Mount Nittany Health joins a rising number of healthcare facilities nationwide in implementing a robust telemedicine program aimed at improving patient care and satisfaction, as evidenced by two programs that rolled out in the fall – TeleBurn and TeleStroke.
Lehigh Valley Health Network’s Burn Recovery Center in Allentown, Pa., and Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pa., provide the service for free, in part because doing so decreases the number of patients coming to their facilities from other areas who could be treated locally, a real cost savings.
The telemedicine program is doubly beneficial for patients because it facilitates diagnosis and treatment at a hospital close to home – Mount Nittany Medical Center. However, if a condition or injury warrants it, the proper stabilization can occur so that the patient can be readily transferred to the burn center or to Hershey Medical Center. With the consult made available through telemedicine, referral criteria can easily be determined.
Lehigh Regional Health Network’s Burn Center serves more than 60 mostly rural hospitals through the TeleBurn program. According to Brian Joho, burn program coordinator at the center, the program continues to grow because health providers in rural areas typically do not see a wide range of burns that could include complications. TeleBurn provides them with the expertise needed for diagnosis and recommended treatment for uncommon injuries.
Jenna Evans, RN, emergency department, says implementation of TeleBurn is going as planned, as exemplified by a recent event. "We had a young man come into the Medical Center with burns on the palms of both of his hands,” she relates. “The emergency department physician ordered a TeleBurn consult and we sent the images of the burns to Lehigh Burn Center. The doctor at Lehigh then spoke to the physician at Mount Nittany Medical Center. This happened on a Friday. Through the consult, treatment was begun at the Medical Center and [the patient] was able to stay at his home for the weekend. On Monday, he went to the burn center as an outpatient, in order [for the Lehigh team] to monitor the progress. From there, he was discharged and is recovering well."
TeleStroke operates in a way similar to TeleBurn. Real-time remote audiovisual access provides a neurological consult with a stroke neurologist or neurosurgeon.
More than 230 people are seen for stroke each year at Mount Nittany Medical Center. The emergency department physician determines which of these cases will incorporate TeleStroke.
“The process, which includes ‘Skyping,’ is like having a physician in the room,” according to Jen Vance, RN, stroke coordinator. “The camera provides the eyes of the physician – the speaker, the ears. The attending providers, who are in the room with the patient, are the arms and legs.”
“Time is brain when it comes to treatment of stroke,” explains Vance. “By using TeleStroke, our ED physicians are roughly 10 minutes away from a neurological consult.”
A consult through TeleStroke can aid in the timeliness of a diagnosis and treatment. With just a three-hour window for administering tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), which can be done at Mount Nittany Medical Center, every second counts.
“Our telemedicine program is providing quality care for our patients locally,” said Patty Watson, RN, MSN, vice president of nursing and chief nursing officer. “The telemedicine program is an evidence-based practice that meets patients’ needs, whenever possible, here at home.”