Cross-continental pilot links LI docs, Alaskan schools

Say aaahhh: State-of-the-art scanners and real-time videoconferencing will help pediatricians on Long Island treat schoolkids in Alaska.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

A Long Island-based pediatrics practice is powering up a telemedicine program it claims can diagnose children, in real time, virtually anywhere – and it’s going about as far as you can go to prove it.

All the way to Alaska, where PMP Anywhere – the new telemedicine program by Massapequa-based urgent-care clinic PM Pediatrics – will begin seeing patients next week.

That is, the patients will be in Anchorage – but the pediatricians will be 3,300 miles away, right here on Long Island. PMP Anywhere is rolling out during the first week of March in seven Anchorage School District buildings, with another eight Alaska schools set to come online later in the month.

While videoconferencing between patients and doctors is hardly new, doctors remotely diagnosing students in their school settings is cutting-edge. It’s made possible here by the TytoCare device, the technological heart of PMP Anywhere.

Sheryl Cohen: Remote chance.

School nurses use the device – part familiar ear thermometer, part “Star Trek” medical tricorder, by New York City and Israel-based manufacturer Tyto Care Ltd. – to examine the child and simultaneously transmit a host of vital signs and even video to an attending physician.

Combined with digital access to the patient’s medical history, the real-time conditions help the doctor make an accurate remote diagnosis.

The examinations (and possible on-the-spot treatments) are all done with a parent’s express permission (legal guardians are piped in through a PMP Anywhere app), creating a “pretty awesome” telemedicine program that helps separate the sniffles from “you’d better pick up antibiotics before your child even gets home,” noted Sheryl Cohen, vice president of clinical operations at PM Pediatrics.

And there’s the rub for this surface-level scanner and its long-distance diagnoses: While the handheld TytoCare device and on-demand interaction with doctors are definitely welcome in a time of savage flus and sinister coronaviruses, the breakthrough tech is less about saving lives than saving time, according to Cohen.

“You get medical care to children who might otherwise have difficulty accessing care,” the VP said. “They can get back to the classroom and have fewer days missed from school, and the parents can have less days of missed work.”

Palm reader: A range of vitals is standing by with TytoCare.

The detail provided by the TytoCare device is impressive – “I can ask [the nurse] to re-do something, or reposition it, and control it all remotely,” Cohen noted – and permits a plan of care that can be immediately discussed with parents and, if possible, effected by the on-site nurse.

Attending physicians can also use PMP Anywhere to call in prescriptions as necessary to pharmacies in the patient’s locale.

Following the 15-school Alaska pilot, PM Pediatrics will look to introduce PMP Anywhere in school districts across the nation, with the primary goal of sending the sick kids home and the healthy ones back to class.

“The overall goal is to keep kids in school, better diagnose students and reduce inconveniences for the family,” Cohen said, “while making kids healthy and comfortable and able to better return to the classroom sooner.”