Telemedicine program expands coverage amidst potential budget cuts

Springhill Medical Center is about 50 miles from Shreveport and the LSU doctors at University Health. That makes it a challenge for some patients who need to see a specialist.

Elaina Weems registered nurse at Springhill Medical Center, "A lot of them use our transportation buses just to get to our facility, where they don't live but a few miles from here. They just can't afford to pay someone to either to drive them down to sit for hours."

But this piece of equipment is changing the face of medicine for people living in rural parts of Louisiana. For the past six years, patients at Springhill Medical Center sit in front of this camera, instead of driving an hour to see a medical specialist. It links LSU doctors with patients at more than 20 health care facilities around Louisiana.

Wendy Rasmussen head of University Healths' telemedicine program, "Telemedicine has gained popularity in the last 10 years. We know when the doctors are available and we talk with the doctors and decide what the patient is going to need, so we don't waste an appointment. If they need additional lab work, ultra sounds, we go ahead and order those tests and get the lab results and have everything prepared for the doctor at the visit, the patient doesn't have to travel even locally back and forth telemedicine site."

A portable camera allows doctors to ask for close ups. A stethoscope and headphones allow them to hear a patients heartbeat miles away. Now, a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and matching funds from University Health will pay for a $732,000 dollar upgrade to the telemedicine program. New equipment like this portable device will connect a half million rural Louisianans to LSU doctors at University Health Shreveport, University Health Conway and Feist Weiller Cancer Center. Hopefully it allow patients to be treated closer to home, instead of traveling to Shreveport or Monroe.

Weems, "I had one, the doctors told to go around to the ER. He called the ER doctor and told him what he was thinking and they admitted her here and she was treated."

Besides life saving care, it saved the patient and her family time and money.

Rasmussen, "It is the future."

This is just one example of how medicine is going beyond the doctor's office.


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