'Telly' rig to treat patients in Kanes

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Residents at the Kane Regional Centers will soon have a new friend in the doctor's office: "Telly," a telepresence camera rig that can connect to a distant doctor and collect medical information during examinations.

The rig is part of a UPMC-run program called the Initiative to Reduce Avoidable Hospitalizations Using evidence-based Interventions for Nursing Facilities in Western Pennsylvania -- which is funded by a $19 million grant from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

"Bringing telemedicine to the Kane Centers will improve the speed and efficiency with which residents receive medical consultations when there is a change in their health," Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said. "It will also reduce the need to transport residents to a hospital or emergency room, which is difficult for some of them."

"Telly" won't replace doctors, who will still conduct routine examinations. It'll be used only when a patient's condition changes, including a shift in breathing, heart function or pain. The robot-like rig will be supervised by nurse practitioners and can examine the eyes, ears, nose, throat, lungs, heart, abdomen, skin, extremities and nervous system.

The rig looks like a computer monitor on wheels with a camera strapped on top. It comes equipped with tools like a wireless stethoscope, which can relay information to a doctor at another location. Family members will be able to listen in via computer and telephone.

"We recognize that a patient's physician or nurse practitioner is sometimes not available at the skilled nursing facility to evaluate and treat the resident when there is a change in their usual state of health," Kane executive director Dennis Biondo said. "The goal is to provide continuous access to high-quality health care and health-care professionals."

Andrew McGill: amcgill@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1497.

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