How a New Venture will Bring Telehealth to Nursing Homes

CAST | October 17, 2016

A new telemedicine company called Curavi Health is providing Pittsburgh nursing homes with access to doctors who can remotely assess residents at night and on weekends when nursing home medical staff typically are not available.

The new venture is backed by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Enterprises, a for-profit arm of UPMC, which is a nonprofit. It is the brainchild of Dr. Steven Handler, director for geriatric telemedicine programs at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC’s medical director for long-term care health information technology. Handler also serves as Curavi Health’s chief medical and innovation officer. 

Officially launched in January, Curavi Health currently serves 5 UPMC nursing homes and 2 non-UPMC nursing homes in Pittsburgh, according to Modern Healthcare.

Outgrowth of CMMI Grant

The idea for Curavi grew out of a grant from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovations that UPMC received in 2012, according to Pittsburgh Business Times. That project, called RAVEN, brought telemedicine to 17 non-UPMC nursing homes before expanding into UPMC's skilled nursing homes. 

The RAVEN program reduced potentially avoidable hospitalizations in a group of 17 participating nursing homes by about 26%, according to a report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). It also reduced potentially avoidable emergency department visits by 40%, and saved Medicare $5 million, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Handler pushed to form the new venture after seeing too many nursing home residents being transferred back to hospital emergency departments because nursing home staff could not get appropriate advice quickly, reports Health Data Management.

“Transfers to the emergency room, which frequently result in admission to the hospital, are highly disruptive to older adults and sometimes harmful to their health,” Handler said in a statement. “What’s more, these avoidable hospitalizations are costing Medicare, private insurers, and taxpayers billions of dollars every year.”

Software, Hardware, and Physicians

Curavi Health uses mobile “CuraviCarts” that allow physicians to remotely interact with residents and nursing home staff through a:

  • Pan/tilt/zoom camera
  • Bluetooth stethoscope
  • Digital otoscope
  • Document scanner
  • 12-lead EKG system

The geriatricians guide nurses through treatment or, if necessary, recommend hospitalization, according to the Tribune-Review.

The company also has proprietary CuraviCare software that facilitates interaction between the remote physician and the nursing home resident. The software is designed for ease of operation by nursing home staff and tailored to their workflow, reports Healthcare IT News

Looking to the Future

Fellowship-trained geriatricians with University of Pittsburgh Physicians, which is part of UMPC, provide after-hours consults through Curavi Health. Consults from other UPMC subspecialty services, including cardiology, dermatology, and geriatric psychiatry, are planned for the coming months, reports Pittsburgh Business Times.

In addition, Curavi Health will soon allow nursing homes to use their own attending physicians and nurse practitioners for on-demand telemedicine consults. That policy will allow the company to expand quickly across the country without the need to license physicians across state lines, according to the UPMC statement.