Cheap communications technologies have brought more muscle to the field of telemedicine, and organizations are looking to leverage these tools in innovative ways to provide care to patients at a distance.
At Children’s Hospital Boston, several telemedicine pilots are currently underway to determine their viability. At the MedCity CONVERGE Conference last week in Philadelphia, Naomi Fried, chief innovation officer of the hospital, provided a brief overview of three promising pilots.
These communications robots go home with the child who has undergone urological surgery at Children’s and remain for a two-week period. The video conferencing robot allows physicians to be able to see the patient at home with the parent and communicate with them.
The program has been so successful that patients have a hard time letting go of the sleek, shapely communications robot at the end of the two weeks.
“They don’t want to give the robot up and they really feel connected to the physician (through it),” Fried said.
Currently there are 5 VGo robots that are getting circulated around.
“What’s exciting about the pediatric patient population is that they are so open to technology,” Fried said. “They are digital natives and they are not intimidated by it.”
The VGo Robots are made by VGo Communications Inc., Nashua, New Hampshire.
Physician-Physician Virtual Consultation
There is real backlog of patients trying to see a pediatric dermatologist because there is simply not enough of these specialists around, Fried said.
To solve this conundrum, Children’s is piloting a program by which pediatricians seeing a patient with a questionable mole or rash can take a photo of it and send it to a pediatric dermatologist at Children’s, who can respond remotely with an answer.
ER physician-to-ICU physician connection
Doctors in the emergency room in community hospitals may often need some expert help when caring for a sick child. That has prompted Children’s to test a program which allows video-enabled communication between one community hospital and Children’s physicians inside the ICU. Specifically, the TeleConnect program links doctors in the emergency department at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth with the Medical/Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Children’s.
“This allows critical care experts (in the ICU) to advise doctors in the community hospital and view the patient and other relevant images,” Fried said.
These three pilots have been ongoing for a few months and the goal is to collect data.
“Telemedicine is a strategic health initiative at Children’s Hospital Boston,” Fried said, noting that it represents a “paradigm shift” in healthcare delivery.