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Revolutionizing Healthcare - eHealth at Upstate Medical University

Revolutionizing Healthcare: A Spotlight on Telehealth at Upstate Medical University

Upstate is a proud supporter of the 3rd annual #TelehealthAwarenessWeek, which takes place September 17-23, 2023, to showcase the many ways virtual care improves access to quality healthcare services for all communities.

In the heart of Central New York, Upstate Medical University has transformed their healthcare landscape through the integration of telehealth. With its commitment to patient-centered care, innovative practices, and cutting-edge technology, Upstate has harnessed the power of telehealth to provide accessible, high-quality medical services to its patients and providers located throughout New York State.

Telehealth, the practice of delivering healthcare remotely through digital communication platforms, has rapidly gained traction worldwide and was thrust into the spotlight when the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the crucial role of telehealth in maintaining healthcare continuity while prioritizing safety. Upstate has embraced the capabilities of telehealth by integrating it into multiple areas of its healthcare ecosystem. This move has not only improved patient outcomes, advanced patient throughput and alleviated capacity constraints, but also expanded the hospital's reach beyond its physical locations.

Improving Access by Breaking Down Geographical Barriers

One of the most significant achievements of Upstate's telehealth initiative is breaking down geographical barriers to healthcare access, allowing patients, particularly those in rural or underserved areas, to access medical expertise and consultations without the need to travel long distances.

Video visits and e-consultations allow Upstate providers to connect with patients and providers who live outside of the immediate Central New York area, reaching individuals who might not have had access to their services otherwise.

“Many of our patients need ongoing care that require multiple trips back to visit with their physician. There are many potential barriers that could prevent our patients from continuing their follow-up care with us, like work schedules, childcare, travel time and costs. Not to mention our most vulnerable populations who have mobility and transportation issues, telehealth eases that burden on them,” Margie Greenfield, healthcare information systems program manager.

Connecting Experts: Specialist Consultations at Your (or Your Provider’s) Fingertips

With a guiding focus on patient care, Upstate Medical University has leveraged telehealth to provide expert consultations across various specialties, including stroke and burn care interventions. Patients and providers can now connect with renowned physicians and specialists regardless of their location.

An example of Upstate in action:

Upstate’s Telestroke Network connects Upstate stroke specialists with 12 facilities across the state to aid in the assessment and care of patients who may be experiencing a stroke. 

The Telestroke Network is used when a patient presents with symptoms that could be a stroke. A medical provider at a partner facility assesses the patient’s symptoms and orders a CT scan. The partner facility is then connected to an Upstate stroke-care specialty doctor who is on-call for this service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The two medical providers meet via teleconference to assess the severity of the stroke and decide on the next best steps for the patient.

Some patients seen through the Telestroke Network may be experiencing what’s called a Stroke Mimic – a condition with symptoms that look like a stroke. “Ruling out stroke via the network saves time, money and resources,” said Stroke Program Manager Josh Onyan, BSN, RN, SCRN. Onyan explained that the goal of the telestroke consult is to help the medical provider at the partner facility analyze the findings and determine a treatment plan.

“Our network provides access to expert stroke neurologists where they might not otherwise be present,” Onyan said. “It gives patients the care they deserve. Geographical limitations and distance shouldn’t factor into your health care, and telehealth provides them with the same resources that you would have if you had a stroke in Syracuse,” says Onyan.

Upstate’s Comprehensive Stroke Center is the only one in the region with a Telestroke Network.

Extending Care: Remote Monitoring Provides a Holistic Approach to the Continuum of Care

Telehealth at Upstate Medical University also extends beyond virtual appointments. The hospital has embraced a holistic approach by integrating remote patient monitoring devices that allow healthcare providers to track patients' vital signs and progress from a distance. This proactive approach ensures timely interventions which can be crucial for addressing acute medical issues, follow-up visits, or medication adjustments, especially for patients with chronic conditions.

An example of Upstate in action:

The Upstate Hospital at Home program allows eligible patients who need inpatient care but are well enough to be home to safely finish their treatment in their own home. These patients receive two in-person nurse visits and one in-person or telehealth visit from a provider daily, delivery of all necessary equipment, supplies and prescriptions, and 24/7 remote monitoring.

The Future of Healthcare, Today

By embracing technology, prioritizing patient needs, and fostering a culture of innovation, Upstate has demonstrated that distance is no longer a barrier to quality healthcare. The eHealth initiative at Upstate has a comprehensive roadmap of plans to integrate more telehealth opportunities into its healthcare system.

“There are so many opportunities to advance care while alleviating the stress to our system that is enhanced by supporting a growing and aging population. We are pursuing ways to offer immediate virtual patient consultations, virtual nursing programs, bedside monitoring, rapid discharge procedures and more, all through the scope of harnessing telehealth advances. Our vision is to have seamless, convenient access to exceptional and transparent healthcare,” says Mary Ann Gross, director of hospital information systems and advisory council member of Upstate’s eHealth initiative.

Upstate Medical University's utilization of telehealth is a testament of its dedication to improving patient care and innovating the future of healthcare. Through telehealth, the hospital has redefined accessibility, bridging the gap between patients and medical providers. As Central New York continues to benefit from the advantages of telehealth, Upstate stands as an example of how embracing technology and innovation can revolutionize the healthcare experience. Patients interested in telehealth opportunities can contact their Upstate provider to see if telehealth appointments may be available.