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Stony Brook Medicine Awarded $1M to Address COVID Healthcare Disparities

Telemedicine

Stony Brook Medicine will soon be able to provide further telehealth options for its patients after being awarded $966,026 by the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program, the largest FCC funding of any hospital system on Long Island through the program. The federal grant will help provide tablets, smartphones, a telehealth platform subscription and remote monitoring equipment to those in the community who need access to telehealth due to the ongoing pandemic.

“The FCC has allowed for Stony Brook to connect patients and their providers at a crucial moment in the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kimberly Noel, MD, MPH, telehealth director and deputy chief medical information officer for Stony Brook Medicine. “Our dedicated teams have worked tirelessly to advance telehealth services by providing better technologies, ensuring enhanced access and addressing health disparities. Telehealth is a powerful tool in democratizing care and Stony Brook Medicine has led the way in ensuring our patients are getting the best care possible, including remote virtual care.”

Dr. Kimberly Noel
Dr. Kimberly Noel

Several departments within Stony Brook University Hospital, notably Inpatient/Outpatient Care Management, Internal Medicine, Family Population Preventive Medicine and Psychiatry will use the funds to address health disparities by increasing access to telehealth technology. This includes remote patient monitoring equipment for high-risk patients and persons with disabilities. Stony Brook Medicine intends to use telehealth technology for its Heart Failure Program, which launched on November 9. Patients will be able to have daily evaluations of heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation and weight.

    • Digital Stethoscopes (Eko Stethoscopes)

      • Remote evaluation of heart-lung sounds when a patient is hospitalized at Stony Brook University Hospital. Using this technology limits the number of times physicians need to enter a room and helps preserve Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for hospital staff.

      • Home health agency nurses recording the heart and lung sounds of patients at home, then transmitting the data to physicians doing telehealth visits. This allows for a more comprehensive virtual exam.

      • Recording heart-lung sounds evaluation for teaching medical students and trainees.

    • iPads and Smartphones

      • The integration of these devices in the rooms saves nurses and other staff from having to go in the room multiple times, while preserving PPE. It also allows enhanced virtual care to patients in need while providing safe and effective hospital triage.

“The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need and opportunities for improvement for telehealth,” says Hal Skopicki, MD, PhD, co-director of the Stony Brook University Heart Institute and director of the Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathy Program at Stony Brook University Hospital. “Stony Brook Medicine’s interactive remote monitoring programs adds to our ability to create an interaction between a patient’s clinical data and the doctor’s clinical judgment that includes the patient in the decision-making process. Our aim is to provide the same excellent outcomes when a patient is discharged from the hospital as we have been able to attain while they are in the hospital.”

Pioneering quadriplegic Brooke Ellison, PhD, MPP, an associate professor and researcher at Stony Brook University, was instrumental in the critical beta testing phase of telehealth technology. Throughout 2020, Ellison has dealt with considerable healthcare needs following an encounter with sepsis in January, another battle with sepsis in August, and a complex surgery in September.

“Through the remote patient monitoring system put into place at Stony Brook University Hospital, it has been possible to monitor my health and remain in close contact with my physicians throughout the pandemic,” says Ellison. “This has been critical and invaluable. At a time like this, when the acute care setting might not always be the safest place for vulnerable populations, a remote monitoring system can save lives. When your life is contingent on communicating with healthcare providers, this system has allowed me to remain in contact without putting my health at additional risk.”

The COVID-19 Telehealth Program provides $200 million in funding, appropriated by Congress as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to help health care providers provide connected care services to patients at their homes or mobile locations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The program provides immediate support to eligible health care providers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by fully funding their telecommunications services, information services, and devices necessary to provide critical connected care services.

For more on the telehealth practices in place at Stony Brook, visit stonybrooktelehealth.com.

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