AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog

Universally Consistent Telemedicine Guidelines Still Out Of Reach

Recognizing the strong growth and innovative approach in telemedicine practices, the American Medical Association (AMA) enacted a set of guidelines for care provided by telecommunications earlier this year. The guiding principles seek to address the concerns and issues within the medical community relative to the development and implementation of telemedicine programs. The AMA guidelines support the “use of telecommunications in the delivery of healthcare while ensuring favorable standards of care; patient safety; quality and continuity of care; transparency; and the responsible handling of patient medical records and privacy.”

The action by the AMA appears to address the many valid concerns among the medical community while providing much needed flexibility, if telemedicine is to fulfill its many promises to increase availability of specialized medical services to rural communities, reduce costs of medical care and have a positive impact on the anticipated future shortage of physicians.

More recently, the Georgia Composite Medical Board enacted a new regulation governing the standards for telemedicine practice for physicians practicing in the state of Georgia. Much like the AMA guidelines, the regulations establish consistent standards of practice for providing treatment and consultation through the use of telecommunication technologies. The regulations were enacted after more than two years of evaluation and discussions by the state Board. The requirements, like those of the AMA, appear to successfully address many of the same concerns and issues.

The Georgia regulations require that all providers of telemedicine services, which include physicians, physician assistants (PAs) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), hold a valid Georgia state license. However, one area of inconsistency between other proposed individual states requirements and the AMA guidelines is the requirement relative to prior in-person examination.

The AMA prefers not to specify whether the prior face-to-face examination requirement, before rendering treatment via telecommunication, must be performed in person or by a video encounter. The Georgia regulation specifically requires an in-person relationship prior to the any telemedicine service, but enumerates several exceptions and qualifiers which defer the requirement in specific instances. In many other states, including Tennessee, a much more defined requirement of pre-telemedical care relationship is mandated.

Perhaps the most prevalent impact of technology on our society is its effect on breaking down pre-existing divisions, both geographical and social. State lines, geographic hurdles and physical market limiting factors are obliterated by advances in telecommunications. If the full benefits of telemedicine are to be realized, consistency and clarity in regulations and guidelines must prevail.

Few in the healthcare community advocate for blanket federalization of regulations. The industry can do more to enact a core set of standards and practices that successfully address the bulk of concerns and issues of each entity while assuring every patient, regardless of where they reside, receives the best quality and most efficient medical care available.

Employer Sponsored Telemedicine Programs On The Rise

A new survey by Towers Watson, a global professional services company, reveals that telemedicine could provide billions in healthcare savings each year as employer-sponsored telemedicine programs increase. The availability of telemedicine represents significant cost savings for employers by precluding lost time and productivity as workers must go off-site for office and face-to-face care. The savings for employees with such convenience should also not be overlooked.

“While this analysis highlights a maximum potential savings, even a significantly lower level of use could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in savings,” said Dr. Allan Khoury, a senior consultant at Towers Watson. “Achieving this savings requires a shift in patient and physician mindsets, health plan willingness to integrate and reimburse such services, and regulatory support in all states.”

The results of the study are not surprising to many of those who have been advocating an aggressive expansion of telemedical technology in order to address rising healthcare costs, expand access to medical specialists for rural patients and to head-off a predicted physician shortage. As patients and caregivers become more familiar with how and when new communication technologies can improve the delivery of medical care for a significant number of medical services, the reluctance associated with foregoing face-to-face encounters with the family doctor and replacing it with a virtual experience is beginning to fade. Patients who need ordinary medical treatment and consultations are gaining significant cost and convenience benefits with the new relationships. Once patients become familiar with the virtual experience, the vast majority are responding very favorably.

Insurance providers and employers are also joining the chorus of support. The Towers Watson findings indicate that 37 percent of those employers surveyed expect to offer their employees a telemedicine alternative to traditional in-office or emergency room healthcare by the end of next year. It’s an increase of 15 percent of employers who currently offer their employees such options. The move by employees to utilize the employer telemedicine programs is progressing at a slow pace however, with only 10 percent of those eligible taking advantage of the opportunity.

As the benefits and availability of telemedicine and telehealth services grow, the numbers who choose to participate is expected to rise.  “With both insurance companies and employers encouraging its use, telemedicine is going to have a growing role in the spectrum of health care service delivery,” Dr. Khoury says.




AcuteCare Telemedicine and Colleton Medical Center Partner To Improve Patient Access To Specialized Neurological Care

JUNE 30, 2014 – ATLANTA, GA: AcuteCare Telemedicine (ACT) continues to expand its presence in the Southeastern region with the addition of new client hospitals. Following the announcement of its partnership with Emory John’s Creek, Colleton Medical Center (CMC) in Walterboro, SC recently introduced ACT’s leading specialists to their dedicated staff of medical professionals and patients. ACT in collaboration with the South Atlantic Division of HCA worked to bring teleneurology services to Colleton Medical Center.

Colleton recently debuted a robot named ELVIS, an acronym for “Early Neurological Intervention That’s Successful.” ACT can remotely consult with doctors and patients through ELVIS. While the robot is currently located in the emergency department, “It can be used throughout the entire facility,” reports Colleton Medical Center Emergency Department Director Christy Judy. As a result, ACT is standing by 24 hours a day anywhere they are needed throughout CMC. Connecting hospital-based medical professionals with off-site specialists through the use of new telecommunication technologies is improving access of specialized care for patients in smaller, regional hospitals and medical centers.

“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. “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. ACT is extremely proud to associate the South Atlantic Division of HCA and the Colleton Medical Center.”

Brad Griffin, CEO of Colleton Medical Center, is also very pleased with Colleton’s new relationship with ACT. “This is our first venture with telemedicine and the experience is proving to be very positive for both the patients and our team of medical professionals at Colleton,” he says. Griffin reports that the hospital staff has found their experience with ACT to be very comforting, easy to work with, and very professional. He sees Colleton’s first telemedicine venture as just the beginning and is looking forward to expanding the utilization of telemedicine to other medical specialties.

“ACT has been focused on providing the highest quality of care to our client hospitals and our patients. We’ve made significant progress in expanding opportunities for acute stroke care to hospitals across numerous states,” comments Gwynn. “We anticipate adding more partners like Colleton who are also committed to advancements in telemedicine.”

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.