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Telemedicine Program in Pittsburgh Connects Patients to EDs Via iPads

August 8, 2014
by Rajiv Leventhal
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The Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network has launched a pre-hospital telemedicine program for use in the emergency medical services community, becoming the first in the state to do so, its officials say.

The Lower Kiski and A-K Pulser emergency medical services crew connected its first patient from her home to an emergency room physician at Allegheny Valley Hospital on June 30. The year-long pilot program, in which patients in their homes can speak directly to an emergency room physician via an iPad connection, offers new opportunities for EMS providers and patients who don’t want, or don’t need, to go to the emergency room.
 
On the first telemedicine consult, A-K Pulser and Lower Kiski EMS responded to a call from 59-year-old Barbara Verdu of Leechburg, Pa., who was experiencing anxiety, sweating and shakiness related to her diabetes. To Verdu’s amazement, they connected her via an iPad with Allegheny Valley Hospital emergency medicine physician Andrea Fisk, M.D., who had the chance to actually look at the patient while asking her questions, and cleared her to stay home and out of the hospital.
 
This consultation took place after months of planning with officials at Allegheny Health Network, Allegheny Valley Hospital, A-K Pulser and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The telecommunications equipment was tested for its effectiveness and ease of use, as well as its compliance with patient privacy laws, according to the health network.
 
An emergency physician might also refer a patient seen via telemedicine to an urgent care center, or advise the patient to call his or her primary care physician for an appointment. Patients must be conscious and alert, and must give spoken approval, to be treated via telemedicine.
 
“Telemedicine, the use of telecommunications technology to deliver healthcare, is a rapidly growing component of U.S. healthcare,” Robert J. McCaughan, vice president, pre-hospital care services, at Allegheny Health Network, said in a statement. “This exciting innovation in pre-hospital care is just the beginning of how we will be using telemedicine in our health care system in the coming years.”
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