Philly's Thomas Jefferson University Hospital turns to telemedicine to boost quality

Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia is investing in virtual medical service as a means to provide care in the least-costly setting. As Medicare expands reimbursement for remote care, Thomas Jefferson is betting that insurers, too, will focus on reimbursement for quality instead of quantity, according to a Bloomberg article.

The hospital has built a program to allow physicians to perform consultations using video apps so that patients with less-critical needs are treated in other settings besides the emergency room.

"If that transition happens in two years, then we look like geniuses," Judd Hollander, an emergency doctor who's helping develop Jefferson's push into virtual medicine, tells Bloomberg. "If that transition happens in 30 years, we don't quite look like geniuses."

Sang Hoon Woo, a doctor who leads residents on virtual rounds, uses an iPad to explain to a 79-year-old patient's daughter, who is at work, how well her mother is recovering from hip-replacement surgery.

Hospital staff soon will use the same technology to coordinate with primary-care physicians when patients go home. Jefferson plans to eventually have a "virtual emergency department" to perform triage remotely. It will provide a video consult for patients with minor ailments such as the flu, while a video connection will help determine whether a patient with chest pain should rush to the hospital.

A telemedicine call center helped reduce the rate of readmissions among patients after hospitalization for acute myocardial infarction, according to a study in which a nurse could dispatch a mobile intensive care unit or make other recommendations while consulting with the physician on call.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network is involved in a pilot project that allows patients to speak directly to ER physicians via an iPad connection.

The University of California-San Diego Health System also has a telemedicine pilot program in which on-call physicians who are outside of the hospital remotely link to a telemedicine station to see patients.

To learn more:
- read the article

To learn more:
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Telemedicine pilot aims to reduce ER wait times