Former MCG program honored for funding

Dr. David Hess is a co-inventor of the REACH system, initially built to help with stroke treatment.

A telemedicine company begun in Augusta will be honored this week by a Georgia biotechnology group for securing millions in private funding to continue expanding nationwide.


Georgia BIO will cite REACH Health on Thursday as one of its Deal of the Year honorees during its annual awards dinner in Atlanta.

REACH, now based in Alpharetta, Ga., garnered the award for securing
$4 million in private capital last April.

The company was begun at the Medical College of Georgia as an interactive video and computer link designed to improve stroke care by connecting neurologists in Augusta with emergency rooms at smaller, rural hospitals that lacked neurologists.

The system allowed neurologists at MCG to evaluate potential stroke patients, read CT scans and authorize the use of a clot-busting drug, which greatly increased the number of patients receiving the treatment.

The system was later packaged commercially through REACH and began spreading to other states and hospitals. It was typically organized around an “hub” urban hospital with neurologists connected to many smaller rural “spoke” hospitals.

The system is now in use in 140 hospitals around the country, including in Mississippi, Ohio, New York and Florida, said Dr. David Hess, the chairman of the Department of Neurology at Georgia Regents University and co-inventor of the system.

The funding helped the company acquire infrastructure, such as backup servers, to support its systems and continue to branch out beyond stroke treatment, he said.

“It allowed us to really deepen our development team to accelerate the telemedicine platform,” said Hess, who is the chairman of the board of directors. “We call it REACH Access. It’s a more ubiquitous platform that can really go beyond stroke to tele-ICU, to tele-psychiatry, to basically tele-anything.”

Though the imaging and connections are the same, it allowed the company to create templates to guide treatment for other illnesses, Hess said.
One major issue is the lack of connectivity with electronic medical records at the different sites and the ability to easily and electronically transfer data from REACH to those records, Hess said.

REACH hopes to have a system worked out in the next year that can communicate with two of the most common record systems, Hess said.

The success of REACH has not gone unnoticed, which Hess said he never imagined back when they were first creating it a decade ago.

“I figured telemedicine would grow but I didn’t think telestroke would grow so fast, you’d have so many competitors,” he said.