by Audrey Kinsella
I learned this week about a new telemedicine system that brings together home health nurses and remote physicians to care for homebound patients. MedPod, Inc. describes its vision as "developing proprietary technologies to enhance clinical decision-making, particularly in long-distance settings." The New York City company has just introduced the MobileDoc system, a kind of doctor-to-healthcare-at-home tele-housecall. The system packages tools for a complete remote physician-to-patient visit, calling it a "compact medical office in a bag."
MobileDoc allows physicians to perform as many as 70 remote diagnostic tests and procedures from their offices for patients already receiving conventional home health services.
MobileDoc in the Home
Home healthcare nurses ready measuring devices (blood pressure cuff and other vital sign assessment tools) with patients who need physician services. Then they set up telecommunications systems through a proprietary televideo system or Skype. The company says set-up-to-operation time is 2 minutes. Once configured, the off-site physician directs nurses how and when to use an array of peripheral devices. Nothing out of the ordinary here for healthcare at home nurses, and the results are no doubt more gratifying as patients may be able to stay at home as a result of this televisit with a physician.
According to MedPod Inc.'s website, the doctor/nurse/patient tele-session can avert unnecessary, costly trips to hospital ERs.
Does It Work?
One case in point that stands out is recounted by James Powell, MD, who has seen more than 70 home healthcare patients during a recent pilot test of the MobileDoc system. He told us about his experience with Long Island (NY) Select Healthcare -- a federally qualified health center (FQHC).
An elderly man receiving healthcare at home had a fall in his shower. Instead of phoning 911, he called his home health nurse, who came to his home and helped him connect with Dr. Powell via the MobileDoc system. Through the telemedicine connection, the patient was "seen" by the doctor, who was able to assess the patient and perform a thorough diagnosis. In this case, Dr. Powell assessed no trauma, no concussion, and no need for an emergency department visit. He recommended Tylenol. The result, the cost of a home health visit and a remote physician visit instead of the trauma of transport to a hospital and the cost of an ED visit.
The Promise of Remote Housecalls
Systems like MobileDoc are expected to greatly benefit patients and payers. Emergency department trips may once have been the only alternative for getting needed help in cases such as Dr. Powell’s patient. ED visits can range from $1500 to $2000, while a MobileDoc encounter is estimated at about $200.
Geography is an impediment to getting care for some patients, of course, but even those who live near their doctor’s office often have limited ability to get there, especially when services are needed after hours. When remote consultations are possible, none of these issues matter. According to Dr. Powell, patients and doctors can visit remotely anywhere, any time with the right remote visit system.
In my 25 years of studying the rise of telemedicine use by consumers at home, I have seen the strides that have been achieved. With a system like MobileDoc's "medical office in a bag," the technology has been extended beyond simple telecommunication between physician and patient. Now there are also tools to make long-distance diagnoses feasible. In collaboration with a home health nurse, remote physicians can suggest less disruptive and costly treatments, or instructions for the patient himself to follow, instead of routinely responding, "better bring him in."
Audrey Kinsella, MA, MS, is HCTR's telemedicine reporter. She has written on home telehealthcare and new technologies for home care service delivery for 20 years, in 6 books, multiple web sites, and more than 150 published articles. Audrey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-348-5308.©2017 by Rowan Consulting Associates, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Tim Rowan's Home Care Technology Report. homecaretechreport.com One copy may be printed for personal use; further reproduction by permission only. email@example.com