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St. Luke’s to expand telehealth in Carbon, Schuylkill

St. Luke’s University Health Network has been awarded a $799,000 grant from the Federal Communications Commission that the network will use to provide state-of-the-art telehealth services at three of its campuses in Carbon and Schuylkill counties. The money will be used to buy large-screen televisions and other IT equipment that will allow health care providers to interact with patients in real time from any location.

The three campuses are the Carbon and Miners campuses and Geisinger St. Luke’s.

Christina Musser, Senior Director Virtual Care (Telehealth) & Patient Experience at SLUHN, said, “We are starting with these campuses because it will allow specialists and other care team members a way to extend their services while breaking down geographical barriers. We also strive to keep patients in their communities, so any time we can bring care and services to the patient is better than a transfer or unnecessary travel.”

The 55-inch smart televisions and other equipment will be installed in over 200 rooms, including patient rooms on medical and surgical floors, intensive care, and the emergency department. “This technology will create a more lifelike experience between patient and care team member,” Musser said. The equipment also will allow family, who may have challenges being physically present, the opportunity to participate in visits that are conducted remotely, she said.

Musser expects the equipment to be installed and up and running later this year.

“This is a great step forward for our health care system, network, the care team, and most importantly for the patients,” Musser said. “With technology, the barriers of geography are quickly shrinking. This solution will help St. Luke’s improve access to and coordinate care for patients and their families with greater speed and efficiency.”

Telehealth will not replace in-person physicians, advanced practitioners, and other care team members, Musser said. “It will bring more services and specialty care to the patients while keeping them closer to their homes.”

The grant that St. Luke’s has received is part of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. The Telehealth Program is part of $200 million in funding that was appropriated by Congress as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. It is designed to help health care providers provide connected care services to patients at their homes or mobile locations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SLUHN is grateful to Lehigh Valley U.S. Rep. Susan Wild for her assistance in securing the funds. Congresswoman Wild said, “The pandemic has underscored the need to be expansive and forward-thinking in how we approach the delivery of medical care. I’m proud to have helped St. Luke’s secure this important funding for telemedicine equipment that will increase accessibility, quality of care, and family involvement at critical moments. Investing in our medical infrastructure and creating more opportunities for human connection can only lead to better patient outcomes.”