Originally created 11/13/97

Schools market electronic medical service



An innovative two-way television system to check on patients at home could be coming soon to a home near you.

The Medical College of Georgia and Georgia Institute of Technology are negotiating with an undisclosed private company to market their "Electronic House Call" program.

The schools would license the company to produce a version of the program, which uses two-way cameras and a computer linkup so that the health care provider can see the patient and the patient can use various attached devices to check things such as temperature and blood pressure, said Dr. Max Stachura, director of MCG's Telemedicine Center.

MCG President Fran Tedesco would not reveal the company name nor any details about the company but said the negotiation may be concluded soon.

"I thought it would be done already," Dr. Tedesco said.

How the schools would profit from the licensing is also still being worked out, but statistics show there could be a big market for the product, Dr. Stachura said.

About half of the 380 million home health visits last year did not require touching the patient, which means a physical visit may not be necessary, Dr. Stachura said. Even if Medicare paid for electronic house call visits at half its $80 cost, that would still have saved $8 billion, Dr. Stachura said. The system would allow patients to be released earlier from the hospital and allow better monitoring of chronic and elderly patients.

"Keep them home where they want to be, not in a nursing (home), not in an assisted care facility but at home," Dr. Stachura said.

While many of the details are still being worked out, ideally the units would cost between $4,000 and $5,000, and could be used for everything from higher risk pregnancy to chronic diseases, eliminating some need for frequent hospital visits, Dr. Stachura said.

"It would not take long to recoup that investment," Dr. Stachura said.

More than that, it would bring resources to bear where needed, whether at home or out in rural area far away from urban health centers.

"It empowers people to take care of themselves and access a health care professional when they need it," Dr. Stachura said.