Hospital officials cite cost savings and life-saving seconds as the major reasons for the investment in telemedicine -- a way to diagnose and treat patients in remote locations using telecommunication devices.
More than half of all U.S. hospitals now use some form of telemedicine, according to the
"Telemedicine is permitting greater access to all patients without having to get in their car and drive an hour," said Dr.
Fort Hamilton, owned by
"Patients take remarkably well to it ... because of the big screen and audio, the physician comes off natural," Romanello said. "It's cutting-edge medicine."
Ludwig said telemedicine is especially effective for stroke care because it's very time sensitive.
"The faster you get to the hospital to be seen and treated the better chance for meaningful outcome," Ludwig said.
"It's about saving brain cells," Ludwig said.
Ludwig said all he needs in order to consult with a stroke patient is his laptop computer equipped with a 4G card to make a hotspot for Internet access. Ludwig said the telestroke robot allows one physician to cover multiple hospitals during an overnight shift. He's even consulted a patient while at a shopping mall.
"I'd prefer to be at the bedside, but we're under a time crunch and families have been appreciative," Ludwig said. "The camera is sensitive enough to see pupils dilate during the light exam."
Ludwig said the telemedicine robots give physicians the added bonus of being able to access on the screen at the time of the consultation a patient's history and doctors' notes using Epic software.
It's that time crunch that has also advanced the use of Epic to share electronic medical records among hospital networks through a shared agreement. Romanello said a physician treating a patient in
"Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials have an expectation for rapid care ... the 'fast food generation'," Romanello said. "To wait in a lobby is unacceptable."
Several hospital networks also use the MyChart program in physician offices for patients to access up-to-date information from home computer or mobile devices, said Dr.
Reiling said IT departments have moved from a supportive role in the past to being fully integrated into the health-care setting.
"It's a way for patients to be involved in their health care and know what's going on," Reiling said.
Patients use MyChart to review elements of their medical history, get test results and medication refills, make appointment requests, and send questions or messages directly to their doctor.
Reiling said when he began in family practice in the early 1990s, communication with your doctor was done by telephone or in person.
"There was limited ability to interact with the physician in business hours only," Reiling said. "This is enhancing the options for patients."
Hatten said she uses the online resource on her tablet device and smartphone for quick lab results, prescription refills, appointment requests and to ask her physician a question. Hatten said depending on your test results, MyChart will include suggestions and tips on how to improve your health, such as lowering bad cholesterol.
"With technology you have to move with it or get left behind," Hatten said, acknowledging a lot of people still like the traditional telephone.
But for Hatten the convenience of MyChart and not being placed on hold is what keeps her using it.
"You're more in control ... instead of not being able to see their file or computer records, now you have access to that information," Hatten said.
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