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Schenectady Touts Telemedicine Program

Schenectady officials speak on Monday
Photo provided by Alex Sutherland for WAMC
Schenectady officials speak on Monday

The City of Schenectady has launched a new telemedicine program to help patients avoid the emergency room in a potentially trying time for hospitals. 

Schenectady Fire Chief Ray Senecal spoke at a press conference Monday to provide an update on the city’s pilot program to connect those who contact 911 with doctors remotely.

“Our city, the City of Schenectady, is the first and currently only fire department in the area to offer this exclusive service,” said Senecal. “Additionally, the Schenectady Fire Department was the first fire department in the area to deliver paramedic service to its citizens over 40 years ago.”

In its first month, the Schenectady Fire Department’s new telemedicine program – part of a partnership between the city, Ellis Medicine, MVP Health Care, and United Concierge Medicine – has helped about 30 patients get treatment at home.

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy…

“The simple thing is the paramedics – when the 911 call comes in – will spend a little more time on scene to better evaluate and help diagnose what the real needs are for the individual,” said McCarthy.

After paramedics are sent on a call, they will evaluate the patient. Then, if the situation allows for it, paramedics can use a tablet to connect the patient with a doctor.

Dr. Michael Bibighaus, founder and chief medical officer at United Concierge Medicine, says patients are connected quickly.

“It’s in a matter of minutes. Less than five, for sure,” said Bibighaus.

The doctor gave an example – say a patient with asthma is having difficulty breathing but they are out of medicine. Bibighuas said paramedics already on scene can administer an inhaler, and he can ensure the patient receives care without having to visit a doctor’s office or emergency room.

“I, as a provider, can send a prescription or a refill for that asthma medication to the pharmacy. So they were treated on site, they don’t need to be treated at the hospital because the emergent issue was taken care of, and then we can help with ordering up the medication, and then our service – our team – does follow-up with that patient in a couple of days to make sure that they’re doing better. And then that’s where we can work with insurance providers like MVP to get wraparound care for that patient, to get them connected to their primary care doctor and other services that they need.”

In other situations, a patient could be directed to an urgent care, or a doctor’s appointment could be scheduled for the next day.

Augusta Martin is Vice President of Business Development at MVP Health Care…

“This is especially valuable during these dire times when many frail and elderly may need care but may not necessarily need the emergency room,” said Martin.

Paul Milton, CEO at Ellis Medicine, says telemedicine is an example of the healthcare provider looking toward the future.

“We don’t want to perpetuate what we’ve always done in the past. We want to be creative and innovative and do the thing that’s right. It wouldn’t happen without the ideas of the people here. And for everybody that comes into the ER now, for example…there may be much better places to care of them in the community with the resources that we have  and using technology in the way that we can,” said Milton.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.