Author Interviews, Columbia, JAMA, Race/Ethnic Diversity, Telemedicine / 29.07.2021 Interview with: Steffie Woolhandler MD MPH, FACP Professor of Public health and Health Policy CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College Co-founder and board member Physicians for a National Health Program What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response:   We analzyed a national database of healthcare utilization. We found racial disparities exist in use of specialist MD services by Black- and Native-Americans relative to White-Americans, despite their greater needs.  Hispanic- and Asian-Americans also receive specialist care at low rates.   (more…)
Author Interviews, Surgical Research, Telemedicine / 17.07.2020 Interview with: Leonardo Mattos, PhD Head of Biomedical Robotics Lab Advanced Robotics Department Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia Genova, Italy What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We have been working on robotic microsurgery for several years, and have developed robotic technology for it that is getting ready for use on humans. Then, 5G started to become a reality here in Italy, and we wanted to test if it could be used to enable remote telesurgery. So we joined forces with Vodafone Italia to realize this study and proof of concept demonstration. Telesurgery has been a dream for over 20 years, and has been demonstrated already back in 2001. However, the wide scale adoption of the technology has been limited by many factors, including the limited availability of surgical robots and the lack of a telecommunication network that is fast and reliable enough for such operation. Recent technological progress is changing this scenario, with surgical robots being used in hospitals around the world and high-performance telecommunications system becoming widely available. This study shows that telesurgery is now feasible using the newest 5G telecommunication networks, enabling us to consider a large scale adoption of the technology.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Diabetes, Duke, Telemedicine / 15.06.2020 Interview with: Matthew J. Crowley, MD Core Investigator, Durham Center of Innovation to Accelerate Discovery and Practice Transformation (ADAPT) Affiliated Investigator, VA Office of Rural Health Staff Physician, Endocrinology Section, Durham VA Health Care System Elizabeth Kobe, BS Medical Student Durham VA Health Care System Duke University School of Medicine What is the background for this study? With whom were the telehealth sessions performed? (MDs, PAs, Dieticians etc). Response: Diabetes management in rural populations is especially challenging due to limited access to specialty care and self-management programs. Telehealth is a potential strategy for extending high-quality diabetes care to rural areas. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has a robust Home Telehealth (HT) system that is currently used for telemonitoring patient blood glucose values. In order to address the challenges of managing diabetes in rural areas in a clinically feasible manner, we strategically designed an intensive diabetes management intervention – Advanced Comprehensive Diabetes Care (ACDC) – for delivery using existing VHA HT infrastructure and clinical staffing. ACDC is a 6-month telehealth intervention that combines telemonitoring with module-based self-management support and medication management. ACDC is delivered entirely by existing clinical staff (a clinical HT nurse and a medication manager (typically a PharmD)) through bimonthly, 30-minute calls. Our initial randomized controlled trial found that ACDC improved HbA1c by a clinically and statistically significant  -1.0% relative to usual care at 6 months, while also improving blood pressure and diabetes self-care. Our goal with the present work was to improve diabetes care in clinical practice for rural Veterans whose type 2 diabetes remained uncontrolled despite receiving available services. To this end, we partnered with the VA Office of Rural Health to implement ACDC into VA sites across the country with large rural populations.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Primary Care, Respiratory, Telemedicine / 02.10.2018 Interview with: Dr. Kathryn A. Martinez PhD MPH CanSORT Cancer Surveillance and Outcomes Research Team Cleveland Clinic What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Most upper respiratory infections are viral and therefore should not be treated with antibiotics. Despite this, physicians commonly prescribe them for these conditions. Patients often expect antibiotics for respiratory tract infections.  As a result, physicians may find it easier to give patients what they want rather than explain to them why antibiotics aren’t needed. We hypothesized it also might be more time consuming for physicians to explain to patients why they don’t need antibiotics, which creates a further incentive to prescribe them. To explore this potential phenomenon, we used data from a large direct to consumer telemedicine system to assess differences in medical encounter length by prescription outcome for patients diagnosed with respiratory tract infections. We found that encounters resulting in antibiotics were 0.33 minutes shorter than those that resulted in no prescriptions, supporting our hypothesis that prescribing an antibiotic takes less time than prescribing nothing. (more…)
Author Interviews, OBGYNE, Telemedicine / 20.05.2017 Interview with: Abigail R.A. Aiken, MD, MPH, PhD Assistant Professor LBJ School of Public Affairs Faculty Associate Population Research Center University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX, 78713Abigail R.A. Aiken, MD, MPH, PhD Assistant Professor LBJ School of Public Affairs Faculty Associate Population Research Center University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX, 78713 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We've known for some time that women in Ireland and Northern Ireland self-source their own abortions using online telemedicine. In fact, this model has revolutionized abortion access for Irish women. Yet very little was previously known about the outcomes of those abortions. How safe and effective are they? We wanted to address that knowledge gap with this study. What this research shows is that self-sourced medication abortion, conducted entirely outside the formal healthcare setting, can have high rates of effectiveness and low rates of adverse outcomes. Women can successfully manage their own abortions and recognize the symptoms of potential complications. Among the small number who experienced such a symptom, virtually all sought in-person medical attention as advised. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, JAMA, Macular Degeneration, Ophthalmology, Telemedicine / 02.04.2017 Interview with: John Wittenborn Senior research scientist NORC's Public Health Analytics University of Chicago What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response:The emergence of anti-VEGF treatment for wet-form AMD (choroidal neovascularization) has had a dramatic impact on preserving vision for many Americans. However, community-based studies show that most patients are not diagnosed with wet-form AMD until they have already lost a significant, and largely unrecoverable amount of their vision.  Early detection of wet-form AMD is key to effective treatment and the preservation of vision. The ForeseeHome telemonitoring technology provides patients with a means to check their own eyes on a daily basis to detect the earliest signs of vision loss from wet-form AMD. This is a novel technology that has the potential to improve visual health outcomes for AMD patients.  A prior clinical trial (the AREDS-2 HOME study) demonstrated that this technology can detect wet-form AMD earlier, and with less vision loss than standard care alone. However, that is exactly where that study ended as it reported no cost information nor follow-up. Since the end of this study, the device has been cleared by the FDA and approved for reimbursement by Medicare for certain higher risk patients, but no study has yet considered the long-term implications of adoption of this technology. In our analysis, we use a computer simulation model to essentially estimate what will come next, after patients realize earlier detection of wet-form AMD by utilizing home monitoring. Basically, we follow simulated patients from the time they begin monitoring for the rest of their lives, recording the likely impacts of home monitoring on patients’ long term outcomes including visual status, costs and quality of life. We find that home telemonitoring among the population indicated for reimbursement by Medicare would cost $35,663 per quality adjusted life year (QALY) gained.  Medicare would expect to incur $1,312 in net budgetary costs over 10 years for each patient who initiates monitoring.  However, Medicare patients may expect to achieve lifetime net savings when accounting for the chance of avoided vision loss and its associated costs later in life. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, JAMA, Telemedicine / 23.02.2017 Interview with: Eirini Karyotaki, MSc Department of Clinical Psychology and EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Amsterdam, the Netherlands What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Depression is broadly acknowledged as a major health issue associated with a great risk of mortality and morbidity. Nevertheless, help-seeking rates are low among individuals with depression. Some of the barriers that impede help seeking are the limited availability of trained clinicians, the fear of stigmatisation and the cost of treatment. Self-guided Internet based Cognitive behavioural therapy (iCBT) has the potential to overcome many of these treatment barriers. However, recent randomised controlled trials (RCTs) have produced mixed evidence regarding the effects of self-guided iCBT in treating adults with depressive symptoms. To gain more insight in the effectiveness of self-guided iCBT, an Individual Participant Data meta-analysis was performed. 3876 individual participant data across 13 RCTs were collected and analysed. (more…)
Annals Internal Medicine, Author Interviews, Pain Research, Telemedicine / 21.02.2017 Interview with: Rachel Nelligan, BPhysio Physiotherapist & Research Physiotherapist Department of Physiotherapy | Centre for Health, Exercise and Sports Medicine The University of Melbourne Victoria Australia What is the background for this study? Response: This novel study investigated the efficacy of an internet delivered model of service delivery that combined online education, Skype delivered exercise physiotherapy and an Internet-based interactive pain coping skills training program for people with persistent knee pain. Osteoarthritis, the leading cause of chronic knee pain and disability globally, has a significant individual, societal and economic burden. On an individual level knee osteoarthritis causes loss of function, reduced quality of life, and psychological distress. Clinical guidelines recommend adoption of a biopsychosocial approach to management which should include nondrug, nonsurgical treatments. Specifically exercise, education and psychological interventions (including pain coping skills training (PCST)) that foster self-management are recommended. Evidence identifies that many knee OA sufferers are not receiving adequate management due in part to challenges of accessing these effective treatments. There is an urgent need for new models of health service delivery to rectify this. Tele-rehabilitation is growing in acceptance as an effective, time efficient and convenient means for people to access effective health interventions. In knee OA internet delivered interventions specifically remotely delivered physiotherapy exercise using specialised tele-rehabilitation equipment and an Internet-based interactive PCST program (PainCOACH), designed to translate key therapeutic elements of clinician-delivered face-to-face PCST, have shown improved patient outcomes. Prior to this study the combination of these two internet-based treatments has not been investigated. (more…)
Author Interviews, Dermatology, Surgical Research, Telemedicine, UT Southwestern / 05.12.2016 Interview with: Rajiv Nijhawan MD Department of Dermatology The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Dallas What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: From a healthcare perspective, we are constantly working to improve access to patients, and telemedicine has proved to be an excellent platform for this goal especially in the field of dermatology. In regards to surgical dermatology, the role of telemedicine has been limited. The ubiquity of smartphones with photograph capability has provided an opportunity for patients to take self-acquired photographs (selfies) easily. Our experience has been that few patients who call with post-operative concerns have major issues (e.g. infection, bleeding, etc.) while the majority of concerns are minor in nature, and patients are often seeking reassurance. Our study shows that the majority of concerns can easily be triaged and managed through patient-directed photography without burdening the patient to take time off work for another appointment, find transportation/travel (many of our patients travel hours for their visits), wait to see the provider, etc. This option of triaging a post-operative concern essentially immediately through the use of patient-directed photographs provides the opportunity for immediate feedback on the patient’s concerns and likely reduces anxiety while making the process as patient-centered as possible. In addition, it allows the physician to be as efficient as possible by not having to overbook his/her schedule to accommodate these often non-urgent concerns. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Schizophrenia, Telemedicine / 26.08.2016 Interview with: Dror Ben Zeev, PhD Associate Professor of Psychiatry Director, mHealth for Mental Health Program Dartmouth College Hanover, NH What is the background for this study? Response: We deployed a mobile phone intervention called FOCUS as part of a larger multi-component effort called Improving Care Reducing Costs (ICRC). ICRC was the first technology-aided relapse prevention program of its kind for people with schizophrenia; a very exciting multi-state project funded by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) led by Dr. John Kane at the Zucker Hillside Hospital and a team of researchers from multiple institutions. Several other technological interventions were used in concert with mHealth, including a web intervention called Coping with Voices Developed by Dr. Jen Gottlieb and a Daily Support Website developed by Dr. Armando Rotondi. A truly multi-disciplinary effort designed to help prevent re-hospitalization in people with psychosis who were recently discharged from the hospital; this is a group that is at very high risk for relapse. (more…)
Author Interviews, Diabetes, PLoS, Primary Care, Telemedicine / 26.07.2016 Interview with: Brian McKinstry MD Professor of primary care e-health and General practitioner MacKenzie Medical Centre EdinburghBrian McKinstry MD Professor of primary care e-health and General practitioner MacKenzie Medical Centre Edinburgh What is the background for this study?  Response: The prevalence of diabetes is rising as the population ages and becomes more obese. Clinical services are increasingly stretched, so much so that it will be difficult for doctors and nurses to continue to look after patients using the same service delivery they have used in the past. Increasingly patients are being asked to self-manage long-term illnesses, but particularly with type 2 diabetes they find this stressful. One solution is to encourage self-management but with monitoring at a distance through telehealth. We performed a randomised controlled trial in family practices in four regions of the United Kingdom among 321 people with type 2 diabetes and glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) ( a measure of control over the previous three months) >58 mmol/mol. The supported telemonitoring intervention involved self-measurement and transmission to a secure website of twice weekly morning and evening glucose for review by family practice clinicians. The control group received usual care, with at least annual review and more frequent reviews for people with poor glycaemic or blood pressure control in the context of incentives in family practice based on a sliding scale of financial rewards for achieving glycaemic and blood pressure control targets. HbA1c assessed at nine months was the primary outcome. Intention-to-treat analyses were performed. (more…)
Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, Pediatrics, Telemedicine / 23.06.2016 Interview with: Mirna Becevic, PhD, MHA Assistant Research Professor University of Missouri - Department of Dermatology Missouri Telehealth Network What is the background for this study? Response: Psychiatry is, by far, the biggest utilizer of telemedicine services on the Missouri Telehealth Network (MTN). MTN supports an average of 4000 tele-psychiatry appointments every month, and 10% of those are provided by the University of Missouri Department of Psychiatry. Since we are all aware of the ever-increasing demand for child and adolescent psychiatry, but also the stigma that goes along with it, we wanted to examine more closely the actual usage of those services at the University of Missouri. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Menopause, Telemedicine / 19.05.2016 Interview with: Dr. Susan McCurry Principal Investigator Clinical psychologist and research professor School of Nursing University of Washington What is the background for this study? Dr. McCurry: Every woman goes through menopause.  Most women experience nighttime hot flashes/sweats and problems sleeping at some point during the menopause transition.  Poor sleep leads to daytime fatigue, negative mood, and reduced daytime productivity.  When sleep problems become chronic – as they often do – there are also a host of negative physical consequences including increased risk for weight gain, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.  Many women do not want to use sleeping medications or hormonal therapies to treat their sleep problems because of concerns about side effect risks.  For these reasons, having effective non-pharmacological options to offer them is important. (more…)
Author Interviews, Dermatology, JAMA, Telemedicine, UCSF / 16.05.2016 Interview with: Jack Resneck, Jr, MD Professor and Vice-Chair of Dermatology Core Faculty, Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies UCSF School of Medicine What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Resneck: Telemedicine, when done right, can improve access and offer convenience to patients.  We have seen proven high-quality care in telemedicine services where patients are using digital platforms to communicate with their existing doctors who know them, and where doctors are getting teleconsultations from other specialists about their patients.  But our study shows major quality problems with the rapidly growing corporate direct-to-consumer services where patients send consults via the web or phone apps to clinicians they don’t know. Most of these sites aren’t giving patients a choice of the clinician who will care for them or disclosing the credentials of those clinicians – patients should know whether their rash is being cared for by a board-certified dermatologist, a pain management specialist, or a nurse practitioner who usually works in an emergency department.  Some of these sites are even using doctors who aren’t licensed in the US.   We also found that these sites were regularly missing important diagnoses, and prescribing medications without discussing risks and side-effects, putting patients at risk.  We observed that if you upload photos of a highly contagious syphilis rash but state that you think you have psoriasis, most clinicians working for these direct-to-consumer sites will just agree with your self-diagnosis and prescribe psoriasis medications, leaving you with a contagious STD. Perhaps the biggest problem with many of these sites is the lack of coordinating care for patients – most of them didn’t offer to send records to a patient’s existing local doctors.  And when patients end up needing in-person care if their condition worsens, or they have a medication side-effect, those distant clinicians often don’t have local contacts, and are unable to facilitate needed appointments. (more…)
Author Interviews, Dermatology, JAMA, Technology, Telemedicine / 05.05.2016 Interview with: Lori Uscher-Pines, PhD RAND Corporation Arlington, Virginia What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Although many communities in the U.S. are underserved by dermatologists, access is particularly limited among Medicaid patients. Teledermatology may be one solution to improve access. Our goal with this study was to assess the effect of a novel teledermatology initiative on access to dermatologists among enrollees in a Medicaid Managed Care Plan in California’s Central Valley. Among all patients who visited a dermatologist after the introduction of teledermatology from 2012-2014 (n=8614), 49% received care via teledermatology. Among patients newly enrolled in Medicaid following Medicaid expansion in 2014, 76% of those who visited a dermatologist received care via teledermatology. Patients of primary care practices that engaged in teledermatology had a 64% increase in the fraction of patients visiting a dermatologist (vs. 21% in other practices) (p<.01). Compared with in-person dermatology, teledermatology served more patients under age 17, male patients, nonwhite patients, and patients without comorbid conditions. Conditions managed across settings varied; teledermatology physicians were more likely to care for viral skin lesions and acne whereas in-person dermatologists were more likely to care for psoriasis and skin neoplasms. (more…)
Author Interviews, Diabetes, JAMA, Ophthalmology, Telemedicine / 23.12.2015 Interview with: Christina Y. Weng, MD, MBA Assistant Professor-Vitreoretinal Diseases & Surgery Baylor College of Medicine-Cullen Eye Institute  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Weng: Telemedicine has been around for a long time, but only recently have technological advances solidified its utility as a reliable, effective, and cost-efficient method of healthcare provision.  The application of telemedicine in the field of ophthalmology has been propelled by the development of high-quality non-mydriatic cameras, HIPAA-compliant servers for the storage and transfer of patient data, and the growing demand for ophthalmological care despite the relatively stagnant supply of eye care specialists.  The global epidemic of diabetes mellitus has contributed significantly to this growing demand, as the majority of patients with diabetes will develop diabetic retinopathy in their lifetime. Today, there are over 29 million Americans with diabetes, and diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in working age adults in the United States.  The American Academy of Ophthalmology’s and American Diabetes Association’s formal screening guidelines recommend that all diabetic patients receive an annual dilated funduscopic examination.  Unfortunately, the compliance rate with this recommendation is quite dismal at an estimated 50-65%.  It is even lower amongst minority populations which comprise the demographic majority of those served by the Harris Health System in Harris County, Texas, the third most populous county in the United States. In 2013, the Harris Health System initiated a teleretinal screening program housed by eight of the district’s primary care clinics.  In this system, patients with diabetes are identified by their primary care provider (PCP) during their appointments, immediately directed to receive funduscopic photographs by trained on-site personnel operating non-mydriatic cameras, and provided a follow-up recommendation (e.g., referral for in-clinic examination versus repeat imaging in 1 year) depending on the interpretation of their images.  The images included in our study were interpreted via two different ways—once by the IRISTM (Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems) proprietary auto-reader and then again by a trained ophthalmic specialist from the IRISTM reading center.  The primary aim of this study was to evaluate the utility of the auto-reader by comparing its results to those of the reading center. Data for 15,015 screened diabetic patients (30,030 eyes) were included.  The sensitivity of the auto-reader in detecting severe non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy or worse, deemed sight threatening diabetic eye disease (STDED), compared to the reading center interpretation of the same images was 66.4% (95% confidence interval [CI] 62.8% - 69.9%) with a false negative rate of 2%.  In a population where 15.8% of diabetics have STDED, the negative predictive value of the auto-reader was 97.8% (CI 96.8% - 98.6%). (more…)
Author Interviews, Dermatology, Telemedicine / 09.12.2015 Interview with: Mirna Becevic, PhD, MHA Assistant Research Professor of Telemedicine University of Missouri - Department of Dermatology Missouri Telehealth Network  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Becevic: The Missouri Telehealth Network (MTN) at the University of Missouri has been providing outpatient clinical services to rural Missourians since 1995.  Over 29 specialties and subspecialties have been utilized to assist patients in 69 counties. We have learned a lot along the way, what works well and what does not, in terms of telehealth protocols, trainings, best practices, etc. The MTN holds bi-annual two day training conference for new sites to share these experiences and provide hands-on training in telemedicine.  Our main goal with this study was to reach all telehealth users on the Missouri Telehealth Network (patients, providers, and telehealth coordinators-patient presenters) and learn about their perceptions of and opinions regarding this form of health care delivery.  We also wanted to evaluate the overall accessibility and discernment of the MTN by telehealth coordinators, since we felt that they might need to have continuous support in order to successfully manage their telehealth programs. Our main findings indicated that all three surveyed groups had high satisfaction with telemedicine.  Patients were confident in their doctors’ medical skills, and lack of physical contact was not viewed as a barrier. Telehealth providers thought telehealth was an effective tool for providing care at a distance, but indicated that they did not prefer telehealth over in-person visits. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cleveland Clinic, Emergency Care, JAMA, Stroke, Telemedicine / 08.12.2015 Interview with: Ken Uchino, MD FAHA FANA Director, Vascular Neurology Fellowship Research Director, Cerebrovascular Center, Cleveland Clinic Associate Professor of Medicine (Neurology) Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of CWRU Cleveland, OH 44195 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Uchino: Treatment for acute ischemic stroke is time dependent. Multiple studies have reported strategies to improve time to treatment after arrival in the hospital. Mimicking pre-hospital thrombolysis of acute myocardial infarction pioneered 30 years ago, two groups in Germany have implemented pre-hospital ischemic stroke thrombolysis using mobile stroke unit (“stroke ambulance”) that includes CT scan and laboratory capabilities. These units have been demonstrated to provide stroke treatment earlier than bringing patients to the emergency departments. Our report extends the concept mobile stroke unit further by using telemedicine for remote physician presence. The other mobile stroke units were designed to have at least one physician on board. This allows potential multiple or geographically distant units to be supported by stroke specialists. The study demonstrates that after patient arrival in the ambulance, the time to evaluation (CT scanning and blood testing) and to thrombolytic treatment is as quick or better as patient arrival in emergency department door. We are reporting the overall time efficiency after emergency medical service notification (911 call) in a separate paper. (more…)
Author Interviews, Geriatrics, Telemedicine, University of Michigan / 03.09.2015

Dr. Rashid Bashshur PhD Director of Telemedicine University of Michigan Health System Emeritus Professor of Health Management and Policy University of Michigan, School of Public Interview with: Dr. Rashid Bashshur PhD Director of Telemedicine University of Michigan Health System Emeritus Professor of Health Management and Policy University of Michigan, School of Public Health  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Bashshur: The impetus for this research derives from the confluence of several factors, including the increasing incidence and prevalence of chronic diseases, their associated morbidity and  mortality and their high cost. The search for solutions has taken center stage in health policy.  Patients must be engaged in  in managing their health and health care, and they must assume greater responsibility for adopting and maintaining a healthy life style to reduce their dependence on the health system and to help themselves in maintaining an optimal level of health.  The  telemedicine intervention promises to  address all these issues and concerns, while also providing ongoing monitoring and guidance for patients who suffer from serious chronic illness. The preponderance of the evidence from robust scientific studies points to the beneficial effects of the telemedicine intervention (through telemonitoring and patient engagement) in terms of reduction in use of service (including hospital admissions/readmissions, length of hospital stay, and emergency department visits) as well as improved health outcomes.  The single exception was reported in a study among frail  elderly patients with co-morbidities who did not benefit from the telemedicine intervention. There is an ever-growing and complex body of empirical evidence that attests to the potential of telemedicine for addressing the triad problems of limited access to care, uneven distribution of quality across communities, and cost inflation.  Research demonstrates the effectiveness of the telemedicine intervention in addressing all three problems, especially when patients are engaged in managing their personal health and healthcare.  The enabling technology can be used to promote healthy life styles, informed decision making, and prudent use of health resources. Unintended consequences of delaying mortality for older adults may also increase the use of resources, especially in the long run, and society must decide on the ultimate values it chooses to promote. (more…)
Author Interviews, Kidney Disease, Telemedicine / 18.06.2015 Interview with: Judy K. Tan, MD Department of Nephrology Mount Sinai Hospital New York, New York MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Tan: Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a common life-threatening medical condition, affecting approximately 26 million adults in the U.S. In Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 3, veterans with CKD who reside in the Hudson Valley Veterans Affair Medical Center (VAMC) catchment area travel to the James J. Peters VAMC, a tertiary care facility in the Bronx for their nephrology care. However, because of several barriers such as (1) distance between the two facilities (approximately 60 miles) and (2) patient complexity (medical and psychiatric illnesses), patients referred to the James J. Peters VAMC renal clinic from Hudson Valley VAMC often cancel or “no show”. This poor compliance increases the long-term risk of rapid progression of CKD and the development of complications associated with it.  To address this issue, the division of nephrology at the James J. Peters VAMC, in line with the veterans affairs’ focus on “patient-centered care,” developed a collaborative out-patient telenephrology service as a means to deliver care. The out-patient telenephrology service employs specialized global medical video conferencing equipment with customized medical instruments (ie stethoscopes) and Computerized Patient Record System (CPRS) accessibility to direct real-time evaluation and management of our veterans with CKD while they stay in their local VAMC. As demonstrated by Rohatgi et al, this intervention significantly increased the compliance rate of patients and reduced the travel time, miles, and cost of patients utilizing the telenephrology service.1 The hypothesis of our study is that patients with CKD remotely managed through our telenephrology service would exhibit comparable clinical outcomes and visit compliance as conventional in-person renal care. Our provisional analysis of the subjects followed in the telenephrology service showed 117 unique patients were evaluated between 2011-2014. The mean age was 71±11years old with 98.3% males. 70% of the patients were white and 26.5% African American. The predominant etiology of chronic kidney disease was diabetic nephropathy (31.6%) followed by hypertensive nephrosclerosis (26.5%). In the 87 patients who had 1-year follow up data, estimated glomerular filtration (eGFR) was well preserved over the year (33 mL/min vs. 32 mL/min; p=0.04). Systolic blood pressure (BP) was reduced from 138±20 to 133±16 mm Hg (p=0.03), but no difference was observed in diastolic BP. Urine protein-creatinine ratio fell from 0.58 to 0.25 (p=0.07). 94% of patients had parathyroid levels checked and 70.9% were on ACE inhibitors during the first year of follow up. (more…)
Author Interviews, Diabetes, Ophthalmology, Telemedicine / 08.01.2015 Interview with: Shi Lili Department of Medical informatics and Nantong University Library Nantong University, Nantong, China Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is the most frequently occurring complication of diabetes and one of the major causes of acquired blindness in the working-age population around the world. DR can be detected using various methods. Telemedicine based on digital photographs of the fundus is being used with increasing frequency to detect DR, and especially for Diabetic retinopathy screening. The purpose of our study was to assess the diagnostic accuracy of telemedicine in the full range of DR and DME severity compared with the current gold standard. We found that the diagnostic accuracy of telemedicine using digital imaging in DR was overall high. It can be used widely for Diabetic retinopathy screening. (more…)
Author Interviews, Telemedicine, University of Michigan / 15.09.2014

Rashid Bashshur, PhD Senior Advisor for eHealth Professor Emeritus, Department of Health Management and Policy Executive Director, UMHS eHealth Center University of Michigan Health Interview with:  Rashid Bashshur, PhD Senior Advisor for eHealth Professor Emeritus, Department of Health Management and Policy Executive Director, UMHS eHealth Center University of Michigan Health System Medical Research: What are the Main findings of the study? Dr. Bashshur: The main findings can be summarized as follows:
  •  The prevalence of chronic disease is increasing due to the changing demographic composition of the population and unhealthy life styles. Chronic diseases are expensive, accounting for about 70% of health care expenditures;  but  they are amenable to telemedicine interventions.  These interventions consist of ongoing monitoring of patients living in their own home environments, engaging them in managing their health,  providing them with educational materials and the necessary tools to manage their life style mostly by avoiding risky behaviors and adopting healthy ones.
  • Telemedicine interventions consist of various configurations of technology (telephone, video, wired or wireless, automated or manual) , human resources (physicians, nurses, combinations, and patient populations at various levels risk levels or severity of illness, The interventions investigated to date also vary in terms of study design, duration of application (during the study period), and frequency of administration of the intervention.  Hence, the findings must be viewed from the perspective of the specific methodological attributes  of the studies that were performed.
  • Using only robust studies from 2000 to the near present, and limited to congestive heart failure, stroke and COPD.  With notable exceptions,  overall there is substantial and fairly consistent evidence of:
  • A decrease in use of service, including hospitalization, rehospitalization, and emergency depart visits as a result of the telemedicine intervention.
  • Improved health outcomes.
  • Improved event timing for stroke patients.
  • Reduced exacerbations of symptoms for COPD patients
  • Some interesting  trends  to be considered:
  • Frail and elderly patients, those with co-morbid conditions, and those in advanced stages of illness are not likely to benefit from telemedicine interventions, as compared to their counterparts.
  • Visual information as in videoconferencing proved superior to telephone only connection for the diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients.
  • There could be a tradeoff between extra nursing time versus reduced physician time in some settings, but the net effect is cost savings.
  • There seems to be a paradoxical telemedicine effect in terms of increasing longevity but no reduction in hospitalization, reported in few studies.
Author Interviews, JAMA, Ophthalmology, Telemedicine / 11.09.2014

Mary G. Lynch, MD Professor of Ophthalmology Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center Decatur, Georgia. Department of Ophthalmology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Interview with: Mary G. Lynch, MD Professor of Ophthalmology Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center Decatur, Georgia. Department of Ophthalmology, Emory University School of Medicine,  Atlanta, Georgia Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study? Dr. Lynch:
  • Since 2006, the VA has been systematically using teleretinal screening of patients with diabetes to screen for retinopathy in the Primary Care Clinics. Under this program, 90% of veterans with diabetes are evaluated on a regular basis. A number of patients who are screened have findings that warrant a face-to-face ophthalmic exam. No information exists on the effect of such a program on medical center resources.
  • 1,935 patients  underwent teleretinal screening through the Atlanta VA over a 6 month period.  We reviewed the charts of the 465 (24%) of the patients who were referred for a face to face exam in the Eye Clinic.
  • Data was collected for these patients to determine the reasons for referral, the accuracy of the teleretinal interpretation, the resources needed in the Eye Clinic of the Medical Center to evaluate and care for the referred patients over a two year period and possible barriers to patient care.
  • Of the 465 patients referred for an exam, 260 (55.9%) actually came in for an exam. Community notes were available for an additional 66 patients. Information was available for 326 (70.1%) of the referred patients.
  • The most common referring diagnoses were nonmacular diabetic retinopathy (43.2% of referrals), nerve related issues (30.8%), lens or media opacity (19.1%), age-related macular degeneration (12.9%) and diabetic macular edema (5.6%).
  • 16.9% of the referred patients had 2 or more concurrent problems that put them at high risk for visual loss.
  • The percentage agreement between teleretinal screening and the ophthalmic exam was high: 90.4%. Overall sensitivity was 73.6%. The detection of diabetic macular edema had the lowest sensitivity.
  • A visually significant condition was detected for the first time through teleretinal screening for 142 of the patients examined (43.6%).
  • The resource burden to care for referred patients was substantial.
  • 36% of patients required 3 or more visits over the ensuing 2 year period.
  • The treatment of diabetic macular edema had the highest resource use involving on average 5 clinic visits, 6 diagnostic procedures and 2 surgical procedures
  • The most common non-refractive diagnostic procedures were visual fields and optical coherence tomography.
  • The average cost to care for the referred patients (in Medicare dollars) in work RVUs alone was approximately $1,000 per patient. The cost to care for a patient with diabetic macular edema was $2673.36.