SAGE’s Telemedicine Embraces OnPage’s Critical Alerting

SAGE's Telemedicine

OnPage brings Secure Critical Messaging to Telemedicine

SAGE Neurohospitalist Group began in 2012 when two neurologist recognized that there was a growing shortage of neurologists. This shortage was most acute in small towns and underserved communities. So, in a call back to the aphorism of “if the mountain won’t come to Mohammed …”,the SAGE’s founders brought in telemedicine to deliver neurology services to small and underserved hospitals.

The need for neurology services has never been greater as the incidence of brain disorders linked to aging, such as stroke and neurodegenerative disorders, soars. Today’s shortfall of 11% will jump to 19% by 2025, and will have a profound impact as more patients enter the healthcare system. Today, 1 in 6 Americans are affected by neurological disease. Telemedicine has the unique ability to serve the gap between need and availability.

Time is of great importance when providing teleneurology to those in need. In neurology, time is brain. Every second lost due to delay could impact brain health. By using OnPage, SAGE was able to bring immediate secure messaging to the clinics in its network.

What is telemedicine

According to Dr. John Hamalaka, CIO at Harvard Medical School, telemedicine can take many forms. It can be a video teleconferencing between clinicians, a consult between patient and clinician, or a group of physicians consulting with another group of physicians. It can be a video teleconferencing between clinicians, a consult between patient and clinician, or a group of physicians consulting with another group of physicians. It can also be secure texting to coordinate patient care. Telemedicine can be all these things. What is defined though is the explosive growth of telemedicine. Dr. Hamalaka expects that 2017 will see an “exponential growth” in telemedicine as healthcare tries on new models for keeping people healthy.

One field of medicine that is effected by the growth of telemedicine is neurology. At present, there is a shortage of trained neurologists, particularly in rural and underserved communities throughout the U.S. In part, this is because of the shortage of doctors training in this field. Coupled with this reality is the aging population which tends to have a greater need for neurological services. Teleneurology is the solution for many rural and underserved communities to remedy their lack of neurologists on staff.

SAGE has been ahead of the exponential growth curve. By introducing telemedicine to these underserved communities, doctors can quickly determine a diagnosis and see if it makes sense to transfer a patient to a major hospital for cases such as stroke or epilepsy.   Left untreated, patients would have a terrible prognosis and most likely experience a pretty high mortality rate. But treated within a reasonable timeframe through telemedicine, patients can be diagnosed and transferred to a major hospital if necessary.

How OnPage helps SAGE

One of the obstacles SAGE faced was the provision of a fool-proof method with which to route alerts to physicians when one of the hospitals in its network had an immediate need for its teleneurology services. SAGE neurologists needed to find a tool that allowed the clinics in their program to contact a neurologist immediately. OnPage filled that need.

Stroke is the most frequent condition which SAGE physicians handle. When a patient does present with stroke, it is critical to get in touch with a neurologist as quickly as possible. If a clinic in the SAGE network receives a patient requiring immediate attention from a neurologist, the clinic calls up the SAGE OnPage account.

Steps for a neurologist receiving an OnPage alert

  1. SAGE’s neurologist are entered into an on-call schedule. There are typically 3 physicians in a schedule
  2. Clinic in the SAGE network calls SAGE’s OnPage account. The clinic’s phone number is sent in the OnPage message to the SAGE neurologist.
  3. If the first neurologist in the on-call schedule is unavailable as he/she is consulting with another clinic, the call escalates to the next doctor on call
  4. The doctor receives the clinic’s phone number and calls back to consult. Further introduction of video conferencing is introduced as needed.
  5. From the time a neurologist is contacted until he/she calls back the hospital, no more than 5 minutes will have elapsed.

The clinic is assured of receiving a response from an on-call physician within 5 minutes. When the doctor gets in touch with the facility and the patient, the doctor will then examine the patient and consult with on-site physicians.

The future of telemedicine

At the upcoming HIMSS2017 Conference, telemedicine is one of the major themes. Many of the social media ambassadors (SMAs) such as Tamara StClaire and Lygeia Ricciardi are discussing telemedicine and its future as key aspects of the future of effective healthcare. Telemedicine’s importance is highlighted by its ability to create virtual visits for patients and thus improve outcomes by increased ease of access to healthcare.

Online journal Health IT News makes it clear that telemed has the capability to impact healthcare for millions of people, especially those in more remote communities and regions. Some of the hesitation of working with telemedicine can be attributed to social factors. Mainly, people aren’t used to receiving care via conference hook-up. However, as people get more comfortable with the technology on both the provider side and the patient side of the transaction, the practice will grow.

Telemedicine, SAGE and OnPage

In the future, telemedicine will increasingly become a feature of our standard healthcare. OnPage has shown the usefulness of its smartphone pager app in enabling SAGE’s provision of telemedicine for rural and underserved communities. We see secure messaging and critical alerting tools increasingly becoming part of the telemedicine package.

SAGE’s effective and powerful service model demonstrates how healthcare can work around its inherent shortages to provide neurology services in an immediate and secure fashion. OnPage is proud to be instrumental in SAGE’s success.

Read our full SAGE case study.