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Hospital wins grant to increase tech-medicine

Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield.
Recorder/Paul Franz

Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

GREENFIELD — Baystate Franklin Medical Center will use a half-million-dollar grant to increase its use of “telemedicine” this year, which will allow more patients to stay in the Greenfield hospital while a medical expert miles away examines them via a video screen.

Baystate Franklin will pay for that work and a separate project that will improve communication between local primary care offices and the Greenfield hospital, using a new $476,400 grant it received Thursday from a state agency.

The Massachusetts Health Policy Commission awarded nearly $10 million in grants to 28 hospitals, including about $2.7 million to hospitals in the western part of the state, as a part of the Community Hospital Acceleration, Revitalization, and Transformation (CHART) Investment Program.

Baystate Franklin already uses telemedicine to assist stroke patients who come in at night, when the only working neurologist may be miles away in Springfield. The neurologist is able to use the technology to remotely examine the patient’s eyes, view test results and provide advice for emergency doctors in Greenfield.

Hospital officials said they’ll be spending the next few months determining other types of patients who could be served well by this technology. The hospital will need to purchase new additional video screen equipment.

Hospital president Chuck Gijanto said that insurance companies are beginning to appreciate, and pay for, the use of telemedicine because it saves costs and keeps patients in their community hospitals.

In the past, a patient may have had to travel to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield to be seen briefly by a specialist. Now, that medical expert can consult with a Greenfield emergency room doctor and use the video equipment to observe patients or ask them questions.

A separate project will help the hospital and local primary care offices seamlessly exchange a patient’s electronic medical records about a patient.

If computers at both Baystate Franklin and an individual’s primary care doctor office are speaking the same language, it means that medical information about a patient won’t get lost in translation. And both sites will be able to use the information to better serve the person.

There already has been a plan to make this happen, called the Pioneer Valley Information Exchange. But Andrea Nathanson, the hospital’s finance director, said that this six-month grant will allow this work to happen much faster.

“The ripple effects of this investment would be hard to exaggerate, especially for a rural area like Franklin County,” said Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, in a prepared statement on Thursday.

“More efficient and more cost-effective health care access and delivery in a community setting is what we strive for,” he said. “I’m pleased that our Franklin County legislative delegation could ... help make this award happen.”

Other area hospitals that received funding included Athol Memorial Hospital; Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware; Heywood Hospital in Gardner; Holyoke Medical Center; Mercy Medical Center in Springfield; Noble Hospital in Westfield; North Adams Regional Hospital; and Wing Memorial Hospital in Palmer.

You can reach Chris Shores at: cshores@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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