Telemedicine platform can be used in-house to keep docs safe in COVID-19 assessments

A screen mounted to a mobile cart can enable physicians to assess patients at a safe distance – even when they're both in the same healthcare facility.
By Fred Bazzoli
10:37 AM

A telemedicine technology vendor is offering a new way to use its platform to virtually treat potential COVID-19 patients – even when those patients and clinicians are in the same facility.

Cloudbreak Health is offering an additional use for its technology, enabling its Martti devices to be used to assess patients who come in for treatment of potential infection with the highly contagious virus.

The El Segundo, Calif.-based vendor's platform was designed for an entirely different purpose, said Jamey Edwards, its CEO. It cut its teeth on using telemedicine approaches to improve communication between providers and patients when they speak different languages. 

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Its translation services, which Edwards calls a patient empowerment tool, is now used in about 1,200 hospitals, servicing 85,000 patient encounters a month.

Language translation is all done through a Martti device, essentially a display screen on a portable, wheeled stand that can be rolled into a patient's room to facilitate language translation.

The language barrier that can separate patients and clinicians can impede treatment. However, Cloudbreak now is being used to provide a physical barrier that can support patient care while keeping physicians at a safe distance from infectious patients.

"It's a chance to reduce exposure for clinicians," Edwards added. "It could really be a help in rural hospitals, where they're not prepared to quarantine patients, but have our telemedicine platform."

The device – essentially, an iPad mounted to the portable stand—can be rolled into a patient's room and either left for the patient to operate or attended by a nurse in personal protective equipment (PPE), enabling physicians to assess patients at a distance. That's less risk of exposure, as well as diminished use of PPE, which is in short supply nationwide.

With the device in the room, a patient "can hit a button to call the doctor, which launches a telemedicine encounter with the patient," Edwards explained. "We can add a language interpreter in real time. The doctor can call on that patient with a remote device," so that the physician doesn't have to physically be in the facility to participate in the examination.

After the encounter, the Martti's display screen can be easily sanitized for the next use.

As of this past weekend, five healthcare organizations have opted to use Cloudbreak's free add-on telemedicine service, including Onslow Health in North Carolina, Primary One in Ohio, Indian River Medical Center in Florida, The Queens Medical Center in Hawaii and Children's National in Washington, D.C.

In addition, Cloudbreak is launching an app for its clients that will enable them to offer telemedicine assessments to patients in their homes, giving them medical guidance before they decide to come to a medical facility to check on potential COVID-19 infections.

Edwards says the app would enable a hospital to set up a hotline, advising those seeking assessments for COVID-19 to provide information on the symptoms they're having and whether it's essential for them to come to the hospital immediately or whether they should monitor their conditions in place.

"About 80 percent of COVID-19 cases are mild, and this lets providers triage the patient" without an in-person encounter, Edwards said. "Nine times out of 10, patients are being told to stay home. If this can be handled virtually, we're not exposing patients to the hospital environment – it's a risk mitigation tool intended to flatten the curve."

The pandemic is proving to be a catalyst to expand use of telemedicine, as well as encouraging formerly competitive providers to share resources to handle local challenges, Edwards added. "There's a desperate need to figure out more effective ways to treat these patients."

Fred Bazzoli is a contributing writer to Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @fbazzoli

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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