Latest Technology Extends
Madison County Hospital’s Reach
January 5, 2010
With the assistance of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Madison County Hospital has acquired telemedicine — a new technology that allows physicians and patients to communicate while being miles away.
Using cameras, televisions, and an advanced teleconferencing computer, telemedicine allows two parties from two different places to see and talk to each other as if they were together. For example, if a premature baby is born at MCH, a physician at Nationwide Children’s can perform an examination using telemedicine.
“Telemedicine is so much more than just seeing. It allows for interaction and conversation,” said Patrick Baker, Chief Nursing Officer. “It extends the reach of health care providers allowing us to provide greater access to care.”
Madison County Hospital’s telemedicine unit is composed of a high definition television and camera, as well as, a microphone, computer, keyboard, and video conferencing unit. These are placed on a mobile cart and can be moved throughout MCH. As long as there is a place to plug into the hospital’s network, the telemedicine unit can go anywhere.
“By using hi-def equipment, the picture is extremely clear,” said Karen Uhrman, RN, director of OB services. “It is like you are in the same room together.”
Using a remote control, staff can connect to any other telemedicine unit. MCH is currently connected to Nationwide Children’s and will be able to connect to other health care providers as the technology expands.
“It is similar to calling on a telephone. But, by using computers and IP addresses, physicians and patients can also see each other clearly,” said Scott Broshes, the hospital’s IT team leader, who connected MCH’s telemedicine unit.
Besides using telemedicine for conversation, the unit is also connected to a computer, so physicians can review test results, such as x-rays.
Madison County Hospital had the first opportunity to use telemedicine in December.
Holly Mercer, who was born at MCH herself, had her third son Ethan on November 30. Born with a heart murmur and low sugar, Ethan was transferred to Nationwide Children’s the day after he was born. Holly was still a patient at MCH.
Using telemedicine, she was not only able to see her son on the high-definition television screen but speak with his physician.
“Not being able to hold and bond with my newborn son was really hard,” she said. “When they came to me and said they were going to use the telemedicine unit, I was overjoyed and happy to be able to see my son.”
Currently, Ethan is healthy and at home with his brothers DJ and Alex.
Nationwide Children’s first tested telemedicine with the Adena Health System in Chillicothe, Ohio. After installing telemedicine units, neonatologists were able to examine at risk infants born at Adena before deciding to transport them to Columbus. By using telemedicine, they saw a 40 percent reduction in transports without sacrificing quality of care. This not only resulted in lower costs for the hospitals, but also less traveling for families.
Due to their success at Adena, Nationwide Children’s was able to offer telemedicine grants to other Ohio hospitals. Gregg Alexander, M.D., of Madison Pediatrics heard of the opportunity and worked with MCH to apply for a grant.
Patrick Baker and Dennis Vogt, the hospital’s director of IT, researched telemedicine equipment to make sure the hospital acquired pieces that would be a right fit for MCH.
“It was really a team effort,” said Dr. Alexander. “Everyone worked hard to make sure we could bring this technology to London.”
The future of telemedicine is still unknown, but it opens up many possibilities.
According to an article in Columbus Business First, OhioHealth is planning to launch a stroke telemedicine network that will connect smaller hospitals to neurologists and stroke specialists.
The future of Madison County Hospital’s telemedicine unit could include connecting to specialists at the Ohio State Medical Center or the Cleveland Clinic.
“Now that we have telemedicine at Madison County Hospital, we have a lot of potential to extend out care,” said Dr. Alexander.