A new program offers patients direct in-home virtual access to a physician who can see and talk to them prior to admitting them to a hospital.
The year-long pilot program, Allegheny Health Network’s Pre-hospital Telemedicine Program for use in the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) community, enables patients to speak directly to an emergency room physician via an iPad connection from their home, offering new opportunities for EMS providers and patients who don’t want, or don’t need, to go to the emergency room (ER).
Two Allegheny-affiliated EMS crews connected their first patient from her home to an ER physician at Allegheny Valley Hospital on June 30. The patient was experiencing anxiety, sweating and shakiness related to her diabetes. She was connected via an iPad with an Allegheny Valley Hospital emergency medicine physician, who was able to look at her while asking her questions, and cleared her to stay home and out of the hospital.
This consultation took place after months of planning with officials at Allegheny Health Network, Allegheny Valley Hospital, A-K Pulser and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The telecommunications equipment was tested for its effectiveness and ease of use, as well as its compliance with patient privacy laws.
The program can be effective in a variety of selected situations. It can keep patients who don’t need hospital-based care out of the hospital, and it can get patients who need to be hospitalized into the hospital. It can also help a doctor determine whether a patient can be treated at a community hospital, or whether he or she needs to be transported to a destination offering specialized care, such as a certified stroke center.
An emergency physician might also refer a patient seen via telemedicine to an urgent care center, or advise the patient to call his or her primary care physician for an appointment. Patients must be conscious and alert, and must give spoken approval, to be treated via telemedicine.
Source: Allegheny Health Network, July 31, 2014
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