All activities at UPMC are characterized by a multidisciplinary and multitasking approach to offer cutting-edge therapies using advanced technology services. UPMC is a leader in the field of telemedicine, one of the most recent areas of innovation, and is a partner of ETC, the European Telemedicine Conference. Telemedicine enables remote diagnosis and monitoring of patients by means of information and communication technologies, and exchange of clinical data between patients and physicians, which optimize various aspects of management and treatment.
Medical research has shown that traditional consults and remote consults can lead to identical outcomes. Also, recent studies have demonstrated that some pathologies, such as chronic diseases, can be better monitored with telemedicine. Telemedicine drastically reduces the costs of traditional medical consults, maximizes medical services, and offers advantageous solutions to patients. Research and pilot projects receive annual funds in the framework of the Digital Agenda for Europe, and $55 million every year from the U.S. government. Some telemedicine programs have been implemented at ISMETT, and extremely high clinical standards have been achieved: the survival rate of liver transplant recipients at ISMETT is among the highest in Europe.
Telepathology allows sharing of histopathology images among remote workstations. Telepathology can be used for purposes of diagnosis, setting up remote conferences to discuss difficult and complex cases, remote scientific consults (second opinions), or training programs for professional updating (e-learning and know-how transfer). UPMC has invested considerably in telepathology and in a system allowing remote monitoring of a robotic analog microscope, and later integrated telepathology with a digital system that scans and archives histopathology slides. This system was implemented at ISMETT to allow the Italian staff in Palermo to set up consults and share microscope images of the most complex cases with physicians in Pittsburgh.
Tele-ICU is a system that was developed as part of the pediatric liver transplant program at ISMETT, with the support of UPMC Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, and allows remote patient assessment. The system enables physicians in Pittsburgh to provide remote consults for inpatients and ICU patients in Palermo, and is used for second opinions on complex cases, such as pediatric liver transplants. Physicians are also involved in patient rounds: a portable videoconference system allows U.S. physicians to interact with colleagues in Palermo and see the patients. During the teleconference sessions, Pittsburgh physicians can visualize data on the medical record, as well as radiology images, and can discuss patients’ conditions and the necessary measures.
Home monitoring reduces hospital stays and admissions, minimizes inconveniences suffered by patients, and reduces hospital expenditures. Home monitoring is used at ISMETT to monitor patients for three months following liver transplantation, assess their clinical conditions, and monitor their post-op course.
Teledermatology and Teleradiology are other UPMC telemedicine programs used in Italy. Other new applications allow monitoring lung transplant and LVAD (left ventricular assistance device) patients, manage organ transplants, and monitor patients at high risk of stroke (Telestroke).