AT&T and Washington Hospital Center in the Washington, D.C., area have unveiled a custom application called CodeHeart to allow doctors to examine patients in an emergency using real-time video and audio.
Six hospitals in the Washington area have adopted the real-time CodeHeart application, announced Oct. 19.
Physicians at the health system are using the application on desktops, laptops and tablets as well as Apple mobile devices to view video over the Internet on AT&T's network.
Before CodeHeart, doctors would use a fax machine to transmit ECG data, a process that takes more than 10 minutes and puts patients' lives in danger, Dr. Lowell Satler, director of interventional cardiology at Washington Hospital Center, told eWEEK.
Through the application, doctors can communicate with patients' first responders, examine test results such as ECGs and prepare for a patient to enter an ER. Doctors can view the ECGs as PDFs. Following the session, hospitals can archive the video for future reference.
In addition, ECGs and video files can be stored as part of patients' electronic health records (EHRs), Satler noted.
By examining ECGs conducted in a remote setting such as an ambulance or the patient's home, doctors will know sooner, before patients arrive at the hospital, if the diagnosis is a heart attack or another ailment such as trauma.
CodeHeart adheres to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy laws, according to Satler. "This custom mobile application was created to help Washington Hospital Center take patient care to a new level, by giving them the ability to more rapidly respond and prepare treatment for cardiac patients in critical situations, even while a patient is in a remote location or en route to the hospital," Steve Mitchell, vice president of health care at AT&T, told eWEEK in an email.
Seeing patients using software such as CodeHeart appealed to Satler because it saved the cost of using special modems and servers, he said. Satler liked the idea of using a mobile phone to discuss and view ECGs live with patients and first responders over the Internet.
"The Internet was the backbone of transmitting the information, and AT&T was providing the applications for connectivity as well as security," Satler said.
The simplicity of the Apple iOS platform was another benefit in implementing the CodeHeart application, according to Satler. "After the first pilot, we had a better understanding on how to make it simpler, so the end user who had no experience at all could click and launch the program with no delay," he said.
Doctors and nurses can also view the application on traditional computers on wheels (COWs) and workstations on wheels (WOWs).
Using standard hardware to transmit images from one location to another is not HIPAA-compliant like the mobile application option, Satler noted. With standard hardware, there's "no way of focusing on a unique set of health care providers," he said.
Authorized physicians and hospital workstations can download the mobile application to iPhones and iPads. An Android version will follow within two weeks, Satler said.
Washington Hospital Center developed the idea for the application and then approached AT&T to lead development, according to Mitchell.
"AT&T spearheaded the app's development, utilizing our human and technical resources and alliances," Mitchell said. "Washington Hospital Center then collaborated with AT&T to test and roll out the application within its organization."
The carrier's expertise in security appealed to the hospital system, according to Satler.
"We needed a strong cellular company that was comfortable with mobility and medical networking and had a lot of experience with understanding the unique quality of security," Satler said.
Although CodeHeart was developed to treat heart problems, doctors can also use the video technology for sessions with patients suffering a stroke or trauma.
Washington Hospital Center is the only hospital system to use the CodeHeart application, Satler noted. As a custom, secure application, CodeHeart is unavailable to the public on iTunes. "You wouldn't be able to get it unless I pushed it to you because it is a HIPAA-compliant protected network," Satler said. "We load on iTunes but wouldn't be able to push it on iTunes."