More doctors, patients turning to telemedicine for emergency care

July 28, 2017

It’s becoming more common for patients to meet their doctor through a computer screen instead of in person.

Now, that’s a growing trend even in emergency care where time is of the essence. The change to telemedicine is helping more patients stay closer to home.

For many of First Health neurologist Dr. Melanie Blacker’s patient visits, she never has to leave the room.

From FirstHealth’s flagship hospital in Pinehurst, Blacker has a view from the foot of 83-year-old Barbara Billingsley’s bed at Moore Regional Hospital-Richmond. But Billingsley and Blacker aren’t isolated: Tele-neurology connects specialists to the system’s hospitals in Troy, Rockingham, Hamlet and Raeford.

Billingsley was admitted after seizures related to a previous stroke.

Through screens, Blacker works with a trained nurse to perform physical exams and tests. She can zoom in to get a better look at the patient’s eye movements and hear their answers to standard stroke tests.

Blacker said patients are accepting the robot in the room.

“I think with our technology focused culture, patients are getting used to communicating with others via screens,” Blacker said.

In case of a stroke, Blacker can remotely connect with emergency physicians to evaluate a patient for a clot-busting drug.

“We’re able to administer that clot-busting medication at that site, and then transfer the patient to higher level of care,” Blacker said.

A shorter hospital trip saves time, which, with stroke patients, can improve recovery or even save a life.

FirstHealth physicians may also respond to emergency department patient consultations while they are at home late at night. Through the use of a special mobile app on their smart phone, doctors can speak to other physicians or patients through the robot-transported monitor.