Real Doctors, Onscreen: VA Program Makes Online House Calls on Vets

A new pilot program will allow veterans in the Midwest to access behavioral health, oncology and post-operative care services wherever they have Web access. Using telehealth technology — a combination of streaming video, e-mail and text applications — the system is designed to help veterans in geographically remote areas or with mobility issues to conveniently contact clinicians and support services.

Part of the Veterans Affairs Department’s VA Innovation Initiative (VAi2) Industry Innovation Competition, the effort uses the Online Care system developed by American Well to provide a variety of online services. The Online Care service allows veterans to visit their health care providers, both primary doctors and multidisciplinary care teams, online.

Patients and clinicians communicate via two-way video, secure text and/or telephone. Through the system, doctors can review patients’ health records, discuss symptoms, Continue reading

High-Tech Hypothermia Treatment Helps Patients

The treatment and care of heart patients is always evolving, often dramatically, and one therapy in particular now may help cardiac arrest survivors in central Alabama.

Emergency departments in the U.S., Europe and Australia have been experimenting with a treatment called therapeutic hypothermia (TH) over the last several years.

For reasons that aren’t clearly understood, the induced hypothermia — or a rapid cooling of the body — reduces brain damage and reduces the brain’s demand for oxygen. That helps preserve the patient’s neurological function once the body recovers.

One example: A patient who suffered cardiac arrest in the University of Alabama at Birmingham emergency department was successfully revived — after 90 minutes of chest compressions — and then was treated with TH. He eventually made an amazing recovery with no neurological deficits. His story was reported in The Birmingham News Continue reading

Hold the Phone for Vital Signs

WPI researchers turn a smart phone into a medical monitor.

An iPhone app that measures the user’s heart rate is not only a popular feature with consumers, but it sparked an idea for a Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) researcher who is now turning smart phones, and eventually tablet devices, into sophisticated medical monitors able to capture and transmit vital physiological data.

A team led by Ki Chon, professor and head of biomedical engineering at WPI, has developed a smart phone application that can measure not only heart rate, but also heart rhythm, respiration rate and blood oxygen saturation Continue reading

A Night in the ER: Adrenaline, Chaos and Very Long Waits

At Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center, as many as 550 patients a day pass through the emergency room. ‘It’s like a battlefield in here.… It just doesn’t stop,’ says a nurse supervisor.

A wall-mounted computer screen in the call center at L.A. County/USC Medical Center showed the emergency room was full. Ambulances were supposed to take patients elsewhere on this Friday night. But they kept coming — some because it was the closest ER, others because the injuries were so severe only a trauma center could handle them.

“We get them from outside hospitals, from clinics, from the field, from the jail, from police, from everywhere — everywhere,” said Alma Aviles, a nurse supervisor. “It’s like a battlefield in here.… It just doesn’t stop.”

Four patients waited on gurneys in a hallway: Continue reading

Area Hospitals Devising Ways to Keep Patients Out

It sounds counterintuitive: Improve your business by keeping customers out. But that’s exactly what some hospitals are doing.

The Seton Healthcare Family, the largest hospital operator in Central Texas, has a five-year goal of reducing hospitalizations that includes programs that steer patients toward care that is less expensive than at a hospital, said Seton executive Greg Hartman. Seton operates several programs that help hospital staffers communicate with chronically ill people to see that they follow up with primary care doctors and take other steps to prevent another hospital admission.

“So many admissions in the hospital are an admission the system failed that person,” said Hartman, president of University Medical Center Brackenridge and Seton Medical Center Austin.

Other hospital systems, including Scott & White and St. David’s HealthCare, said they also have strategies to keep people from filling their emergency departments and hospital rooms, although Seton is publicly touting the idea. Continue reading

Could Patients Own Kidney Cells Cure Kidney Disease?

Reprogrammed kidney cells could make transplants and dialysis things of the past

  • Patients’ own kidney cells can be reprogrammed and used as therapy against kidney disease
  • Cells can easily be collected from the urine
  • 88,000 patients are waiting for a kidney transplant in the United States, and they wait for an average of 3 to 5 years

Washington, DC — Approximately 60 million people across the globe have chronic kidney disease, Continue reading

Despite Rise in Patients, Emergency Rooms are Closing

More Americans are seeking care in hospital emergency rooms. Yet, almost a third of urban and suburban emergency departments have closed over the past two decades.

The number of ERs in non-rural areas in the U.S. fell 27 percent between 1990 and 2009, according to a study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. That’s an average of 89 closures per year.

Illinois has lost 23 non-psychiatric hospitals — and their emergency rooms — since 1990, with the most recent closure being that of Michael Reese Hospital in 2009, according to the Illinois Hospital Association.

Illinois hospitals are not allowed  Continue reading

Survey Shows Most Hospitals Online but Telemedicine Services not Fully Deployed

More than 90% of European hospitals are connected to broadband, 80% have electronic patient record systems, but only 4% of hospitals grant patients online access to their electronic records, according to the results of a survey conducted for the European Commission. European hospitals are more advanced than US hospitals in terms of external medical exchange, but they lag behind in using eHealth to view laboratory reports or radiology images. The survey provides useful data for the work of the EU eHealth Task Force on assessing the role of information and communications technologies (ICT) in health and social care, which is due to suggest ways for ICT to speed up innovation in healthcare to the benefit of patients, carers and the healthcare sector. The EU eHealth Task Force met for the first time in Budapest on 10th May (see IP/11/551) on the margins of eHealth week (10-12 May) The deployment of eHealth technologies in Europe, with a view  Continue reading

More Doctors Tell Patients to Seek Alternative Treatments

A new study (PDF) by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Medical Center finds that a growing number of doctors are advising their patients to practice yoga, take up meditation or learn deep breathing techniques.

The national study, published in the current issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine, found that more than one third of Americans are seeking alternative care. The study also found that doctors tend to refer sicker patients to alternative therapies more often — it might suggest that doctors are using these therapies as a “last resort” for patients. The study found that mental health professionals were more likely to advise patients to use alternative therapies to help treat depression and anxiety.

The study’s author says the large number of physicians referring patients to alternative forms of care shows a shift in the medical community’s acceptance of yoga and other therapies as additional forms of health care treatment.

Denmark Puts Patients Ahead in Telemedicine

Denmark’s hospitals keep closing, but its residents don’t stop getting sick. That’s where telemedicine can play a role in maintaining efficient and effective healthcare delivery.

Odense University Hospital is working to build a videoconferencing network on Denmark’s existing healthcare IT infrastructure, which includes fully integrated EHR, ePrescribing, RIS and PACS, all on secure Internet protocols.

The aim of the project is to respond to closing hospitals and declining resources while offering an alternative to the traditional hospital visitation model.

“You have to be in good health to be at a hospital,” said Claus Pedersen, Head of the Department for Clinical Innovation at OUH, while speaking at the eHealth Week 2011 and World of Health IT conference in Budapest. “About 10 percent [of patients] get an infection during admission.” Continue reading

Deep Breeze Breakthrough Lets Patients Breathe Better

Around the globe, some 200 million people suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive lung condition usually triggered by long-term smoking. As the disease worsens, patients typically face hospitalization several times a year – at a cost of thousands of dollars per day.

An Israeli company’s innovative medical device could radically change that scenario. Once approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the trademarked Breeze@home, will allow COPD and other chronic lung disease patients to stay out of the hospital while receiving continuous remote monitoring by their healthcare provider from home.

“This will not only make life more bearable for them, but will also save the healthcare system a lot of money,” points out Dr. Michael Nagler, CEO of Deep Breeze Continue reading

South Alabama Doctors Using Telemedicine to see more Patients and Saving Money

Mental Health Centers across South Alabama are using technology to save money and see more patients.

Dr. Thomas Merritt has patients in Troy, Union Springs and Tuskegee. Instead of driving to meet with those patients, now Dr. Merritt can see them on a television screen in his office.

With a click of a button, Dr. Thomas Merritt, who is sitting in his Troy office, is in Union Springs.

“I’m in Union Springs. This is where our clients will be sitting when they meet with doctor Merritt,” says Ella Ousley.

Merritt is the only doctor at the East Central Mental Health Centers in Troy, Union Springs and Tuskegee. By using telemedicine, Merritt can see more patients and save the health center money.  All he has to do is turn the camera on, select the office he wants to call, and wait to be connected.

“It’s saving me about 40 minutes extra  Continue reading

Telemedicine Connects Big-City Hospitals to Underserved Rural Areas

St. John’s Mercy Medical Center, with the help of video feeds along with the advent of Telemedicine, a combined system of computers and telecommunications, has become the overseer of intensive care patients at rural hospitals across the Midwest.

Can you believe that only two critical care doctors and nine nurses in the St. Louis area manage more than 400 patients at St. John’s Mercy and a dozen other hospitals in four states? Well, according to this original piece from St. Louis Today’s Jim Doyle, this feat is made possible by round-the-clock shifts.

In these in round-the-clock shifts, the small teams at St. John’s Medical Center scans patients’ vital signs and review their medications, lab work,  Continue reading

Scientists Develop New Blood Test to Detect Heart Attacks

A new blood test that detects heart attacks that would otherwise have gone undiagnosed was developed by scientists in Scotland.

Researchers at Edinburgh University said Wednesday that the test — which identifies heart-muscle damage — is more sensitive than the methods currently used and is capable of identifying a third more heart attacks.

“Adopting a more sensitive test and lowering the threshold for detection of heart-muscle damage is appropriate and will substantially improve the outcome of patients with chest pain and suspected heart attack,” said researcher  Continue reading

Majority of Patients Want Online Access to Doctors

Nearly three-quarters of people want to be able to get lab results, request appointments, pay medical bills, and communicate with their doctor’s office through secure portals, finds Intuit Health study.

These findings come from Intuit Health’s second-annual Health Care Check-Up Survey,  Continue reading