New, State-of-the-art Technology Supports Allegheny Health Network's Vision for Comprehensive Telehealth Services


PITTSBURGH, Pa., Sept. 22, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- via PRWEB - Allegheny Health Network (AHN) has launched an expanded, state-of-the-art telemedicine program that is now bringing advanced, specialized stroke care to patients at six hospitals throughout western Pennsylvania.

Stroke-trained neurologists from Allegheny General Hospital (AGH), a Joint Commission-accredited Comprehensive Stroke Center, now provide rapid, around the clock telemedicine consultations for patients at AHN's Allegheny Valley, Forbes, West Penn, and Jefferson hospitals as well as those at independent affiliates Heritage Valley Sewickley and Ohio Valley hospitals.

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is impaired due to a clot or narrowing of blood vessels, requiring urgent early intervention to decrease the patient's loss of brain tissue. According to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and a leading cause of serious, long-term disability.

Because emergency medical services providers are trained to take patients with stroke symptoms to the nearest accredited stroke center for care, the establishment of telestroke programs at community hospitals provides greatly enhanced critical access to stroke neurologists who are most capable of diagnosing the patient and directing a successful course of treatment.

"With stroke, time is brain," said Ashis Tayal, MD, Medical Director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at AGH. "The longer it takes to recognize stroke symptoms, make a diagnosis and initiate treatment, the greater the potential for permanent damage to brain tissue and increased disability. Telemedicine allows us to close that critical window of time for patients in rural areas where access to advanced stroke care has been limited."

National research has shown that patients treated at Joint Commission-certified stroke centers receive the most sophisticated diagnostic and therapeutic treatments more quickly and with better results than those treated elsewhere. Additionally, data from the American Heart Association suggests that the best care is delivered when a stroke-trained neurologist is available at the patient's bedside or via telemedicine.

AGH's Comprehensive Stroke Center is recognized by leading healthcare industry analyst Comparion Medical Analytics as the best in western Pennsylvania for high quality care, superior outcomes and exceptional patient experience. AHN's Neurosciences Institute also is ranked as the region's best overall by Comparion based on the same measures.

AHN's new, wireless telehealth technology platform from InTouch Health provides secure, real-time video connections and allows AGH's neurologists and endovascular neurosurgeons to evaluate patients, review brain scans and work with Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit staff at remote hospitals.

The InTouch Health platform is currently used by more than 100 health systems across the country to provide convenient, portable and cost-effective platforms to facilitate sharing of information and clinical services between multiple facilities.

"The implementation of this technology at AHN brings our stroke specialists to the bedsides of the patients across the region who need them most and provides a platform that will allow us to more seamlessly expand our telehealth capabilities across additional service lines and to additional hospitals in the future," said Angela Pantelas, Director of Telehealth Strategy and Operations for AHN.

Physicians providing video consultations via the InTouch Health system are able to do so from any location, using a variety of portals, including their personal computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Pantelas said plans are already in place to expand telehealth services to AHN's Canonsburg and Saint Vincent hospitals by the end of 2015 as well as to additional independent community hospitals.

Broader telehealth initiatives also are being developed by AHN to bring advanced expertise to underserved areas in a variety of specialties, including psychiatry, wound care, trauma and burn care, and maternal fetal medicine.

"Our vision for an expansive telemedicine program aligns with the commitment AHN and Highmark have made to improving healthcare quality, access, and efficiency in the communities we serve," said Tony Farah, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Allegheny Health Network. "Telemedicine helps us accomplish this goal for patients with emergent healthcare needs such as stroke as well as those with chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart failure. There are many potential applications for this technology to help us better manage population health."

AHN's telehealth program is part of the Network's growing diversified services portfolio and a strong community hospital-based component of its Healthcare@Home program, which offers patients a full range of customized healthcare services in the privacy and comfort of their own homes and communities, including home health, home medical equipment, home infusion therapy and hospice care.

About Allegheny Health Network

Allegheny Health Network, part of Highmark Health, is an integrated healthcare delivery system serving the Western Pennsylvania region. The Network composes eight hospitals, including its flagship academic medical center Allegheny General Hospital, Allegheny Valley Hospital, Canonsburg Hospital, Forbes Hospital, Jefferson Hospital, Saint Vincent Hospital, Westfield Memorial Hospital and West Penn Hospital; a research institute; Health + Wellness Pavilions; an employed physician organization, home and community based health services and a group purchasing organization. The Network employs approximately 17,500 people and has more than 2,100 physicians on its medical staff. The Network also serves as a clinical campus for Temple University School of Medicine, Drexel University College of Medicine and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.

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