PMMC Calling! Burn Victims Evaluated By Phone

POTTSTOWN PA – For many consumers, smart phones are an indispensable way to stay connected. For physicians at Pottstown Memorial Medical Center (PMMC), they’re also tools to provide state-of-the-art care for burn patients.

When a patient with severe burns arrives at PMMC’s Emergency Department, 1600 E. High St., Pottstown PA, doctors use the Lehigh Valley Health Network’s TeleBurn system to send digital photos of the wounds to burn specialists at the Regional Burn Center in Allentown PA. As specialists view images on their phones, they discuss best treatment options with PMMC.

The network’s burn center experts “are a great resource for us” in quickly deciding whether to treat a patient at the Emergency Department or to transfer them to the burn center, said PMMC Emergency Services Patient Care Director Brian Barth.

To use TeleBurn, emergency department staffers take digital photos of a patient’s wound, upload them to a secure Internet site, and send them to a burn specialist’s smart phone. After a phone consultation between physicians, the patient is transported to the burn center if it’s determined that specialized care is needed.

Although many patients sustain an injury serious enough to be transferred, TeleBurn has been able to keep in their local area for care more than 14 percent of patients seen, according to burn center Chief Dan Lozano. “This shows how TeleBurn is improving access to care and quality while reducing costs,” he noted.

Time-efficient interaction between physicians assures the best care is provided quickly, Lozano said. With TeleBurn, “physicians get fast access to information they need to consult about a patient,” Barth added. In turn, patient “chances for a complete recovery dramatically improve.”

TeleBurn is a recent innovation. When launched in 2008, it effectively sent pictures but burn specialists had to log into a computer system to see them. With technology installed last year, burn center doctors receive a phone call and simply log into a secure application on their phones to check photos and talk with emergency department physicians.

The burn center is the largest of its kind in Pennsylvania, with 18 beds and about 700 inpatient discharges annually. TeleBurn has expanded to serve 39 facilities.

“With certain medical conditions, the expression ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ is literally true. Burns are one of those conditions,” says PMMC emergency medicine physician Dr. Richard McLaughlin.