Allegheny Health Network Healthcare Innovations Forum Cultivates Ideas for Improving Access to Affordable, Quality Care

Tyrone Hospital Awarded $30,000 Forum Grant to Establish Telemedicine Lab

PITTSBURGH – In an effort to improve healthcare quality and delivery in the Pittsburgh region, Allegheny Health Network created a Healthcare Innovations Forum that brings stakeholders together to explore new concepts in healthcare delivery and discuss topics and projects focused on enhancing access, affordability and simplicity of health care.

The Healthcare Innovations Forum brings clinicians, scientists, payers and other healthcare participants from throughout the region together twice yearly to provide an opportunity for structured brainstorming and exchange of ideas and award funding to move specific projects from concepts to reality.

“Our primary objective in creating the Healthcare Innovations Forum is to nurture the development of novel ideas to better serve patients,” said Alan Russell, PhD, chief innovation officer and executive vice president, Allegheny Health Network.

Participants in the fall forum were invited to compete in an “elevator pitch” challenge in which they created concise proposals for solving a healthcare dilemma which could be presented quickly—in the time it takes to complete an elevator ride.

Tyrone Hospital submitted the winning proposal and will receive the first grant of $30,000 from Highmark to create a mechanism for developing and piloting unique telemedicine programs. The proposed Allegheny Health Network Rural Telemedicine Lab will pair physicians from the Emergency Department and various outpatient physician offices at Tyrone, in Blair County, with Allegheny Health Network specialists to provide real-time remote consultations.

Telemedicine services would give physicians at Tyrone quick access for consultations with neurologists, infectious disease specialists, experts in burn care and more.

“Tyrone Hospital’s plan for a testing laboratory to develop original telemedicine programs is a perfect example of an efficiency that will bring tangible benefits to patients in terms of quicker and better care and greatly enhanced convenience,” Russell said.

The Highmark grant will fund the purchase of three telemedicine carts furnished with computer equipment to enable Tyrone physicians to establish a secure, real-time connection with remote specialists. The plan also calls for a dedicated exam room for telemedicine consultations in primary care offices and a lab studio in which technology will be tested, clinical protocols will be developed and staff training will occur.

“The lack of access to specialists in rural settings can result in a longer wait for care, cumbersome transfers to urban hospitals, or even prompt some patients to delay or decline care,” said Stephen Gildea, chief executive officer, Tyrone Hospital. “Our hope is to bring a wider variety of specialist physicians to our patients in their own community to provide the timeliest care and help patients to get the services they need without the hassle and expense of travel and missed work.”

Conversely, patients with severe injuries or illnesses who require transfer to a tertiary care medical center will benefit from early intervention with specialists and seamless communication between the two medical teams involved in their care.

“This initial funded project reflects exactly what we hope to achieve in many different settings throughout our region,” Russell said. “The Healthcare Innovation Forum will work to rapidly implement ideas for improving health care delivery and we expect suggestions from the forum to be put into practice and making a real difference in patients’ lives in just a matter of months.”

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