What started as a single interactive video and audio link at Georgia Health Sciences University built with off-the-shelf parts is now in more than 100 hospitals across the country, helping stroke patients and those with other neurological diseases get diagnosed and treated.
The industry group Georgia Bio will honor REACH Health Inc. on Thursday with one of its 2012 Community Awards. The first system was put together by Dr. David Hess, the chairman of the Department of Neurology at GHSU, and others as a way of being able to do stroke exams remotely, at first linking to two rural hospitals that lacked neurologists to do the exams. A neurological exam, and reading a CT scan, is critical for diagnosing the stroke and being able to administer a clot-busting drug that can help limit the damage.
“That’s really the clinical decision that pushes the system,” Hess said. “But we’re doing more and more in some of our hospitals where we offer consultations on other stroke patients that may arrive too late (to get the clot-buster) or even other neurological diseases.”
REACH is typically used by big academic medical centers such as Medical College of Georgia Hospital that connect with smaller rural hospitals in a “hub and spokes” model.
“Generally the hub has the neurologists and the spokes don’t,” Hess said. But now the company is also providing coverage for hospitals such as St. Mary’s Health Care System in Athens, which has two neurologists on staff who can’t cover the hospital around the clock. REACH provides coverage when they aren’t around, Hess said.
“That’s where we’re filling in gaps,” he said. “That’s the model we’re seeing more of.”
REACH is now in use from Alaska to New York to Ohio and Pennsylvania and across the Southeast, including 28 hospitals in Georgia. With its main corporate office in Alpharetta, it is nice to get recognition from its home-state industry group, Hess said.
“Georgia Bio has been good,” Hess said. “It’s a very supportive organization.”