Thanks to technology, the world seems to be getting smaller and smaller. We have nearly instant connection to our friends and loved ones and a simple click tells us what's happening across the globe, no matter where we are in the world.
Among the most impactful and life-changing benefits of technology is the way healthcare is delivered. Through the power of telemedicine, quick access to care is available no matter where a patient or physician is located. Telehealth has allowed us to provide more efficient and expedient care and connects specialists to the communities where they are needed most. The result has been improved outcomes and saved lives.
At HCA Midwest Health, we are at the forefront of telemedicine, providing innovative programs to more than 20 communities outside the Kansas City metro. This gives patients in these rural areas close-by access to medical specialists and allows them to stay and receive treatment in their local communities for longer.
"Our goal is always to keep patients in their local community. We are paving the way for life-saving care to our important community partners," states Angie Lucchi, HCA Midwest Health division vice president of outreach and telehealth.
Telemedicine also provides rural hospitals 24-hour access to specialized expertise, which improves the immediate care their patients get and helps keep costs lower for everyone by not having to transfer.
Spanning Miles — What is Telehealth?
Telemedicine essentially allows a doctor to be in two places at once by "transporting" them into the room with a patient. Using advanced communications technology, doctors are able to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients they are unable to see in person. The doctor can see the patient, examine him or her, talk to family members, consult with the local doctors and nurses, and review test results or imaging.
Making Connections — The Doctor is In
The consulting physician connects to the telehealth system via his or her computer. Through videoconferencing capabilities, the physician appears on the screen of a "robot" located in the patient room. The robot allows the consulting physician to move, see, hear and talk as if they were actually there. Some robots even contain a stethoscope so the doctor can hear the patient's heart and lungs!
Easy Access Where It's Most Needed
With a goal of efficiently reaching the maximum number of patients needing specialized care in a way that's easy for them, HCA Midwest Health telemedicine services are delivered in three settings — outpatient, ER and in the hospital.
Outpatient or Specialty Clinics
Outpatient telehealth allows people in rural areas of Kansas and Missouri to have specialty consults close to home. A patient checks in at a local clinic, sees a nurse and then sees one of our specialists remotely. Using this approach means patients only travel to Kansas City for care when it’s absolutely necessary, like for a surgery or procedure.
Emergency Room Care
Time is brain for stroke patients. For every minute the brain is deprived of oxygen, two million brain cells die. Telehealth can help save hours of brain damage by allowing access to prompt treatment. If a patient goes to one of our rural partner hospitals with stroke symptoms, the ER team can connect with an HCA Midwest Health neurologist. The neurologist can help the local physician and other medical team members make decisions that can be critical to a patient's outcomes. The technology and expertise provided by the TeleStroke Network will help our patients receive care much faster and ensure they have a seamless transfer for high-acuity stroke and brain injury care for a stroke or other brain injury.
"The goal is always is to keep the patient where they are, but if they are in need of higher-level care, they can be transferred to one of our stroke centers," states Lucchi.
In cases where an expectant mom may be considered high risk, her delivery can be planned for a hospital equipped with a neonatal intensive care unit. However, many high-risk births are unexpected. Babies are born unexpectedly with complications and are not in a hospital with a higher level neonatal intensive care unit. Those hospitals don't have a neonatologist on staff. Timely treatment is critical to keep mom and baby safe.
Luckily, thanks to telehealth, one of our neonatal intensive care specialists can beam-in and talk the doctors and nurses through what is needed for that baby. The goal is always to avoid transferring the baby, but if higher level care is needed, our maternal and NICU transports are available to transport the mom and baby, and are equipped with telemedicine so the doctor can stay with the patient the entire way.
A Leader in Telehealth
At HCA Midwest Health, part of the MidAmerica Division of HCA Healthcare, we are leading the way in telehealth.
"I am really proud of the work we are doing in telehealth. Out of all the divisions across HCA Healthcare, we are really on the forefront of telemedicine in Kansas City and across HCA," describes Lucchi.
"We are continually looking for more opportunities to partner with rural hospitals and make sure the people in their communities have access to the specialized care they need and deserve."
We currently provide telemedicine consults for six service lines.
- Neurology and stroke care
- Pre/post surgery
- Outpatient oncology
- Inpatient cardiology
- Outpatient pulmonary
Maternal-fetal medicine, inpatient pulmonary, inpatient endocrinology, outpatient cardiology pre/post neurosurgery and several other service line tele-consults will be available later this year.
"We are committed to providing great healthcare and will do everything we can to keep our patients close to home. That's why so many hospitals are choosing to partner with us for higher level care."