April 3, 2019

UMass prize will fund telemedicine initiative

Photo/Courtesy
A team of UMass Memorial physicians, from left, Kavita Babu, Amy Costigan, Jeffrey Lai, and Karla Rodriguez, have won $200,000 in funding for a new telemedicine initiative.

A plan to evaluate opioid overdose patients using technology known as telemedicine has received an annual prize and funding from the UMass Memorial Medical Group.

The proposal that won the $200,000 award and the funding that comes with it would allow doctors to talk with emergency department patients through tablet-based video. The program is meant to replicate face-to-face doctor-and-patient interactions and allow experts to evaluate those suspected of an overdose to determine the best plan for care.

The winning team was four UMass Memorial physicians: Kavita Babu, Amy Costigan, Jeffrey Lai and Karla Rodriguez. The competition, called the Prize for Academic Collaboration and Excellence, or PACE, Award, is given annually to research projects conducted by UMass staff.

The team's research fits into state legislation that requires a substance abuse disorder evaluation of all patients suspected of an opioid overdose. The process is known as substance use disorder evaluation, or SUDE. The UMass team's initiative is called TeleSUDE, a play on that industry term.

"TeleSUDE is really a novel, unobtrusive, and effective telemedicine platform to provide immediate bedside SUDE at remote (emergency departments) in our hospital system," said Lai, who practices emergency medicine.

The team plans to train clinicians to use the TeleSUDE system, which will use software that's compliant with patient confidentiality requirements. UMass said it plans to roll out the system over the next three months, and include its emergency departments in Clinton, Marlborough and Worcester.

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