Teletrauma technology is creating a more efficient way of providing care.
By Laurie Yarnell
n early 2018, a woman suffered a traumatic blow to the head that caused bleeding in her brain. She was taken by ambulance to the Emergency Department at HealthAlliance Hospital: Broadway Campus in Kingston, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth).
There, an acute-care clinician digitally connected via a new teletrauma program with the trauma team at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, the flagship of WMCHealth and the region’s only Level I trauma center, nearly 90 miles away.
The new, cutting-edge technology allowed Valhalla physicians to see the patient via live video, ask questions, and review her CT scan and X-rays remotely. The two teams worked together to determine the patient’s course of treatment. The patient was transferred to Valhalla and made a strong recovery.
About the same time, a male patient with multiple bone fractures was brought to the same Kingston Emergency Department after a motor-vehicle accident. Again, a HealthAlliance Hospital acute-care clinician connected via teletrauma technology with Westchester Medical Center’s trauma physicians, who examined the patient and reviewed his medical exams via the digital connection. They determined that HealthAlliance’s resources and expertise were well-suited to treat the patient and that his condition did not require a transfer to Westchester Medical Center. Before teletrauma services were introduced, the patient would have been transferred to the Level I trauma facility, farther from his home, in an abundance of caution.
As these examples show, WMCHealth’s teletrauma program — which connects HealthAlliance Hospital: Broadway Campus in Kingston and Margaretville Hospital in Margaretville with Level I trauma centers Westchester Medical Center and Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Valhalla — has brought the higher-level care that traumatic injuries require to communities where access to it may otherwise be limited.
Teletrauma services also are available at Level II trauma center MidHudson Regional Hospital in Poughkeepsie, also a member of WMCHealth.
During teletrauma care, an acute-care clinician in the Kingston or Margaretville hospitals can initiate live video with the Valhalla team, enabling a specialist to examine the patient, discuss immediate therapies and review medical testing and imaging. The remote trauma team then advises on the severity of the patient’s condition and determines with the local hospital’s team whether the patient can be best treated in place or transferred.
“The Level I trauma team serves as a complement to, and not a replacement for, the care provided by the local hospital,” says Paul Llobet, MD, Chief Medical Officer at HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley. “While we are fully staffed in our Emergency Department, some patients require a higher level of trauma care.”
Each hospital has one stationary video monitor and one station that can be moved on a rolling cart so that multiple trauma cases can be treated simultaneously. The video provided by built-in cameras with zoom capabilities is “crystal clear,” Dr. Llobet says. “The remote trauma team can even see the patient’s pupils dilate as I shine the penlight in their eyes,” he adds. “The team can see into the back of the throat and even read a prescription bottle. In the Hudson Valley, this is really innovative. It’s being on the cutting-edge, to provide the best care in this community, with teletrauma enhancing the level of service.”
Teletrauma is particularly valuable in care required after motor-vehicle crashes, falls, skiing and hiking accidents and gunshot wounds.
“Level I trauma programs have to have every specialty available,” Dr. Llobet says. “In more rural community areas, where it is unfeasible to have them all on hand, you can still be seen by those highly trained specialists in your local Emergency Department.”
Dr. Llobet adds that teletrauma is particularly beneficial during life-threatening situations in which a patient is too unstable to move. Teletrauma’s long-distance services enable the patient to remain near family and friends for treatment. The program also improves efficiency and continuity of care for patients who are transferred.
Teletrauma is just one of WMCHealth’s comprehensive telemedicine offerings, which include eICU, eCardiology, eStroke, eDermatology and STAT mobile ICU in network ambulances.
“WMCHealth’s state-of-the-art telemedicine program is committed to making advanced healthcare accessible in and around the Hudson Valley and improving outcomes for our patients,” said Corey Scurlock, MD, MBA, Medical Director of WMCHealth’s eHealth program. “Teletrauma brings the specialist to the patient in a matter of minutes when every second counts. Our goal is to give patients the right care, at the right place, at the right time.”