New Yorkers test-drive telehealth

Earlier this year, a telehealth startup called Vital Care Services was selected with partner Pace University as winners of PILOT Health Tech NYC, an initiative launched by the city of New York and the New York City Economic Development Corp. Vital Care is using its $100,000 award to train Pace graduates in the hot telehealth sector, as well as to conduct research on the telehealth process.

In August, the company started a six-month pilot to test the effectiveness of telehealth in diverse communities in Manhattan and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. A handful of Pace student technicians help 127 study participants take their vitals through an Android-based tablet. The data is monitored remotely by Pace-trained registered nurses. The study's goals are to see if seniors can master telehealth, whether they can do so independently and willingly, and if they can use technology to educate themselves as patients.

"We want to increase the quality of care, expand health care access and reduce health care costs," said Chris Gaur, speaking at a panel discussion on innovations in telehealth hosted yesterday at Pace's Westchester campus. A Pace graduate, Gaur co-founded Vital Care with his brother David.

New York City is home to many telehealth startups that, like Vital Health, are exploring the technology's promise. Given the challenge doctors face in treating a growing elderly population, "it is not if you get telehealth, it's when," said Jean Coppola, associate professor at Pace's Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems.

But doctors are concerned telehealth may overload them with needless data on healthy patients, instead of alerting them only when there is an abnormal reading—a dangerous spike in blood pressure, for example—that requires immediate attention.

"There's no way a primary care physician can process more information today," said Dr. Simeon Schwartz, president and chief executive of the Westmed Medical Group. He told the Pace audience that his group practice has 20,000 Medicare patients, and telehealth technology would have to be scaled to serve a large patient population. Technology can only supplement, not supplant, human interaction, he added.

New Yorkers test-drive telehealth originally appeared on the Crain's New York Business website.



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