Telehealth: Where Technology, Medicine Interact for Life-Saving Results

(VIDEO: Take an inside look at Baptist Health South Florida’s Telehealth Center, which is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year by a staff of specially trained healthcare professionals.)

A patient arrives at the emergency room at Mariners Hospital in the Florida Keys with signs of a possible stroke – every second counts. Baptist Health South Florida’s Telehealth Center jumps into action, arranging a two-way virtual connection and a face-to-face consultation with a neurologist. The stroke diagnosis is quickly confirmed and the life-saving protocol is set into motion. A true intersection of technology and medicine with game-changing results.

Telehealth (or telemedicine) is the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status. It includes a growing variety of applications and services such as videoconferencing, email, smart phones, electronic imaging, wireless tools and other forms of medical and telecommunications technology.

“Telehealth fits in with today’s societal trend to want quicker and more convenient access to healthcare,” says Louis Gidel, M.D., medical director of Telehealth for Baptist Health South Florida. “Telehealth gives them greater treatment choices while still providing accurate healthcare,” he added.

Specially trained doctors and critical care nurses use advanced technology to electronically monitor each patient’s medical condition 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The Telehealth Center is located at Baptist Health’s Coral Gables headquarters. The center’s Tele-ICU supports care in the ICUs, step-down units and emergency departments, as well as chronic disease management programs and other patient outreach initiatives. This system, also known as eICU, has become a national model since it was established in 2005.

The Telehealth Center also houses the Baptist Health Transfer Center, which provides centralized, around-the-clock logistics coordination for more than 4,000 patient transfers per month. Transfer Center staff arranges prompt, expert patient transfers between inpatient facilities, between emergency departments and from urgent care centers to emergency departments.

Here are some of the services that are offered through Baptist Health South Florida’s Telehealth:

Home Care – Patients with certain chronic conditions, or who are confined to their home, may benefit from home telemonitoring. The patient or a family member is trained to take vital signs (such as blood pressure, pulse and blood glucose) and respond to clinical questions. Telehealth monitors these signs and can alert the patient and the care team of any concerns, helping to minimize costly hospitalizations and emergency room visits.

Tele-Pharmacy – This innovative initiative enables pharmacists to consult with ICU physicians to make sure that the proper medications and dosages are administered to patients. Pharmacists also use video chat to counsel patients directly about their medication plan. This education initiative improves patient compliance and reduces re-admissions.

E-Visit – Baptist Health primary-care physicians may use E-Visit with established patients to diagnose and treat a variety of common illnesses and conditions while the patient rests at home. By removing barriers to in-office visits, E-Visit has the potential to improve the continuity of care and improve overall patient health.

Tele-Psychiatry – Psychiatric care delivered by videoconferencing can help reduce or eliminate the need for the patient to travel. Services include diagnosis and assessment, medication management, individual and group therapy and emergency care. Psychiatrists, primary care physicians and other healthcare providers may also interact as a team via tele-consultation.

Tele-Stroke – Physicians from Baptist Health’s Primary Stroke Centers can remotely examine, diagnose and recommend care for stroke patients located at hospitals in rural, remote or underserved areas.

Dr. Gidel is excited about the many different kinds of opportunities for telemedicine applications. “Soon we will be piloting a program where virtual consultations with primary care physicians will be available for patients on their Apple and Android phones,” he said.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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