Allegheny Health Network Launches State’s First EMS Pre-hospital Telemedicine Program at Allegheny Valley Hospital

Press Release:

Allegheny Health Network is the first in the state to launch a Pre-hospital Telemedicine program for use in the Emergency Medical Services community. The Lower Kiski and A-K Pulser Emergency Medical Services crew connected its first patient from her home to an emergency room physician at Allegheny Valley Hospital on June 30.

This innovative year-long pilot program, in which patients in their homes can speak directly to an emergency room physician via an iPad connection, offers new opportunities for EMS providers and patients who don’t want, or don’t need, to go to the emergency room.

“Telemedicine, the use of telecommunications technology to deliver health care, is a rapidly growing component of U.S. health care,” said Robert J. McCaughan, Vice President, Pre-hospital Care Services, at Allegheny Health Network. “This exciting innovation in Pre-hospital care is just the beginning of how we will be using telemedicine in our health care system in the coming years.”

“Exceptional work by the Allegheny Valley Hospital leadership and emergency department staff, and the EMS providers at Lower Kiski and A-K Pulser, made this possible,” McCaughan added. “Under the direction of Jerry Taylor, MD, EMS Medical Director at Allegheny Valley, they are focused on innovation and in constantly improving outreach to the communities they serve.”

On the first telemedicine consult, A-K Pulser and Lower Kiski EMS responded to a call from 59-year-old Barbara Verdu of Leechburg, who was experiencing anxiety, sweating and shakiness related to her diabetes.

To Ms. Verdu’s amazement, they connected her via an iPad with Allegheny Valley Hospital emergency medicine physician Andrea Fisk, MD, who had the chance to actually look at the patient while asking her questions, and cleared her to stay home and out of the hospital.

This consultation took place after months of planning with officials at Allegheny Health Network, Allegheny Valley Hospital, A-K Pulser and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The telecommunications equipment was tested for its effectiveness and ease of use, as well as its compliance with patient privacy laws.

“The benefits of telemedicine to the patient are innumerable, offering direct in-home access to a physician who can see them and talk to them,” said Richard Gibbons, Director of the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, Pennsylvania Department of Health. “I’m very excited about the potential of this program and glad to see that it is happening in a community hospital such as Allegheny Valley.”

Pre-hospital Telemedicine can be effective in a variety of selected situations, McCaughan said. “It can keep patients who don’t need hospital-based care out of the hospital, and it can get patients who need to be hospitalized into the hospital. It can also help a doctor determine whether a patient can be treated at a community hospital, or whether he or she needs to be transported to a destination offering specialized care, such as a certified stroke center.”

An emergency physician might also refer a patient seen via telemedicine to an urgent care center, or advise the patient to call his or her primary care physician for an appointment. Patients must be conscious and alert, and must give spoken approval, to be treated via telemedicine.

The Stethoscope of the Future: Bedside Ultrasound

From Emergency Physicians Monthly:

The applications of bedside ultrasound have gone well beyond scanning the gallbladder . . . to the lungs?


Emergency Physician’s Facebook/HIPAA-Related Defamation Lawsuit

From MLive:

Dr. Catherine Puetz filed the lawsuit March 14, saying she was abruptly let go and wrongfully accused of a HIPAA violation after she and other employees made comments online about a photo posted on Facebook.

She accuses Spectrum of “defamation, false light invasion of privacy, breach of contract/covenant and tortious interference with business expectancy.” Also named in the suit are Kevin Splaine, the president of Spectrum Health Hospitals, and Jeanne Roode, director of emergency, trauma and neuroscience services.

Spectrum Health, in its response, has denied Puetz’s claims and asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit.

Hospital on wheels

From Castanet:

The arrival of BC’s mobile medical unit in Penticton, two days before Boonstock, is no coincidence.

The MMU was hauled into place in front of the Emergency Department at PRH July 29 and will be operational July 31 through Aug 3.

Penticton Regional Hospital’s acute health services director Maureen Thomson said the August long weekend is already a busy time for Penticton and with the addition of Boonstock, Interior Health felt they could use some help. 

Enter the mobile medical unit’s 1,000 square feet of air-conditioned life-saving and educational technology. It will serve as a backup emergency room with about eight staff and up to 10 additional stretchers.

Not Just Ebola: 10 Diseases Your Local ER Should Be Looking For

From NBC:

A possible Ebola scare briefly closed a Charlotte, North Carolina-area emergency room. It turns out the patient almost certainly didn’t have anything infectious, but had a history of travel to a country with an infectious disease.

Health workers have a long list of infections to watch for. Some require isolation, while others don’t transmit person to person even if they are of concern. Here are a few:

Justice Department wants agents to carry Narcan

From Reuters:


U.S. law enforcement agents who deal with heroin addicts may begin carrying the drug naloxone to reverse overdoses, the Justice Department said on Thursday, responding to a surge in heroin use in the United States.


Attorney General Eric Holder said he urged federal law enforcement agencies to identify those workers and determine whether they should be trained in how to administer the medication.

Cop Pulls Over Man For Speeding, Then Saves His Life

From Jalopnik:

“When you’re thinking you’re just going to give a guy a warning and — next thing you know — you’re doing chest compression in the middle of rush-hour traffic. It’s a little overwhelming,” is how a Maine police officer described a recent traffic stop that did not go as expected.



Heart Attack Patients Treated at Night, Weekends May Have Worse Outcomes

From US News:

The time at which heart attack patients arrive at the hospital may affect their chances for survival, new research suggests.

Showing up at the emergency room at night, on weekends or during holidays is associated with a 13 percent higher risk for death than arriving during regular business hours, researchers report.

The Problem With ‘Pay for Performance’ in Medicine

From the NY Times:

“Pay for performance” is one of those slogans that seem to upset no one. To most people it’s a no-brainer that we should pay for quality and not quantity. We all know that paying doctors based on the amount of care they provide, as we do with a traditional fee-for-service setup, creates incentives for them to give more care. It leads to increased health care spending. Changing the payment structure to pay them for achieving goals instead should reduce wasteful spending. 

So it’s no surprise that pay for performance has been an important part of recent reform efforts. But in reality we’re seeing disappointingly mixed results

These Medical Apps Have Doctors and the FDA Worried

From Wired:

Iltifat Husain has seen an awful lot of sickness and injury during his time as an emergency room doctor, but lately, he’s worried about something new. He’s worried about the ill effects of mobile healthcare apps.

There are hundreds of medically themed apps in Apple’s App Store and Google Play, and by most accounts, they’ve been wonderful tools for tracking, evaluating, and taking control of our personal health. Husain loves apps such as Draw MD, which lets physicians draw out surgical procedures for patients, and MicroMedex, a prescription drug reference encyclopedia. But he’s concerned about the emergence of untested apps that are marketed as replacements for legitimate medical equipment—apps such as Instant Blood Pressure, which purports to take your blood pressure by way of the iPhone. According to Husain, a faculty member in the Emergency Medicine department at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, these apps could very well land someone in his E.R.—and maybe even get them killed.