Friendly Village invests in telemedicine
BY EILEEN PERSIKE
A long-term skilled nursing and short-term rehabilitation facility in Rhinelander is taking a step into what may be the future of medicine. Eden Senior Care, the two-year-old company that owns Friendly Village, is in the process of rolling out a cardiac telemedicine program. Dovie Mauer, the company’s regional director of operations, said telemedicine is a good idea for many reasons.
“In skilled nursing facilities there are a lot of cardiac-related issues that residents may have and there’s a range of them,” said Mauer. “Treating those conditions correctly and timely really creates the best outcomes for the residents. It also helps so they don’t have to be run out into the cold to the hospital each time some type of change in condition happens.”
Eden has contracted with Telemedico Physicans, a company that utilizes technology to provide care for cardiac patients in skilled nursing facilities. The program works like an enhanced Skype connection, with real-time, face-to-face communication between a doctor in one location, and the patient and nurse in another. Tools, such as a stethoscope are used by the nurse, and seen and heard by the doctor. Yaakov Garfinkel, Telemedico’s chief operating officer and co-founder, said the entire process is secure.
“The most important thing is that it’s HIPAA compliant,” Garfinkel said. “That green lockbox on the screen means that nothing is recording. The entire time the connection is streaming, it’s encrypted. Before we connect to the doctor, there is a meeting I.D. that’s constantly changing.”
Up to 100 people can participate in each streaming session, which means family members far away can be involved in their loved one’s care plan. That, nursing director Bonnie Anderson said, is going to be a big deal.
“We’ve got a lot of families that aren’t local, so if they are able to do this with an app on their phones remotely, then they can be a participant in that plan of care,” Anderson said. “I think that’s an excellent addition to the care that we can provide.”
Physician Joel Okner, an invasive cardiologist and co-founder of Telemedico, said his role is that of a consultant.
“We see ourselves as only an extension of the local providers,” Okner explained. “If we see a patient, it’s because they allowed us to see their patient and work with them. We are a set of hands and eyes and ears here to get them information. So, hopefully once we get integrated, if there is an emergency they call us and we’ll figure out what’s going on, then we’ll contact the provider and ask, ‘what would you like us to do next?’”
Okner said patients are getting older and becoming more complicated, necessitating a new way to look at medicine. Thirty years ago, “old” heart bypass patients were age 65; now, he said, old patients are in their 80s and 90s.
“The 65-year-old patient is going home (after surgery),” Okner continued. “If you operate on an 85-year old patient (with additional medical concerns), they’re not going to go home. They need a place to go and we need a place where we can care for them.
“I think one of the most important things we provide to this facility is the education piece because these places are becoming medical-surgical units and they need more resources.”
Mauer said the focus now is to roll out cardiac care successfully, and when everyone is comfortable with it, then other specialties will be added.
“As this grows, then our providers will help us, too, let us know which specialties they would like to see us focus on second and third,” said Friendly Village Administrator Pat Richardson. “Personally, wound care would be a great one to add once we get this program off the ground.”
“What I think is the greatest thing is taking the step to make this the center of excellence in this whole quarter of Wisconsin,” said Okner. “There really is no destination for these patients to go; they have to be sent to us. So, why not keep them closer to their homes, which is the greatest thing, and provide an incredible level of care here.”