OhioHealth, Time Warner Cable team up on telemedicine effort

OhioHealth and its network of hospitals across the state are embarking on a telemedicine collaboration with Time Warner Cable to bring clinical expertise to more rural areas, with the goal of quickly determining whether a patient can be treated within the community or if a transport is necessary. While scores of health systems are exploring […]

OhioHealth and its network of hospitals across the state are embarking on a telemedicine collaboration with Time Warner Cable to bring clinical expertise to more rural areas, with the goal of quickly determining whether a patient can be treated within the community or if a transport is necessary.

While scores of health systems are exploring some form of telemedicine, often as a means to address primary care or more straight-forward health issues, Columbus-based OhioHealth is utilizing the technology to expand on stroke care and ICUs, among other areas, according to Jim Lowder, system vice president of technology for OhioHealth. It’s especially effective in critical access regions.

“In the metro areas, typically you have the critical care experts you need, but you get out into the community hospitals and the rural areas, it’s so small that they can’t afford to attract the experts,” he said. “Our goal is to keep people in their community as much as a possible, with some oversight of our electronic ICU.”

The health system includes 12 member hospitals, more than 50 ambulatory and surgery centers and primary care and specialty practices across the state. Yet the telemedicine effort extends beyond members and includes any hospital affiliated through OhioHealth’s stroke network.

And stroke care – with its urgent diagnostic needs and transport, if necessary – is an area that the health system is looking to expand through telemedicine.

Using Time Warner’s Cable Business Class to conduct two-way video and audio with patients presenting stroke symptoms, a neurologist and a care team in Columbus help the physician or nurse in the distant hospital determine if a patient is indeed having a stroke. If they are, drugs can be administered immediately and transport can begin. If not, the patient can still be closely monitored while avoiding a lengthy transport – saving both the patient and the hospital time and money by avoiding unnecessary hospitalization.

“Many of these patients, although they present symptoms, they aren’t stroke victims,” Lowder said. “You don’t have to go hundreds of miles away. The point is to stay right there in the community. It was kind of by default to be safe that a lot patients were being transferred.”

Time Warner was selected because of its scale and bandwidth across the state, ensuring a clear connection that enables the more complex care isn’t interrupted or jeopardized through a bad connection. It provides OhioHealth 100 megabits per second point-to-point ethernet private line fiber circuits connecting 50 care sites, 300 Mbps dedicated internet access at its headquarters, plus up to 100 Mbps high speed internet access service for smaller offices.

Providers in Columbus can see all of the patient monitoring equipment, have access the EHRs, lab and imaging results while having the two-way video and audio access. Those providers can in turn help determine the right coarse of action from hundreds of miles away.

“It really does extend the reach,” Loweder said. “We can leverage them across the region to manage all the beds we have.”

OhioHealth is currently exploring other areas of medicine where the telemedicine approach can be applied, though details are still being worked out, Lowder said.