Mass General launches telehealth pilot

To reach psychiatry, heart failure patients

Officials at Massachusetts General Hospital announced Monday the launch of a new telehealth pilot aimed at bringing healthcare services to psychiatry and neurology patients statewide through real-time video visits. 

The six-month pilot slated to go live this month will focus primarily on child/adolescent psychiatry, heart failure and neurology patients, officials say. The 907-bed hospital based in Boston will tap American Well for the telehealth technology platform. 

The Web-based platform is designed to extend the ability of physicians to improve care from the patients' home or work using the Internet, smartphones or tablet devices. Physicians can review a patient's incoming clinical information, speak with and see the patient, prescribe medications and suggest follow-up care. Officials say online care visits are designed to abide by HIPAA rules, protecting the patient's privacy and the security of their health information. At the conclusion of the six-month pilot, the program may be expanded beyond the three initial clinical areas.

[See also: Georgia to expand telemedicine statewide.]

"Telemedicine is a critical tool in improving access to care and overcoming barriers created by geography, income or social circumstance," said Lee H. Schwamm, MD, vice chair of neurology and medical director of telehealth at Massachusetts General Hospital, in a press statement. "The technology enables us to extend our reach and deliver the highest quality of care to members of our own system and to a broader population of patients as well."

The three initial clinical areas of the pilot are:

Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: The pilot program will focus on children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Parents and children dealing with autism and ADHD often find it difficult to find appropriate resources locally or to secure after school appointments. The program will allow participating physicians to see existing patients in their own homes. 

Heart Failure: The pilot program will give cardiologists the ability to hold video visits with patients at home. The program will begin with heart failure patients, as they require close monitoring by their care team for successful disease management.

Neurology: The pilot program will focus on follow-up visits for patients with limited mobility, which makes travel difficult and home visits ideal. Massachusetts General Hospital launched its TeleStroke program in 2000, allowing Mass General stroke specialists to examine and diagnose patients at remote clinical locations throughout New England and recommend a plan of care to local physicians. 

[See also: FDA gives OK to first telemedicine robot.]

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