Virginia’s Inova Health System gets a boost for telehealth

By Eric Wicklund
02:47 PM

FALLS CHURCH, VA – A Virginia-based, seven-hospital healthcare system with ties to Washington D.C. is getting some financial help for its fledgling telehealth program.
The Inova Health System was recently named the recipient of a $100,000 donation from AirWatch, an Atlanta-based provider of smartphone and mobile device management solutions. The money will support three projects in the health system’s Telemedicine Institute Mobility Programs: a home health pilot program, in which home health nurses will be provided tablets in an effort to improve the quality of care and connectivity; a telestroke program, in which neurologists will be given mobile technology and software designed to improve their stroke response times and administer medication in a more timely and efficient manner; and a program designed to study the impact of mobile technology on physician inpatient productivity at Inova Fairfax Hospital’s Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit.
Alan Dabbiere, a co-founder and chairman of AirWatch, said he’s looking for one successful mobile health program to help change the course of healthcare, and thinks Inova – with its long track record of innovation – will fit the bill.
“We want to see one real successful home run right here,” he said. “Once the healthcare industry understands the value of the smartphone, all of a sudden the value proposition changes dramatically.”
The Inova-AirWatch deal isn’t the only one of note. Also in June, the Verizon Foundation announced a $100,000 donation to Philadelphia’s Temple University School of Medicine to push cardiovascular health information out to surrounding underserved neighborhoods through text messages. The effort is part of
Temple’s Telemedicine Light program, in which doctors develop targeted, customized e-mail messages with community leaders that address the unique concerns – cultural, economic or linguistic – of a specific community. Once those messages are relayed by community leaders to the targeted population, community members are urged to sign up for weekly messages from Temple containing information on cardiovascular disease and how to prevent it.
“You can tell someone that their blood pressure needs to be 120 over 80, or that they should go out for a walk to get exercise, but it’s not enough,” said William Santamore, a professor of medicine and director of telemedicine research at Temple, in a news story published by the university. “We need to provide actionable information, which is why we are working with trusted community leaders, to learn the best ways to do that.”
Inova’s Telemedicine Institute is one of several efforts underway in that health system to promote health information exchange. At about the same time as the donation was announced, the health system announced its involvement in a medication history pilot project launched by the Northern Virginia Regional Health Information Organization (NoVaRHIO), designed to enable emergency room physicians to gain immediate and complete access to a patient’s medication history, no matter where those records are kept.
NoVaRHIO officials said they plan to expand their health information exchange efforts to other hospitals and systems and broaden services to include laboratory and radiology results, admissions and discharge information, physician access and patient personal health records.
Adding telehealth services to that mix is seen by many as an important step toward the development of the patient-centered medical home.
“AirWatch and Inova share the same commitment to excellence in patient care,” said William Jackson, director of Inova’s Adult Critical Care services. The AirWatch donation, he said, “underwrites critical services, which will positively impact the diverse community we serve. By utilizing the technology made possible by this grant, the Inova Telemedicine Institute’s response to patient evaluation, intervention and care is greatly enhanced while assisting physicians and caregivers with respect to timely treatment and increased productivity.”
The donation is the latest in a series of efforts by AirWatch to get the telehealth ball rolling. It doesn’t hurt, said Dabbiere, that Inova is in close to proximity to the nation’s capital, where healthcare reform is a daily topic of conversation.
“We’re looking at small investments in the right place to get seed projects started,” said Dabbiere, who noted AirWatch provides monitoring, management and support services for several hospitals, including Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “Devices, essentially, in healthcare are becoming alive, and we want to see them become the catalysts for change. … Electronic medical records really require mobility.”
“Hospitals right now, they run with an emergency room mentality,” he added. “There are gaps in their forward-looking thinking, in some instances.”
Inova, with more than 1,700 licensed beds in seven hospitals, the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute and many other settings, is billed as a largest not-for-profit healthcare system serving northern Virginia and the Washington D.C. area.
“Inova is very much know for innovation,” said Dabbiere. “They are a typical community hospital.”