New Telemedicine Initiative Bridges Gap in Thoracic Surgery Expertise for Patients on the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland

05-08-2017

Berlin, Md. – Residents of the lower Eastern Shore who may require advanced lung surgery, including those with diagnosed or suspected cancers, will soon be able to meet with leading experts in thoracic surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) in Baltimore without leaving the Shore.

These video teleconferencing consultations are starting this month thanks to an expanded telemedicine partnership between UMMC and Atlantic General Hospital (AGH) in Berlin. UMMC, the University of Maryland Medical System’s academic medical center, already provides around-the-clock remote monitoring of ICU patients at AGH as part of the University of Maryland eCare network.

By video teleconferencing, UMMC thoracic surgeons will virtually consult with a patient at AGH and review CT scans and other tests to see if he or she is a surgical candidate. The entire work-up and pre-operative consultation is done locally. If a surgical procedure is needed, it will be performed at UMMC.

“There are numerous articles in the lung cancer literature that show, when surgery is done at an academic medical center, patients have longer survival and fewer complications, compared to those who receive surgery at nonacademic centers. By teaming with UMMC, we can offer our patients on the Eastern Shore the highest quality care in a community setting,” says Peter Costantini, M.D., pulmonologist with Atlantic General Health System.

Six surgeons in the Division of Thoracic Surgery at UMMC will take part in the program. All of the surgeries will take place at UMMC, which is also home to the University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC), a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center.

“We expect that these appointments will be very much like a patient visit in our office here in Baltimore,” says Joseph Friedberg, M.D., the Charles Reid Edwards Professor of Surgery and Head of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Thoracic Surgeon-in-Chief of the University of Maryland Medical System. “We want this experience to be very convenient for patients and to decrease some of the stress they are experiencing related to their diagnosis.”

“We are very pleased to partner with Atlantic General in this first step toward building a robust thoracic surgery telemedicine program in Maryland and the region,” says Dr. Friedberg.

“Living on the lower Eastern Shore has many advantages, but historically access to the most advanced specialty care has been difficult. Embracing telemedicine technology to bring specialists and care to the patient, rather than making patients travel several hours when they are not feeling well, creates the best of all worlds for those of us living in this great community,” says Michael Franklin, President and CEO of Atlantic General Hospital.

“The goal of expanding the telemedicine service at Atlantic General Hospital is to utilize the latest technological advances we have in an effort to save patients and their families from traveling more than two hours one-way to Baltimore from Berlin to be evaluated and ensure that at least their initial care can be done in the patients’ local community,” said Marc T. Zubrow, M.D., Vice President, Telemedicine and Medical Director, eCare, University of Maryland Medical System.

The program will include post-operative and follow-up telemedicine visits as well. UMMC surgeons will also take part in Atlantic General’s local Tumor Board, a multidisciplinary team of specialists who meet to discuss their patients’ cancer treatments.

Eventually, patients will be able to receive second opinions as well as treatment planning, via telemedicine from UMMC specialists for a variety of cancer diagnoses. These visits will be conducted in coordination with the medical oncologists at Atlantic General’s new John H. “Jack” Burbage Regional Cancer Care Center, which is scheduled to open in the spring of 2018.

Atlantic General Hospital’s History of Telemedicine

Atlantic General Hospital’s experience with telemedicine began with the launch of University of Maryland eCare to provide around-the-clock remote monitoring of ICU patients in 2010. Shortly thereafter, AGH expanded much-needed behavioral health services in 2011 through a telemedicine partnership with therapists at Sheppard Pratt, a psychiatric hospital in Towson, Md.

Another such partnership – this time with Baltimore-based Kennedy Krieger Institute – was forged in 2014 to provide diagnosis and treatment of developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder, in children.

In 2015, AGH partnered with Berlin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center (BNRC) to provide telemedicine care for patients discharged to BNRC for rehabilitation services.

In 2016, family physician Diane Ceruzzi, D.O., began seeing some of the patients at her Pocomoke practice remotely, in between her wound consultations at Atlantic General’s Wound Care Center, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

This year, telemedicine will expand care into the patient’s home to provide daily remote monitoring of important measures, such as weight and blood pressure for high-risk patients, and video consultations with from home with physicians as necessary.

About Atlantic General Hospital

Atlantic General Hospital has been providing quality health care to the residents of Worcester, Wicomico, Somerset (Md.) and Sussex (Del.) counties since May, 1993. Built through the commitment and generosity of a dedicated community, Atlantic General’s main facility in Berlin, Md., combines the warmth of personalized attention with the reassurance of medical expertise and advanced technology. The not-for-profit hospital provides quality specialty care in oncology, medical and surgical weight loss, orthopedics, and women’s diagnostics among other services. Atlantic General Health System, its network of more than 40 primary care providers and specialists, cares for residents and visitors throughout the region. For more information about Atlantic General Hospital, visit www.atlanticgeneral.org.

About the University of Maryland Medical Center

The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) is comprised of two hospitals in Baltimore: an 800-bed teaching hospital – the flagship institution of the 12-hospital University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) – and a 200-bed community teaching hospital, UMMC Midtown Campus. UMMC is a national and regional referral center for trauma, cancer care, neurocare, cardiac care, diabetes and endocrinology, women’s and children’s health, and has one of the largest solid organ transplant programs in the country. All physicians on staff at the flagship hospital are faculty physicians of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. At UMMC Midtown Campus, faculty physicians work alongside community physicians to provide patients with the highest quality care. UMMC Midtown Campus was founded in 1881 and is located one mile away from the University Campus hospital. For more information, visit www.umm.edu

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