Category: Healthcare

InnovaTel Telepsychiatry

There are many interesting things about InnovaTel Telepsychiatry – including its unique blend of healthcare and technology. But what struck me when I was learning about the business is how it could operate anywhere, yet its leaders deliberately are choosing to stay in Erie.

If you’ve never heard of InnovaTel, that’s understandable. After all, the company is based here, but it serves clients in eight states – and most of its employees don’t live here, either.

InnovaTel provides telepsychiatric care – meaning it brings together psychiatrists and clinics, no matter their location, and links them remotely through a secure video platform. The company was started by Jon Evans and Lee Penman, who both worked at Hamot and who both later helped to found Erie’s Safe Harbor Behavioral Health.

InnovaTel, their new enterprise, reflects their continued commitment to providing quality mental health care, but adds a 21st century update.

As Evans and Penman explain, there is a shortage of psychiatrists across the country, a problem that is felt most acutely in rural areas. Telepsychiatry allows those underserved areas – rural, urban and everything in between – to more easily offer mental health care to residents.

The business, now about four years old, is growing as it becomes more established – and, as Penman says, as people are getting more used to the idea of telepsychiatry and telemedicine in general.

Part of that growth is coming from an expansion into correctional psychiatry – that is, forensic evaluations and mental health care done in correctional settings, like jails. It’s just another way of enhancing care while lowering costs – a combination that InnovaTel is confident will drive future success.

That brings me back to my main takeaway from this company: A growing company that can operate from anywhere, but one that is planting roots firmly in Erie County.

According to InnovaTel’s leaders, that’s not just an emotional decision, but a practical one. As Evans describes, Erie is a “hidden asset,” where the cost of doing business is significantly less than in other cities. In fact, they see the potential for Erie to become a hub of technology and health care.

“Our goal is to really grow this company and stay here,” Evans says.

About InnovaTel Telepsychiatry: The company is making a name for itself in the telemedicine industry – it has been named a strategic partner with the National Council for Behavioral Health, and it was recently ranked as one of the 10 most promising telemedicine providers by Healthcare Tech Outlook magazine. InnovaTel now has 30 psychiatrists on its roster, and it has partnered with more than 40 clinics – and more interest comes in every week. As a telemedicine company, InnovaTel’s focus must be on the technology as well as the health care. The company is very thorough in ensuring the quality of the video and audio connections – which are secure links to a licensed facility – and also to creating a comfortable atmosphere, which includes the lighting of the walls, the color of the room, and the placement of the TV at a patient’s eye level.

Why Erie County: As previously mentioned, InnovaTel’s leaders have found a benefit in the low overhead costs in Erie County. In addition, however, they found it beneficial to launch their business in Erie, where they already had connections in the community through their previous work.

Challenges of Erie County: InnovaTel’s remote nature requires that the Erie staff make site visits, so travel into and out of Erie – including at the airport – can be a challenge. Another challenge that has less to do with Erie County but nevertheless is a hurdle for the company comes from licensing requirements. InnovaTel’s psychiatrists must receive licensing from multiple states – and each state has different procedures and requirements. Evans says that given the increasing popularity of telemedicine, it might be time to explore the idea of a national licensing standard.

Fun fact: Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a mental health advocate and son of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, is a member of InnovaTel Telepsychiatry’s advisory board.

Address: 2005 W. Eighth St., Erie, PA 16505 or www.intelpsych.com

Institute on HealthCare Directives

We’ve been talking a lot lately about entrepreneurism and how it is a necessary component to revitalizing Erie County’s economy. It seemed appropriate, then, for me to pay a visit to Dr. Ferdinando Mirarchi, a physician who has used his research into patient safety risk to launch an innovative healthcare-related startup.

Mirarchi, the founder of the Institute on HealthCare Directives, created MIDEO – or My Informed Decision on Video. The medical ID card utilizes technology to allow patients to clearly state what treatments they wish to receive – or not receive – in the event of a medical emergency.

Like a true entrepreneur, Mirarchi identified a need and worked to create a solution. Existing advance care directives, such as living wills, do-not-resuscitate orders or physician orders for life-sustaining treatment, might be well-meaning but can create confusion, he says.

MIDEO, however, simplifies and streamlines the process. And, vitally, it serves as a translator of sorts to bridge the gaps between legal jargon, technical medical terms and language that patients can understand.

Mirarchi’s TRIAD Research Series – that is, The Realistic Interpretation of Advance Directives – led him to identify the problem and create his solution. Soon after, he began working with several local organizations designed to help startups, including Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Gannon University’s Small Business Development Center and the Innovation Collaborative.

Now, his goal is to grow the business and expand its reach to patients – he has had about 100 people register for a MIDEO card so far, but he’d like to see 100 people per day register. And someday, he’d like to see the business grow into an operation that could provide jobs to Erie County residents.

A large part of that growth will be advocating it to health insurers, who could then offer it to their members as part of a benefits package. That work is underway, as is the effort to spread the word about the advantages of the MIDEO system. It’s all part of the work of a startup – and Mirarchi is ready for the challenge.

About the Institute on HealthCare Directives: The institute aims to serve patients by helping them create effective advance care directives, namely through the MIDEO tool. MIDEO works by embedding technology directly into a medical ID card. A medical professional can use a smartphone to scan a patient’s card, launching a video with the patient’s video testimonial along with clear, easy-to-follow instructions for care. For Mirarchi, the service is vital to ensuring that patients receive the care they want – particularly when they are unable to speak for themselves because of a medical condition or emergency. This also helps families and caregivers, offering them peace of mind that an ailing loved one’s wishes are being honored. But there are also advantages for physicians and hospitals, as having clear directives could eliminate lawsuits that arise over end-of-life care or medical errors.

Why Erie County: Mirarchi started his business in Erie County because he had made his home here – he is the medical director of UPMC Hamot’s Emergency Department, though his company is separate from his work at the hospital. But while some have pointed to Erie County’s aging demographic as a cause for concern, Mirarchi sees that population as a group that might be in the most need of guidance on healthcare directives.

Challenges of Erie County: As Mirarchi is trying to make inroads with providers and insurers in Erie County, and he is also facing the challenge of a slower rate of growth and development in this region, when compared with other areas.

Address: 900 State St., Erie, PA 16501 or www.institutehcd.com

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