New UPMC firm uses tech, teleconsults to aid nursing home staff

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has launched a new telemedicine company to aid long-term care staff who are caring for nursing home patients.

Steven Handler, MD, a geriatrician specialist, pushed to form the new venture after seeing too many patients being transferred back to hospital emergency departments because nursing home staff could not get appropriate advice quickly.

“Transfers to the emergency room, which frequently result in admission to the hospital, are highly disruptive to older adults and sometimes harmful to their health,” he says. “What’s more, these avoidable hospitalizations are costing Medicare, private insurers and taxpayers billions of dollars every year.”

The new company, Curavi Health, is being rolled out after three years of developing and testing equipment and training. Handler now serves as Curavi’s chief medical and innovation officer. The telemedicine equipment is designed to support workflows in nursing homes and enable nursing facilities across the nation to request after-hours telemedicine consultations with UPMC geriatric specialists.

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In coming months, the new company also will support teleconsultations covering dermatology, psychiatry and cardiology, which could further reduce the burden elderly patients face when they have to travel long distances for specialty consultations. “The average nursing home will pay for this service with the reduction of just one potentially avoidable hospitalization a month,” said Nicholas J. Kuhn, president of Curavi Health.

Grant funds from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services helped fund development of the service, and the testing period involved training more than 1,000 clinicians and professionals, as well as conducting some 212 real-time video consults.

Curavi also will enable nursing homes to use their own clinicians for telemedicine consults, which will enable the company to expand nationwide without meeting the requirement of licensing clinicians across state lines.

Equipment on the telemedicine cart designed by Curavi includes a pan/tilt/zoom camera, Bluetooth stethoscope, digital otoscope, document scanner and 12-lead EKG system.

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