Telehealth pilots aim to improve stroke treatment, inpatient efficiency

Fairfax, Va.-based Inova Health System, already a telehealth veteran with a six-year-old tele-ICU program, is launching three new telehealth pilot projects this year.

The effort got its start with a $100,000 grant from Atlanta-based mobile device management company AirWatch this week. The gift will help to fund the hospital's new Telemedicine Institute and several of the initial pilots, Dr. William Jackson, the Insitute's medical director, tells FierceMobileHealthcare.

Those projects include:

  • A telestroke program: The health system's seven on-staff neurologists will carry telehealth-enabled laptops that allow them access to PACS, labs, and real-time audio-visual conferencing with other providers and patients. Doctors can be reached at home, in their offices, or at any facility, Jackson explains.

    The big goal: To allow the relatively small number of neurologists to consult on emergent stroke cases within minutes, rather than hours. Even though Inova has a limited number of facilities--a main campus and four community hospitals--within a 25 mile radius, local traffic problems can mean even a 10-mile trip takes more than an hour, he adds.

    If the pilot goes well, Inova ultimately may expand the to non-affiliated hospitals that need stroke specialist consultations, Jackson says.

  • Home health teleconsults: Inova's home health agency covers several hundred square miles of Northern Virginia, making communication with clinicians on the road a particular challenge. The home health pilot will equip 50 to 100 home health nurses with laptops that have real-time wireless audio-visual connectivity, allowing video conferencing from patient homes, Jackson explains.

    Clinicians will be able to consult remotely with physicians, request information on clinical best practices, report changes in the patient's condition, or simply ask administrative or billing questions of the central office, he adds.

  • An inpatient efficiency project: Jackson plans to test out tablets with a set of four hosptialists and intensivists--all employed by the hospital. The tablets will be enabled with dictation, charting and other administrative tools to allow hospital-bound physicians to still move about the facility and work on the go, he says. The project will track their productivity, efficiency, charting accuracy and other metrics to determine if mobile tools are a solid choice for the medical staff at large.

    He admits it's not a traditional telehealth project, but says it fits into the program as a way to allow physician mobility within the hospital. Right now, the health system's employed physicians spend too much time tied to their PCs doing administrative tasks, clinical paperwork and the like, he says. 

All three projects are set to begin in the fall, and will run anywhere from six to 12 months.

To learn more:
- check out AirWatch's announcement