Advancements in Technology Improve Patient Care at AltaPointe Health

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The word technology evokes visions of keyboards, computer screens and data writing to be aggregated into reports and flow charts. But at AltaPointe, technology means people, people helping patients get the best available treatment and telehealth is one avenue used.

Patients receive telehealth at several AltaPointe Health locations across the seven-county service area.

The advantage goes to individuals living in rural or other areas where no psychiatrists are based. They do not need to travel hundreds or miles to their doctor’s office, making telehealth a convenient, efficient and effective diagnostic and treatment tool.

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Telehealth first brought AltaPointe Health psychiatrists and patients face-to-face through video conferencing technology in 2007. Used at AltaPointe daily, thousands of patients now access care remotely each year, according to Steve Dolan, AltaPointe’s chief information officer.

“The advantage goes to individuals living in rural or other areas where no psychiatrists are based,” Dolan said. “They do not need to travel hundreds of miles to their doctor’s office, making telehealth a convenient, efficient and effective diagnostic and treatment tool.”
Telehealth equipment is set up at the majority of AltaPointe outpatient sites as well as at its two hospitals. Guidelines describe the setting from which a clinician “sees” a patient via telehealth.

“Lifesize, the platform we use, makes it possible for doctors to connect with patients from just about anywhere ─ on an iPad, a laptop or desktop computer,” Dolan continued. “Telehealth appointments are scheduled as usual except the patient will be at one AltaPointe location and the clinician at another.”

This spring, AltaPointe and Springhill Medical Center will begin an initiative to connect via telehealth from the hospital’s emergency department. “This will make wait times to see a psychiatrist much shorter,” said Sandra Parker, M.D., AltaPointe’s chief medical officer. “Using telehealth in this manner improves assessment, processes, timeliness, and outcomes for patients and the hospital.”

Electronic prescriptions for controlled substances

Physicians not only assess and monitor patients via technology; they also write prescriptions and send them to pharmacies electronically. While physicians have had e-prescribing capability for years, AltaPointe recently adopted a solution called “electronic prescriptions for controlled substances”( EPCS) developed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. It gives practitioners the option of writing and transmitting prescriptions for controlled substances electronically. This rule helps address the problem of prescription drug abuse in the U.S.

Without an EPCS, a patient is required to have a printed prescription for a controlled substance. When a pharmacy receives an EPCS, the prescriber must validate his identification through a two-factor authentication process. The DEA requires practitioners to have an EPCS license. AltaPointe is in the process of having all CRNPs licensed for EPCS.

Self Sign-in at BayView Professional Associates

Most everyone who visits a dentist’s or doctor’s office has used self sign-in technology, which gives the patients direct control of recording their personal information. Nearly 10,000 BayView Professional Associates, a division of AltaPointe Health, patients have signed in this way at both the Mobile and Fairhope offices for nearly one year.

The system uses a computer kiosk that is protected to maintain confidentiality. The process frees up front desk staff by gathering demographic information, notifying the practitioner the patient is waiting, and collecting fees. Most important, the software pushes pertinent health questions to patients and saves valuable time when the patient is with the practitioner. For instance, patients can indicate they are trying to stop smoking or, even more seriously, that they are having thoughts of suicide.

“The clinicians have commented on the improved flow of patients within the clinic,” John Conrad, BayView’s assistant director, said. “When things get busy, it would be easy to lose track of a patient who has checked in early. This system prevents this from happening, assures we stay on time with our patients and allows us to provide good quality services.”

AltaPointe is Alabama’s largest and most comprehensive behavioral healthcare and psychiatric hospital system and the second largest in the southeastern US serving Mobile, Baldwin, and Washington counties in south Alabama and Clay, Coosa, Randolph, and Talladega counties to the north.

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April Douglas, Director of Public Relations
AltaPointe Health
+1 (251) 544-4639
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