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Atlantic General Hospital Receives $190,000 Telemedicine Grant From Carefirst Bluecross Blueshield

Representatives from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield visited Atlantic General Hospital Thursday to present a check for $189,656 to the hospital’s new Development, Learning and Autism Spectrum telemedicine program.

Until now, a referral for developmental evaluations meant a six-hour round-trip drive to Baltimore with additional expenses for gas, food, parking and tolls. For some parents, the time away from work and the expense of travel made such care for their children impossible.

“One of the most difficult issues with healthcare is convenience,” said Michael Franklin, president and CEO of Atlantic General Hospital and Health System. “Telemedicine technology will now allow us to distribute specialty healthcare services more evenly throughout the country, allowing unique specialty services such as those provided by Kennedy Krieger to be accessed by everyone. This is very important for families, and a huge improvement in healthcare.”

“If you add the stress placed on a special needs child who may have to make this trip multiple times, the need for localization of this service becomes clear,” said Deborah Wolf, director of the Atlantic Health Center where the new telemedicine services are provided.

Atlantic General Hospital is the first hospital in the nation to partner with Baltimore’s internationally recognized Kennedy Krieger Institute to provide neurodevelopmental pediatric specialty services via telemedicine to children with autism, ADD / ADHD, intellectual disabilities, communication, learning and other developmental disorders who live far from specialty care.

The funds from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the region’s largest health insurer, will help Atlantic General Hospital provide care for children with developmental, learning, and autism spectrum disorders in Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset counties.

Some of the monies will be used for a much-needed upgrade to the cameras and monitors in Atlantic Health Center’s telemedicine room; equipment that was state of the art four years ago when the organization launched its adult behavioral health telemedicine program. The program, a partnership with Sheppard Pratt Health System in Baltimore, was the hospital’s first foray into outpatient telemedicine and has been highly successful.

The newer technology will allow the neurodevelopmental pediatricians at Kennedy Krieger Institute to simultaneously monitor a child’s behavior in the play area in the back of the room while consulting with the patient’s parent or guardian in the foreground. The telemedicine equipment utilized by AGH/AHC/ KKI is secure and encrypted to protect patient information confidentiality.

The grant will also allow for additional staffing and education and outreach to the community’s schools, local agencies, parents and providers about the services offered by the program, which launched in December 2013.