National Telehealth Conference Showcased UC Health’s Leadership Role

Pamela Kimmel, RN, BSN, Telestroke Program Manager for the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, speaks at last week’s National Telehealth Conference.

Fifty-seven institutions from the United States and Canada attended a National Telehealth Conference, “Transforming Health Care Delivery and Academic Curriculum,” hosted by the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing on March 20-21.

During the conference, members of the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute showcased UC Health’s role as a telehealth leader through programs that include telestroke, telepsych and teletrauma. The event, with six specialized tracks each day, provided telehealth experiential learning for health care providers, administrators and educators. Attendees were given a first-hand look at various telehealth equipment in operation in health care and academic settings.

The UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, one of four institutes of the UC College of Medicine and UC Health, is using telemedicine in ways that have already benefited patients and is a leader in training partners in the use of telehealth and in providing telehealth services regionally.

Telehealth opportunities are likely to continue to grow. In late February, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed into law a bill that will provide Medicaid coverage/reimbursement for telehealth/telemedicine.

“Telehealth is the next major tool for health care reform and for meeting the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Triple Aim — improving patient experience via quality and satisfaction, improving health outcomes, and reducing cost,” says Anya Sanchez, MD, MBA, Director of Institute Planning and Administration at UC Health. “Providing telehealth/telemedicine services has great potential to reduce costs and provides patients with access to care that is not limited by geography.”

UC Health has come to think about access in two different buckets, Dr. Sanchez says. “The first is internal, or how to connect ourselves better to ourselves within the health system. The second is external, or how to connect ourselves better to the community. Telemedicine plays a central role in both of those arenas.”

Telemedicine serves as a new avenue to bring providers and patients together, spanning UC Health’s various facilities and numerous sites of care, Dr. Sanchez says. “We’re finding that leveraging telemedicine is enabling us to deliver care in a more coordinated and efficient manner, with fewer transitions, lower costs, and a better patient experience.”

In one example, telemedicine has improved collaboration between emergency medicine physicians at UC Medical Center and psychiatrists at Psych Emergency Services (PES) on the Deaconess Health Campus. Telemedicine has enabled more rapid decision-making, which translates into shorter patient wait times, faster turnover of emergency department beds, a reduction in patient transport costs, and fewer staff resources required for registration.

The Trauma team at UC Health’s Level I Trauma Center, led by Jay Johannigman, MD, is now able to provide the highest level of trauma expertise to West Chester Hospital, reducing the amount of time it takes to provide the right care to the right patient when time matters most.

Another less dramatic but much more common example is our ability to connect the physicians at our medical office building to our patients at the Daniel Drake Center for Post-Acute Care. Instead of transporting our recovering patients to the medical office building (which can disrupt meals, medications, and physical therapy), some of our physicians now conduct “office visits” via telemedicine, saving time, cost, and discomfort to our patients.

From an external standpoint, telemedicine also enables UC Health to deliver care across the region in a way never before possible. The UC Health Telestroke Network, an initiative that includes the Comprehensive Stroke Center at the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, enables physicians from the UC Stroke Team to “examine” stroke patients long-distance with the help of robots. UC Health launched the program in March 2012.

Charles Doarn, PhD, research professor in the UC College of Medicine’s family and community medicine department, presented the keynote address, “State of Telehealth Across the U.S. and Beyond the Borders.” Dr. Doarn is special assistant in the Office of the Chief Health & Medical Officer at NASA Headquarters. He is also editor-in-chief of the Telemedicine & e-Health Journal, co-chair of the U.S. Government’s FedTel Working Group, and an international telehealth consultant.

Conference partners included the UC College of Medicine, UC Medical Center, West Chester Hospital, Daniel Drake Center for Post-Acute Care, Cincinnati Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Upper Midwest Telehealth Resource Center and Maple Knoll Communities.

— Audrey Ronis-Tobin

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