“As UPMC continues to extend its outstanding health care services to many diverse communities in and beyond western Pennsylvania, UPMC is addressing the needs of communities and making them stronger,” said Leslie C. Davis, UPMC senior vice president, and executive vice president and chief operating officer, UPMC Health Services Division. “At UPMC Bedford Memorial, for example, we established a Teleconsult Center that provides access to clinicians in 18 specialties, saving patients from having to travel for advanced care.”
The video features the Teleconsult Center, where patients can access telepsychiatry. UPMC is meeting the mental health needs of rural residents through a federal grant administered jointly through UPMC Community Nursing, along with UPMC Bedford Memorial and Home Nursing Agency, part of UPMC. UPMC uses advances in technology to provide access to specialists close to home. A Pittsburgh-based psychiatrist “visits” the patient through real-time audio-visual communication via a secure computer.
Through the grant and local efforts, 1,223 older Bedford County adults so far have received coordinated physical and behavioral health services. The mental health nurses from the two home health agencies involved in the project provide care to the patients in their homes and at the telemedicine center, thus promoting the coordination of care. Referrals of older adults to the program from other community partners rose by 96 percent in the second year of the outreach program.
One of those nurses, Rodney Burket, R.N., said the access to specialty care is “life-changing” for many patients who otherwise couldn’t travel the distance to Pittsburgh. One of his patients is a local elderly woman. To protect her privacy, we’ll call her Shirley. Shirley’s visits have been seamlessly orchestrated among all health care providers and her mental health has been valued as much as her physical health. The remote consultations she received from physicians at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC in Pittsburgh were “transformational,” said Burket, psychiatric case manager for Home Nursing Agency.
Shirley experienced extreme anxiety and depression, but the care she received from Burket and a psychiatrist via telemedicine helped her regain her independence. Today, she leads games and bingo for other residents in the assisted living facility where she lives, gets her hair and nails done and dresses “to the nines” daily.
“She is in her late 80s and physical trips to Pittsburgh would have been burdensome to her and her daughter with whom she lived at the start of treatment,” Burket said. “It is gratifying to meet the needs of area residents, like this woman, through at-home nursing visits and with specialists through these technological innovations.”
The AAMC video also features UPMC Bedford Memorial’s Tammy Payne, R.N., a certified diabetic educator, as she provides a home visit to check on the patient’s blood sugar readings and diet compliance.