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Healthwatch 16: Cardiac telemedicine

Geisinger experts were able to help patients with heart problems during the pandemic using high-tech solutions.

PLAINS, Pa. — This spring, a woman from Luzerne County faced a scary choice: head to the hospital when COVID-19 infections were at their peak or stay home and battle potential heart issues alone.

A team of mobile health paramedics was able to help her not have to make that decision when they treated her at home.

"I got to the point where I wasn't moving around much. I was having trouble breathing," Janet Quick recalled.

Quick, 64, of Swoyersville, had surgery for heart failure six years ago, and she also has COPD. 

Still, she suspected what she was feeling wasn't quite right. 

She called Dr. Vernon Mascarenhas, her cardiologist, for help. 

He admits the timing was frightening.

"We were in the midst of our COVID peak here in Luzerne County. I had to make a choice between sending Janet to the ER or caring for her at home. That's when I decided to use what I refer to as telemedicine with an edge," said Dr. Mascarenhas.

Dr. Mascarenhas is talking about mobile health paramedics, which he calls a complement to the Pearsall Heart Hospital at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center outside Wilkes-Barre. 

Within 24 hours, a team was dispatched to Janet's home.

"I was able to coordinate a telemedicine call with Janet while they were there assessing her," said Dr. Mascarenhas

The doctor suspected atrial fibrillation, a common complication for someone with Janet's history, something that would normally be treated in a hospital. 

Paramedics were able to recalibrate her medications and do some other testing, essentially "tuning her up" for a heart procedure she eventually did have at the hospital, when most surgeries began again. 

That visit, and several others over the next few days, made her feel much better and allowed her doctor to treat her remotely for as long as he could.

"The paramedics, they were great! I was so glad to see them."

Janet and Dr. Mascarenhas wanted to share that story so other people knew how much can be done from home these days since it looks as though the nation's battle with coronavirus isn't going away anytime soon.

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