At Cleveland Clinic, recovering stroke and epilepsy patients can use the TV in the room to watch a movie—or see their physicians for a follow-up visit via video conferencing. Last July, the facility opened a neurology step-down unit that had been newly-equipped with telemedicine capabilities. The director of Cleveland Clinic’s cerebrovascular center, Muhammad Shazam Hussain, MD, was interviewed recently about introducing telemedicine in hospitals, outside of emergency rooms.
Each patient room contains a TV with a high-definition web camera, microphone, and speaker. As usual, patients can use the TV to watch movies or shows. Traditionally, if a patient needs a follow-up visit or has a question for the provider, he/she has to wait until the doctor comes back to the unit. With the addition of telemedicine in hospitals, however, the patient can connect with the physician virtually through that same TV no matter where the physician is; instead of spending hours waiting for the physician to finish work at other facilities and return, the patient and provider can immediately interact through a live telemedicine call. In this way, for instance, a patient who only needs a follow-up visit to be discharged can be evaluated sooner and be discharged sooner.
As Hussain explained, the availability of telemedicine in hospital rooms also hastens the response time when there are changes in a patient’s condition. Stroke, a potentially severe condition, can come on very suddenly. Since telemedicine equipment is already in the patient’s room, his/her physician can immediately “beam in” to see the patient, talk with the nurse, make an assessment, and determine a treatment plan—all from across town. Such time savings can be critical with conditions such as stroke; medication must be administered within a narrow window of time in order to gain a level of benefit that outweighs the risk of further damage.
So far, patients have responded well to the technology, reported Hussain, as have the doctors. By reducing the need for travel between facilities, telemedicine allows providers to see more patients than before while they are working at any clinic or hospital. The success thus far of the neurology step-down unit’s telemedicine program has spurred discussions to implement the technology in other step-down units at Cleveland Clinic, as well as the intensive care unit. As Hussain explained, the affordability and simplicity of telemedicine equipment, such as software on a USB drive plugged into a TV, make it easier to implement and will hopefully encourage more providers to incorporate the technology in their practices.
To read more about Cleveland Clinic’s use of telemedicine in hospital rooms, visit Becker’s Hospital Review here.