Local Medical Center Gains An Edge With Hi-Tech eHealth Program

The Westchester Medical Center Health Network unveils state-of-the-art telehealth operations center to improve patient oversight.

Offering quality care to a growing list of patients is a mounting concern for many of the county’s health providers. Hoping to get a leg up on meeting the needs of patients, The Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth) has unveiled its eHealth program, the heart of which is a cutting-edge operations center designed to monitor patients around the clock.

The 5,500-square-foot eHealth Center is part of an initial $7 million investment in resources, infrastructure, staff, and technology as part of the new program. The center features 20 multimedia stations equipped with advanced telehealth patient monitoring technologies and software, as well as an around-the-clock staff of nurses, physicians, and other healthcare professionals who serve remotely, as a “second set of eyes,” according to Kathy Longo, senior director of nursing for ICU, to supplement the bedside care by medical personnel.

“The US is getting older and older, and when you start to age you begin to use ICU resources at about three times the rate of someone under the age of 65,” says medical director of the eHealth Center, Corey Scurlock. “By the time you are 85, it is about seven times the rate. So, we have to ask how to get a limited number of ICU specialists to serve a greater number of patients, and one way to solve this problem is through this kind of technology.”

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And the technology is certainly quite advanced. From the center, the medical staff currently monitors vital signs, X-rays, meds, and blood-test results of patients in about 87 initial ICU beds on WMCHealth’s Valhalla campus, with plans to eventually monitor patients at the MidHudson Regional Hospital as well. Two-way video cameras help the eHealth team communicate with patients, doctors, and other bedside staff.  “Each nurse is able to view anywhere from 30 to 35 patients’ information over time, and they look for trends in things like blood pressure and heart rate,” says Longo.

Watching nurse Shantelle Fleury, R.N. demonstrate the new WMCHealth eHealth system are, from left, WMCHealth President and CEO Michael Israel, New York State Senator Terrence Murphy and Westchester County Legislator Ken Jenkins.

Telehealth systems are currently a major trend in healthcare. “All forms of telemedicine are currently growth fields,” says Scurlock. “It is key to be investing in extra layers of patient safety.” And while similar technology has already been proven to be effective in more than 400 hospitals and dozens of health systems, according to Scurlock,  “this is the first telehealth system in the Hudson Valley for Hudson Valley patients.”

One reason for the technology’s rapid adoption may be its effectiveness. A study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed a 20 percent reduction in mortality and a 26 percent reduction in duration of hospital stay for ICU patients under similar monitoring systems.

This reduction in the duration of a patient’s stay also improves a provider’s bottom line. “About 30 percent of a typical hospital’s total coast is spent in the ICU,” notes Scurlock. “So, when you reduce complications and pick up on issues more quickly, you end up reducing costs.” Beyond its monetary benefits, the system provides an increased level of trust for all of those associated with the ICU. As Longo remarks, “families can rest easy knowing that there is a second set of eyes helping to watch over their loved one.”

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