical specialists to benefit from the most specialized treatment. Advancements in telecommunication technology and its application to delivery medical treatment (telemedicine) are revolutionizing the healthcare delivery model by bringing the care-givers and the treatment to the patient no matter where they reside.

But a major new step in the approach to conducting clinical trials has been taken at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). By utilizing telemedicine to remotely enroll patients with acute stroke in a new study being conducted at different hospitals, researchers are now bringing the research and clinical trials to the patients. The virtual enrollment of patient participants by a group of researchers at Baptist Beaumont Hospital and Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital will help overcome limitations in the scientific process of testing therapies. The results of the study entitled “Telemedicine-Guided Remote Enrollment of Patients into an Acute Stroke Trial” were recently published in the journal of the American Neurological Association, Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology. The research team identified 10 candidates and remotely enrolled six of them in a randomized, phase III study.

“One of the main drawbacks of conducting clinical trials for stroke is that we traditionally are limited to patients who arrive at large stroke centers that have the expertise to treat stroke quickly to minimize damage to the brain,” explained the first author of the study and director of the Telemedicine Program, Tzu-Ching Wu, MD. The trial was led by the associate professor of neurology at UTHealth and senior author of the study, Andew Barreto, MD. Patients were identified, screened, enrolled and randomized remotely. “Instead of the patients having to be taken to the mother ship, we brought the study to the patient. The implications are enormous,” Dr. Wu said. “This opens the doors to clinical trials for everyone and helps move science along. Because of the amount of stroke trials that are conducted, it’s hard to find enough participants. This allows us to widen the pool.”

Research and prevention efforts over the past decade have contributed to the decline in the mortality rates for stroke, but the disease still impacts approximately 800,000 people each year and remains the fourth leading cause of death in America. With the aging of the population, stroke research and clinical trials remain a vital determent to the upward progression of the disease. Telemedicine promises to have a significant impact on acute ischemic stroke and is likely to result in further declines in stroke mortality. Using telemedicine technology to assist researchers in broadening access to stroke patients for research purposes may lead to more opportunities to unlock new and beneficial treatments for the disease.



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.



The Georgia Partnership for Telehealth Spring Conference

The Georgia Partnership for TeleHealth (GPT) was founded on the advances in the continually evolving telecommunications technologies. Since its formation in 2008, GPT has grown to become one of the most robust, comprehensive telehealth networks in the nation. The hallmark of GPT is the Georgia Telemedicine Program, an Open Access Network, which is a web of statewide access points based on strategicGPT Image partnerships with successful existing Telemedicine programs, and the creation of new Telemedicine locations, to maximize opportunities for timely specialty services. When fully realized, the Program will enable all rural Georgians to access specialty care within 30 miles of their homes. GPT’s services and support can provide state of the art telehealth solutions for all Georgians.

On March 25, 2015 GPT will be sponsoring their 6th Annual Spring Conference in Savannah, GA. The conference is a great opportunity for healthcare professionals from all medical disciplines and specialties to learn how the most up-to-date telecommunications technologies are impacting the delivery of stroke care and other healthcare services. Attendees will experience telemedicine in an applied framework, build network relationships and gain exposure to the latest in telehealth hardware and software technology. The conference will include a Grant Writing Workshop and will feature presentations from foremost experts in teleneurology.

Dr. Keith A. Sanders will be presenting a talk at the conference entitled “Outcome Analysis Demonstrates the Value of Telestroke”. Dr. Sanders is Director and Founder of the Stroke Center of St. Joseph’s Hospital of Atlanta and former Chairman of the Ethics Resource Committee and a partner in Atlanta Neurology, P.C. and AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT). “As medical practitioners, we are expected to apply the latest techniques and technologies to the treatment of our patients. However, it is incumbent upon us to analyze the outcomes to gauge whether there are meaningful benefits and share that knowledge with the greater medical community. Indeed, state-of-the-art telemedicine technology is advancing stroke care and saving lives,” says Dr. Sanders. “I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences improving outcomes and expanding access to quality, advanced stroke care with my fellow Conference attendees.”

The GPT Spring Conference will begin on March 25, 2015 and run through March 27, at the Hyatt Regency-Savannah at 2 West Bay Street, Savannah GA 31401. Online registration is now open. An array of exhibitor opportunities is now available. Additional information is available by contacting Samantha Haas at samantha.wainright@gatelehealth.org.