SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has awarded Upstate Medical University $2 million to help upgrade and support its telehealth infrastructure.
Upstate will use the funding to target video consults and remote patient monitoring as part of its electronic medical-record (EMR) system.
The medical school and health-care provider will deploy the upgraded telehealth platform across the institution connecting dozens of Upstate clinics and physical sites.
“The pandemic has shown us firsthand the necessity of a sound telehealth program that features electronic access to medical records, test results and real-time patient appointments through a video option,” Dr. Mantosh Dewan, president of Upstate Medical University, said. “This funding allows us to move our institution forward by leaps and bounds as we break down barriers to care and move to our goal as a smart hospital.”
Upstate estimates that 97,500 patients in Central New York could be supported by this upgraded telehealth infrastructure with about 250 earmarked to receive broadband access through the project, “who may not otherwise have this access,” Upstate said.
“The benefit of increasing our telehealth abilities will be seen dramatically by our patients,” Dr. Robert Corona, CEO of Upstate University Hospital, said. “The ability to access medical care from home in a more upgraded approach is important for individuals with chronic conditions and other diseases that may limit one’s ability to travel, but still needs a viable, timely connection with a medical provider.”
Corona said this telehealth connection would be especially helpful for transplant patients who benefit from reduced exposures to infectious diseases, refugees requiring interpretative services, diabetes patients who benefit from ongoing monitoring, behavioral-health patients challenged with attending in-person visits, and rural populations unable to access specialized care without traveling many miles.
In addition, the Epic integration will ease communication with patients admitted to the hospital, by enabling virtual visits and remote monitoring.
The pandemic pushed Upstate Medical University to expand and increase its telehealth program, it said. Nearly 70 percent of clinics offered telemedicine services. At its busiest, Upstate averaged about 6,000 telehealth visits a week.
Upstate Medical used an earlier FCC grant to install and deploy iPads in COVID-19 patient rooms where access was limited during the height of the pandemic. The iPads helped facilitate virtual visits with patients from medical professionals and family members. Without entering patient rooms often, the hospital was able to conserve its use of personal protective equipment and still connect with patients, Upstate said.