By REBECCA WEBSTER
Recorder News Staff
The River Ridge Living Center will soon be the first nursing home in the Northeast to utilize telemedicine services for its residents.
Nursing home administrators say they are ecstatic to be one of the leaders in using the technology.
"This is a wave of the future," said River Ridge Executive Vice President Paul Guttenberg, who added that there are only a few nursing home facilities in the country utilizing the technology.
According to the American Telemedicine Association's website, telemedicine is "the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient's clinical health status."
Paul Guttenberg said that the telemedicine system permits residents -- depending on their need -- to stay in their beds and let the physician, in a sense, come to them via the Internet.
Susanne Guttenberg, administrator at the facility, said it gives residents access to dermatologists, neurologists, psychiatrists, emergency medical personnel and psychologists, among other physicians.
"It's for specialists we don't have access to in the community," she said. "We will be able to do it right here using Skype technology."
She added that it will not only decrease the wait time that a resident might spend in a doctor's office or bmergency room, it will also decrease expenses and hassles associated with travel.
The way the system works is if someone at the facility is in need of medical attention, depending on the reason, they can gain remote access to physicians, and it's done through a regular computer, equipped with a portable HD webcam.
Eric Vedder, director of nursing services at the facility, said a nurse at River Ridge will check vitals and administer any additional tests that is requested by the physician on the other end. The nurse will utilize the mobile camera to be able to show the physician what they need.
Paul Guttenberg said the technology has been around for years, but not many have picked up on it.
About six weeks ago, the Guttenbergs were contacted by Steve Okhravi, an Emergency Room specialist based in New York City, about taking the next step in improving nursing home care.
"What a phenomenal idea," Paul Guttenberg said he thought.
Each state has put an emphasis on technology-based systems, he said, and this is a part of that.
"We can do superior care," he said. "We can gain access to specialists."
Okhravi and Dr. Tariq Gil will be providing the services through their company.
"For so long, nursing homes have been underserved by a lack of specialists and resources. It has been a cumbersome process to take the residents to be evaluated by specialists," the physicians said in a joint statement. "Because of this lack of resources, (the residents) get transported to the E.R. unnecessarily. We are trying to eliminate these unnecessary transports. We want to toss the cumbersome process. We need to make sure quality care is delivered to the residents rather than making the residents go to where the specialty care is."
Heather Reynicke, assistant administrator at River Ridge, said Thursday that information received from the Amsterdam Fire Department indicated that about 37 percent of the River Ridge residents that were sent to Emergency Care were found to not actually require an emergency care trip.
Reynicke said that the new technology will help aid in situations like that, where the facility can connect with physicians using the telemedicine system to understand how to proceed.
The telemedicine program is set to begin at River Ridge Living Center on April 1.
The facility's administration will hold a reception that day at 4 p.m. where they will officially introduce the new program to the community.