Medical Center expands Telemedicine offerings

The Medical Center’s Office of Telemedicine recently added nine new partner health facilities, including two located within the University, to its practice. The expansion comes courtesy of a $253,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to a Health System press release.

The Medical Center provides specialized, tertiary medical care for people all over Virginia. However, for some patients, travel to the Medical Center can be prohibitive. Telemedicine uses technology to help patients receive care from the Medical Center from health services facilities located in patients’ communities.

“Telemedicine is a tool that improves timely access to care for patients,” said Dr. Karen S. Rheuban, director of the telemedicine office. “It is supported through broadband communication services using high definition videoconferencing technologies that help deliver live, interactive video-based telemedicine.”

The Office of Telemedicine forms contractual partnerships with local clinics across the state and works with the clinics to implement the infrastructure needed — like the broadband connection and HD monitors. Patients can then schedule consultations and follow-up care with Medical Center clinicians that take place at their local, telemedicine-enabled clinic.

“As a consultation is scheduled at a partner clinic, patient information is sent to [Medical Center] providers,” Rheuban said. “We orchestrate the time and facilitate the connection. Then the provider sees the patient in the community setting and then generates a report with recommendations that go back to the referring provider.”

The Department of Agriculture grant has allowed telemedicine services to be implemented in senior centers, dialysis clinics and nursing homes in central Virginia.

Other applications of telemedicine include asynchronous transfer of images and data — meaning a clinician does not have to be present when the data and images are transferred. The clinician can analyze the data at a later time and then submit his or her recommendations to the patient through the partner clinic, making it easier for patients and physicians to operate on their own schedules.

related stories