Hospital streamlines ER consults via tablets

A year-long mHealth pilot program featuring the use of iPads and initiated by a Pennsylvania health network aims to enhance emergency medical services for home-based patients while reducing emergency room visits and hospital admissions.

The pre-hospital telemedicine effort, deployed by the Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network, is the first in the state involving emergency medical services. Patients can speak directly to ER physicians via an iPad connection, according to an announcement.

In the program's first telemedicine consult, emergency responders handled a call from a 59-year-old woman reporting several symptoms related to her diabetes. The patient, using the iPad, was able to speak directly to a doctor about her issues and was cleared to remain at home.

"Telemedicine, the use of telecommunications technology to deliver healthcare, is a rapidly growing component of U.S. healthcare," Robert J. McCaughan, vice president of pre-hospital care services, at Allegheny Health Network, said in a statement. "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."

Mobile remote monitoring and real-time communications with home-based patients are gaining greater traction in healthcare, given the potential for time and cost savings. Tablets such as the iPad are being used for a slew of health services, including round-the-clock medical concierge subscription service. 

A recent Berg Insight report revealed that 19 million patients worldwide will use connected home medical monitoring devices by 2018. Remote diagnostics, telecare, intuitive products and intelligent infrastructure will be the norm by 2020, according to another report from research firm Compass Intelligence.

"The benefits of telemedicine to the patient are innumerable, offering direct in-home access to a physician who can see them and talk to them," Richard Gibbons, director of the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services at the Pennsylvania Department of Health, said in the announcement. "I'm very excited about the potential of this program and glad to see that it is happening in a community hospital such as Allegheny Valley."

For more information:
- read the announcement

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