Pine Belt, MS

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Telemedicine — The Future is Here!

 Bedford Care Center January 03, 2016

Submitted by Bedford Care Centers

In the 80’s, a movie called Back to the Future Part II gave viewers a glimpse into the future, October 21, 2015 to be exact. While the movie had some major misses, as we do not yet have flying cars or self-tying tennis shoes, many of the predictions have come to fruition. Wearable technology has gained a great deal of attention from smart watches and fitness trackers, to Google glasses. Additionally, video conferences are available to the average consumer, even available on our phones. Of course, the tablet computer (such as the iPad) has found its way into the workplace and long gone are the days of the room-sized computer. Four-year-olds can be found playing games, taking video and pictures, and sometimes texting their friends on a smartphone with ease! What does all this mean? It seems that the future is now. Technology has significantly changed the way in which we work and live and the healthcare industry is no different. The changing landscape of healthcare, combined with new technology, provides great opportunity to improve access to the quality of healthcare. This article will discuss an upcoming technology known as “telemedicine,” which has the potential to revolutionize healthcare.

The Bedford Care Centers join other healthcare organizations across the nation in embracing these new technologies and preparing them for our residents. Telemedicine refers to the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology. Telemedicine is not a separate medical specialty, but is part of a comprehensive plan to utilize technology in improving healthcare. According to the American Telemedicine Association, the utilizations of telemedicine began to occur up to 40 years ago with hospitals extending care to patients in remote areas and now include a growing variety of applications and services comprised of two-way video (video conferencing), email, smart phones, and wireless tools, among other forms of telecommunications technology. Telemedicine is closely related to Health Information Technology (HIT), however this usually refers to electronic medical records and related information and telemedicine refers to the actual delivery of remote clinical services using technology.

Telemedicine is increasingly used in healthcare operations including hospitals, clinics, schools, and mental health facilities. Recently, the Hattiesburg American published a story about how the University of Southern Mississippi is using telemedicine to reach the needs of students on their Gulf Park campus. The first university in the state to use telemedicine, USM launched their program in the fall of 2015 and has had a great response from students and faculty. Students on the Gulf Park campus, who only had access to a physician two days a week now have access four days a week at a reduced cost to the university. When a student makes an appointment, the doctor can review their medical chart online and then see the patient via a screen. The doctor has a special networked stethoscope and otoscope that can be used to hear the patient’s respiration and look into his or her ears. The doctor can then refer the student for additional tests to networked facilities if necessary. According to the article, the students seem to enjoy being on the cutting edge of technology. As telemedicine becomes more far-reaching, the Bedford Care Centers hope to be among the first in our state to utilize telemedicine in a skilled nursing care environment.

Nursing home residents have a diverse set of needs different from those in other environments. Often, mobility is affected, making trips to the doctor’s office difficult and potentially dangerous. Additionally, access to physicians is limited by their own schedules and workloads. The location of the facility is also an important factor and more remote locations further complicate physician access. Residents themselves may be unfamiliar with new technologies; however the way in which the care is performed can provide them with a face-to-face experience and one-on-one attention, similar to what they would receive in a typical office visit. Embarking into this new era of long-term care, Bedford will collaborate with Integrated Care Professionals to build a private telemedicine network that will link their facilities with other organizations. This private network will provide medical directors, wound care specialists, behavioral health care professionals, physician clinics, and hospitals with a software license with which they can collect, treat, and communicate with residents while they remain in the nursing home.

Among the numerous benefits of this program is 24/7 access to care without the need to be transported to a hospital. Suddenly, after-hours care will be far easier to access. A primary benefit of improved access to healthcare will be a reduction in the re-hospitalization rate. The reduction of re-hospitalization rates is a key issue among both hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. Re-hospitalization accounted for over four billion dollars paid from Medicare in 2006 alone. In an effort to drive down the cost of healthcare, policymakers are looking for ways to change payment incentives for hospital readmits. Access to one’s physician is an important component to preventing the need for a resident to reenter the hospital.

Another advantage of this technology is that it allows all medical professionals to collaborate and work together through a single platform that is secure and HIPAA compliant. Increased communication and collaboration among medical professionals ensures increased quality in care. When physicians can see and hear their patients and directly communicate with the care staff, the continuity of care will be improved. While telemedicine does provide financial benefits for the physician and the facility associated with the reduction of travel and transportation costs, the primary focus is on improved resident care.

Steve Clark, CEO of Integrated Care Professionals, stated that telemedicine would allow community medical providers to consult, diagnose, and treat residents through remote technologies. In the nursing home, telehealth stations would be available and the facility could set up a virtual exam room in which the resident and doctor can communicate privately. Networked medical devices would be available that would allow the doctor to assess the resident’s condition by seeing the results on his/her screen in real time. An example of how this may work is a resident recovering from hip replacement. Traveling to a physician’s office would prove to be very challenging requiring several hours for transport, waiting in the physician’s office, and then returning to the facility, but with telemedicine, the physician can log on and communicate with the resident virtually. They can see the incision site and discuss the recovery process with the care staff and the resident. If issues arise, the physician may communicate with other professionals in the network to ensure the best possible outcome for the resident.

While the Bedford Care Centers have not yet implemented telemedicine in their facilities, it is on the horizon. Increased access to healthcare, improved collaboration, and communication among healthcare providers and a more comfortable and less taxing environment for the resident are among the numerous advantages that this technology will provide. Although we are not yet driving flying cars, it seems that the future is here and if we embrace it, we can improve healthcare for all.

For more information contact Lindsey Lewis at llewis@hmpmc.com or visit www.bedfordcarecenters.com. For a tour of Bedford Care Center of Picayune, call 601-799-1616.


Bedford Center Locations

Bedford Care Center of Hattiesburg, LLC
10 Medical Boulevard, Hattiesburg, MS
Phone: 601-264-3709

Bedford Care Center-Monroe Hall, LLC
300 Cahal Street, Hattiesburg, MS
Phone: 601-582-9157

Bedford Care Center of Petal, LLC
908 South George Street, Petal, MS
Phone: 601-544-7441

Bedford Care Center of Mendenhall, LLC
925 West Mangum Avenue, Mendenhall, MS
Phone: 601-847-1311

Bedford Care Center of Newton, LLC
1009 South Main Street, Newton, MS
Phone: 601-683-6601

Bedford Care Center of Marion, LLC
6434A Dale Drive, Marion, MS
Phone: 601-294-3515

Bedford Alzheimer’s Care Center, LL
300-B Cahal Street, Hattiesburg, MS
Phone: 601-544-5300

Bedford Care Center of Picayune
2797 Cooper Road, Picayune, MS
Phone: 601-799-1616

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 Bedford Care Center| January 03, 2016
Keywords:  Feature Story

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