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PACE Prize Winners Get Funding to use Telehealth to Evaluate Overdose Patients UMass

PACE Prize Winners Get Funding to use Telehealth to Evaluate Overdose Patients UMass

- Award supports physician engagement in cutting edge-research, collaboration between departments, commitment to academic excellence –


WORCESTER, Mass. – UMass Memorial Medical Group (UMMMG) has announced the winners of this year’s $200,000 Prize for Academic Collaboration and Excellence or PACE Award. The winning project, TeleSUDE, proposes using telemedicine to evaluate patients who present in emergency departments after suspected opioid overdose. This telemedicine-based Substance Use Disorder Evaluation leverages UMass Memorial’s extensive experience in mobile telemedicine to provide immediate bedside access to diagnostic evaluations that replicate a face-to-face encounter. Members of the winning project team includes Kavita Babu, MD; Amy Costigan, MD; Jeffrey Lai, MD; and Karla Rodriguez, MD, all UMass Memorial physicians and members of UMass Memorial Medical Group.

Project team members say these targeted encounters are important for the future treatment of the patient and help identify individual patterns of substance use, details appropriate level of addiction care, and motivates the patient to seek treatment. Historically emergency departments struggle to provide adequate substance use treatment planning before discharge. In 2016 Governor Baker sponsored legislation that mandated a substance use disorder evaluation of all patients suspected of opioid overdose.

“Although providers are required to offer a SUDE under the new legislation patients are not required to stay in the ED until the SUDE is available,” said Lai. “TeleSUDE is really a novel, unobtrusive, and effective telemedicine platform to provide immediate bedside SUDE at remote EDs in our hospital system.”

The PACE award was established to support innovative investigator-initiated research. A scientific review committee - consisting of members of UMMMG nominated by their department chairs - oversees and administers the award. Award decisions are based upon the scientific merits and potential impact of the proposal. Review committee members are not eligible to participate.

“Innovation remains the driving force behind better outcomes for patients and a stronger, highly technical and capable class of clinicians,” said Shlomit Schaal, chair, Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences at UMass Memorial Medical Center. “I am so impressed with our winning submission this year and the excellent projects submitted by our runners’ up. In the end we picked a project that will go a long way in helping to inform our future treatment of patients with substance use disorders.”

“Emergency departments are on the front lines of medical care for acute drug overdoses, but without adequate substance use treatment planning, recidivism rates and return visits for drug overdose are a major concern,” said Rodriguez. “Patients may present several times for overdose before their final lethal dose. Overdoses must be treated as critical events for engaging patients in treatment”.

 The project team plans to train SUDE clinicians to conduct teleSUDE with a tablet computer-based video-telemedicine platform using standard patient (SP) interactions. The SUDE clinicians will undergo a two-step training program. In the initial step the clinicians will become familiar with the tools. They will get to operate the tablet computer using HIPAA-compliant software. They will also learn to troubleshoot for any software issues and potential loss of video and voice streams.

During the second step of training SUDE clinicians will be tested on their ability to operate the teleSUDE in 30-minute standardized patient encounters. The testing will include built-in errors to ensure the clinicians understand how to troubleshoot for software, video and other common barriers to a successful connection. This training and testing approach has proved successful in several UMass Memorial technology-focused investigations.


UMass Memorial Health Care

UMass Memorial Health Care is the largest not-for-profit health care system in Central Massachusetts with more than 13,000 employees and 1,700 physicians, many of whom are members of UMass Memorial Medical Group. Our member hospitals and entities include UMass Memorial HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital, UMass Memorial – Marlborough Hospital, UMass Memorial Medical Center and UMass Memorial – Community Healthlink, our behavioral health agency. With our teaching and research partner, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, our extensive primary care network and our cancer, diabetes, heart and vascular, orthopedic and surgery programs, UMass Memorial delivers safe, high-quality and compassionate care. Visit