When the MaineHealth IT team identified the need for a telehealth solution that was affordable, easy to use, and interfaced with internal MaineHealth technology, they searched nationwide to find a suitable product. Their search turned up nothing that met all of their needs, so they decided to assemble their own device. Having an extensive knowledge of the MaineHealth IT infrastructure and a strong grasp of the technical needs of the physicians they support, the team worked together to develop a product that fulfills the full set of requirements. The building blocks for this cart include standard equipment used throughout the MaineHealth enterprise — cart chassis, monitors (touch control), microphone/speakers, and incorporated the use of ZOOM, specifically ZOOMRoom, for the videoconferencing component.
The Telehealth Acute Care Cart (TACC) is integrated with the MaineHealth technology infrastructure to provide a direct pathway for physicians to communicate between distant locations — hospitals, provider offices, clinic settings — altogether making consults easier and more thorough than prior solutions. While telehealth itself is not a new concept — MaineHealth has had a successful Telestroke program since 2015 — the TACCs allow colleagues to collaborate directly with one another just by tapping a touchscreen, right at the patient’s bedside. This creates an easy, one-touch method for connecting, which can be vital in an acute care environment.
Using the TACC is simple: If members of the care team are at different locations and it is determined that a situation warrants a telehealth call, the members of the care team are able to access the Telehealth system via the ZOOMRoom platform from the TACC unit at their respective hospitals. The telehealth system connects the two physicians directly, no link or login needed, and the specialist can see and hear the patient in real time.
The TACCs were built by a joint team at MaineHealth using existing technology, with extensive input and support from the IT Field Services team. These units are non-proprietary and cost-effective. TACCs are wireless and fully mobile, so they can be used in the hospital setting without needing to be tethered to LAN jacks or electric outlets without wires creating trip hazards. These carts use the latest Zoom platform which locks the device in auto mode, so users can connect without requiring a meeting link or password be manually entered — those aspects are built into the connection process. Two important goals were to standardize the telehealth hardware wherever possible to the MaineHealth standards, allowing for user familiarity, and to improve support break/fix replacement time if a cart has issues. The new TACC devices meet both of these goals.
TACC’s are making a difference in patient care. In Phase I of deployment, 12 TACCs were placed in the emergency and inpatient units of 11 hospitals: Waldo, Lincoln Health, Pen Bay, Mid Coast, Stephens, Franklin Memorial, Memorial NC, SMHC Biddeford (inpatient and ED), SMHC Sanford, Maine Medical Center and Redington-Fairview General Hospital (a partner hospital participant in the MaineHealth Telestroke program).
Phase II will see 12 more TACCs placed in the labor and delivery departments of each hospital, starting in winter of 2023.
“Just had our first case with the new machine! Worked great, very clear and easy to use.”
– Ashley Pottle, RN, ED Manager, Redington-Fairview General Hospital
In October 2022, two MaineHealth neonatologists and a pediatric neurologist tested the TACC in a simulation setting for use with neonatal patients. Following the simulation a survey was distributed and three out of three providers found the TACC to be superior to existing equipment, rated the new camera mount favorably, and found ZoomRoom to be easy to use.
Patricia VonIderstine, Adam Pray, Michael Boucher, Jack Bartlett, Tom Winchell, Neil Wright, Bradley Cordes, Reuben Mahar, Tracy Jalbuena, Brian Chipman, Stephanie Gagne, Tim Quinn