The Saint Luke’s Health System is a faith-based, non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing physical, mental, and spiritual health in the communities it serves. It includes 11 hospitals, research institutes, and health centers in the Kansas City area, and in additional locations throughout Kansas and Missouri.
Though its telemedicine program had existed prior to 2006, until that time the initiative was funded only by government grants. In 2006, Saint Luke administrators observed that there was a decline in the desire of Kansas City-based physician specialists to travel to the more rural Saint Luke’s locations for patient visits.
In August of 2006 Saint Luke’s management team addressed the issue. They decided to formalize the telemedicine grant project by providing the initiative with a budget, making it an official health system program.
After conducting a vendor selection search Saint Luke’s determined that AMD Telemedicine of North Chelmsford, Massachusetts, had the strong, well-established reputation and customer history that Saint Luke’s preferred for its partners, as well as the telemedical hardware that was compatible with what was already being used in the Saint Luke’s program.
Initially, telemedicine sites were established at Saint Luke’s Hedrick Medical Center in Chillicothe (Missouri) and Wright Memorial Hospital in Trenton (Missouri). The telemedicine clinic at each location contained AMD equipment including: two flat panel screens, a camera for doctor-patient communication, a general examination camera with its own illumination source, and an electronic stethoscope, all working through a special DS3 networking connection.
At each location, a nursing official or chief nursing officer has taken on the role of telemedicine point person, combining the skills needed to work the equipment with those of an outpatient coordinator. Also, AMD provided Saint Luke’s staff with training on each of the telemedicine devices that were to become part of the clinic.
Currently there are six physician specialists participating in the telemedicine clinics, which are scheduled two to three times a month. The clinics currently focus on cardiology, pulmonary conditions, and psychiatry, with neurology and neo-natal coverage scheduled to begin by December 2007.
For instance, if a cardiologist in Kansas City is consulting with a patient in Chillicothe, the doctor can listen to the patient’s heart and lung sounds in real time with the electronic stethoscope. Using the general examination camera, the doctor can see and interpret EKGs from the remote end. Having access to any diagnostic test that is performed on the remote patient, the doctor also can be sent the information via the high speed data connection for review and quality assurance analysis purposes. During 2006 and Q1 2007 a total of 460 telemedicine patients were seen at both clinics.
Additional clinics will soon begin operation in Garnett, Kansas (Anderson County Hospital), and Leavenworth Kansas, (Cushing Memorial Hospital), both also part of Saint Luke’s Health System.
In a recent survey of participating remote patients, Saint Luke’s telemedicine program received a 100% satisfaction rating. Saint Luke’s estimates that those 460 patients collectively saved a total of $40,000 on travel costs and eliminated the usual two to three month wait time for an appointment to be seen by a specialist traveling to the area.
With the growing success of the program Saint Luke’s envisions expanding the scope of the project to provide some ROI. (Each clinic costs approximately $35,000 to equip over the DS3 connection.)
Saint Luke’s requires that independent physicians pay a fee to consult with patients and confer with colleagues over the link and is also experimenting with an option that will allow non-affiliated hospitals and health centers to use the capability.
The growing difficulty of recruiting physicians willing to travel to remote locations and the discipline of telemedicine have great synergy. The recruitment issue is fueling the growth of telemedicine and telemedicine is helping to stabilize the recruitment and retention of these specialists.
Offering state of the art medical care to remote communities, telemedicine is emerging as a practical, efficient , and worthy resolution to a growing medical issue of concern.
About AMD Telemedicine
AMD Global Telemedicine is the leading, worldwide supplier of telemedicine equipment and technology devices used in telemedicine with more than 5,000 installed sites in 74 countries. AMD devices and tConsult™ software products offer clinically acclaimed, cost-effective solutions for the most challenging medical applications. AMD also provides complete technical support in program design, device integration, training, and remedial service to assure a successful program implementation. For more information on AMD Telemedicine, please visit www.amdtelemedicine.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org,or call 866-511-0923.