Telehealth pilot a hit with patients at HHC

With 11 acute care hospitals, six diagnostic treatment hospitals and four long-term treatment facilities, the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation is a busy and dynamic place. That can be rewarding, but size and volume present challenges, too. 

Technology can play a real role in improving the quality and efficiency of care, Louis Capponi, M.D., chief medical informatics officer for HHC, told FierceHealthIT in an exclusive interview. 

The demand for adolescent psychiatry services has been outpacing available doctors at the right hospitals, so recently, a pilot performed at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, part of HHC, proved using telehealth for adolescent psychiatry consultations to be useful, cost-efficient and comfortable for the patient, Capponi (right) said.

"It was very much successful and satisfactory, to the patients, the patients' families and clinicians," Capponi said. "It resulted in the avoidance of several hospitalizations, multiplied across our whole system. Only one in 10 patients wound up getting hospitalized [after the telehealth consultation]."

Added Capponi: "The impact was very profound in terms of the number of patients that were able to discharged safely."

Much more information can be gathered about a patient's condition by speaking directly with them on video, Capponi said.

While Capponi believes that telehealth tools enable "much more information" to be gathered on patients over time, he said that he and his colleagues still were surprised by the success rates achieved.

"We were pleased by how happy the patients were with the interactions and treatment," he said. "If we can get them connected, we can avoid having patients transfer hospitals."

HHC, Capponi said, is looking into expanding the service past the pilot stage, specifically, for patients who come in through the prison system. According to Capponi, there's a large population with undetected or untreated disease in prison, which makes treating the inmates a very expensive endeavor. Telehealth can help to streamline that process, he said.

He added that he's excited for 2014 and increased opportunities to engage patients through technology.

"We have an enormous amount of work coming our way, which is exciting, because it's foundational," Capponi said. "With Meaningful Use, we've made stage one and finished attesting to stage one, year two, and we've got a significant amount of incentive funding for Stage 2. That's gonna bring some future opportunities around patient engagement that we're really excited about. We're still on our way."