Telemedicine Brings Patients, Specialists Together

By: Patricia Keith and Courtney Caprara

mapWhen mother-to-be Jamie Bergstein’s blood tests revealed high blood sugar levels, she was referred to a maternal-fetal-medicine specialist at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC. But instead of traveling two hours to the Pittsburgh hospital from Altoona and having to use a full-day of maternity leave from her job to do it, Bergstein used the new obstetric telemedicine services at UPMC Altoona at Station Medical Center.

“Within a week, I met with a dietitian via telemedicine who helped me understand the changes in my diet that were needed,” Bergstein said. “They also helped me learn how to test my glucose by pricking my finger. A nurse was in the room with me to answer any questions and to demonstrate in person how to operate the glucose monitoring equipment. They spent an hour with me and were very thorough.”

For Bergstein and other women like her, the availability of new obstetric telemedicine services at UPMC Altoona at Station Medical Center means access to the world-class care of high-risk pregnancy specialists at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC without having to travel there.

“These new services bring specialty physicians from Pittsburgh closer to home by live audio- and video-enabled teleconferencing technology,” said Debra Pike, M.D., chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UPMC Altoona. “The patient and the expert physician in Pittsburgh can see and hear each other during the consultation, and our medical staff at UPMC Altoona can perform an exam and share their findings in real time with the Pittsburgh physician.”

Bergstein accessed three of UPMC Altoona’s four new telemedicine services.

  • Maternal-Fetal Medicine (MFM) Outpatient Consultation: State-of-the-art HIPAA-secure teleconferencing technology connects patients in Altoona with Magee’s maternal-fetal medicine specialists in Pittsburgh who address serious health conditions related to high-risk pregnancies.
  • Diabetes Education for Obstetrics: Professionals at Magee offer pregnant patients unparalleled access to expert specialty care in diabetes education, nutritional counseling, and blood glucose meter education.
  • Obstetric (OB) Ultrasound: Advanced technology is used to transmit images from UPMC Altoona to Magee to be read and interpreted by board-certified MFM physicians and interactive patient discussion of results.
  • Center for Fertility and Reproductive Endocrinology (CFRE): CFRE provides patients with personalized reproductive health care, including evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and access to Magee’s in vitro fertilization techniques.

UPMC Altoona also uses telemedicine to offer patients  breast cancer genetic counseling and breast cancer second opinions.

“Extending world-class care to patients close to their homes is a big part of UPMC’s mission in all of the regions we serve. We expect that this program will help optimize pregnancy care in the Altoona community,” says Hyagriv N. Simhan, M.D., professor and chief of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and vice-chair of Obstetrical Services for the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.