Telemedicine is helping connect specialty healthcare to rural communities

Posted at 9:53 AM, Sep 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-18 11:53:42-04

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    Shreveport, LA (KTBS) — Modern day medicine continues to advance, this time bringing the doctors you need to see to a hospital near you.

It’s called telemedicine and it’s quickly becoming a part of the norm in rural hospitals.

Here’s how it works: Patients go to their local community hospital for their appointment just like they would for a normal doctor’s visit. The rural hospital will have a medical representative in the exam room with you to explain the process of telemedicine. A television and camera will be in your exam room so that you can see and speak with the doctor. Special cameras and tools enable doctors to listen to your heart or chest and look in your ears, mouth or other parts of your body.

Health officials say telemedicine can make a world of difference for a patient.

“We’ve had a number of kidney patients that we can honestly say the nephrologists have been able to keep them off of dialysis for years.”

Wendy Rasmussen is the Telemedicine Program Coordinator at UH Shreveport. She says health professionals are able to build relationships with their patients and keep a close eye on how they’re doing.

There are a number of benefits of telemedicine, including improved access to care.

Not only does telemedicine improve access to patients but it also allows physicians and health facilities to expand their reach beyond their own offices.

Cost efficiency is another benefit. Telemedicine has been shown to reduce the cost of healthcare and increase efficiancy through better management of chronic diseases.

Studies have consistently shown that the quality of healthcare services delivered via telemedicine are as good those given in traditional in-person consulations.

The greatest impact of telemedicine is on the patient, their family and their community. Using telemedicine technologies reduces travel time and related stresses for the patient.

Dr. Don Hines is credited with creating telemedicine. He says transportation is one of the main reasons patients miss their appointments. Telemedicine “allows these patients to be seen by a specialist without ever having to leave home,” says Dr. Hines.

Telemedicine makes a huge impact in rural communities. Claiborne Memorial Medical Center is a smaller hospital in Homer, Louisiana, but they have a lot to offer patients who can’t make the trek to shreveport or farther to see a doctor thanks to telemedicine.

They have the standard telemedicine set-up where patients can come in and be connected with a specialist at University Health Shreveport.

But Claiborne Memorial can also help a stroke patient when moments matter.

That because they have a second telemedicine station in their emergency room where patients suspected of having a stroke are connected with a medical team at Oschner’s and this service is available 24-7.

Telemedicine allows specialists to visit rural patients virtually, offering a wide range of specialty care to rural communities via telemedicine, including Radiology, Psychiatry, Ophthalmology, even Obstetrics.

While telemedicine focuses on specialty care, it’s only a matter of time before it reaches all corners of healthcare.

“At this point, it is for specialty care, but telemedicine is ubiquitous now in all the state as far as doing mental healthcare, it’s wonderful. In fact that’s probably one of its most common uses is mental healthcare,” says Rasmussen.

Telemedicine may be covered by Medicare and Medicaid, but you need to check with your provider because coverage can vary wildly.

According to, 34 states and the District of Columbia require that private insurers cover telehealth the same as they cover in-person services.

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