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#Healthcare: how telemedicine and virtual emergencies can help hospitals save money

Econocom 4 Jan 2016

Steve Klasko, Chief Executive Officer of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, wants to save money. How? By making sure fewer patients come to the emergency room. In November 2014, he deployed a programme whereby doctors can carry out video-consultations on an iPad –but he won’t stop there. As Bloomberg reports, he plans ultimately to have a “virtual emergency department” to remotely triage patients.



consultations ON iPadS


Thomas Jefferson, which has almost 1,000 beds and state-of-the-art equipment, handles the most complex medical cases. To comply with the Patient_Protection_and_Affordable_Care_Act, reduce patient billings and control expenditure more effectively, Steve Klasko, who’s been CEO of the hospital since 2013, has been experimenting with telemedicine.


The experiment began back in the autumn of 2014. In January 2015, staff crowded around an iPad in patient Ellen Louka’s hospital room, briefing her daughter, who was at work, via video chat about the progress Louka was making after her hip replacement. The surgeon held an X-ray up to the camera and explained that the 79-year-old could bear weight on her new hip right away. The hospital will soon be using the same technology to liaise with GPs once patients have been discharged.


And eventually, Jefferson plans to have a “virtual emergency department” to facilitate triage for the 119,000 people who visit its ER every year. Doctors will be able to use a remote video connection to assess whether a patient should be rushed to hospital, go to an urgent-care centre, or simply call their GP. The aim is to ensure that any patients waiting in the ER actually require emergency care.



A DOCTOR, A patient… AND A tablet


In France, meanwhile, there have also been a number of experiments with telemedicine. These have mainly involved two types of condition: the first one is emergencies, such as strokes. In the Franche-Comté area, a collaborative tool has been implemented to enable doctors in hospitals that don’t have a neurovascular unit to send medical images to Besançon hospital to speed up diagnoses.


The other area is illnesses requiring regular monitoring. In Rennes, cardiologist Philippe Mabo remotely monitors his patients’ artificial heart valves. Other projects involve remotely monitoring patients with chronic kidney diseases and requiring peritoneal dialysis.


In addition to the substantial savings it generates, telemedicine could also be a solution to “medical deserts.” But for this to happen, doctors need to embrace these new technologies. Digital in hospitals, NOW?!




Further reading:

Data science: meet your new nutritionist, an algorithm

Using augmented reality to assist surgeons

SI Samu programme: digital overhaul urgently required

eHealth: doctors and patients get better connected

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