YRMC telemedicine: Beam me up, doctor

| July 8, 2008

Yuma Regional Medical Center has been "beaming up" doctors from around the state for the past few years.

For patients who can’t afford to visit specialists outside the area, YRMC’s partnership with the Arizona Telemedicine Program connects patients to specialists through new technology.

The Arizona Telemedicine Program at YRMC got a positive review last month from Dr. Ronald Weinstein, director of the program at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center.

"Telemedicine is the practice of medicine at a distance using video imaging and telecommunications technologies," wrote Weinstein in an e-mail. "The Arizona Telemedicine Program is a large statewide program. It provides the telecommunications infrastructure for telemedicine, telemedicine training and many telemedicine services over its network."

The telemedicine program came to YRMC as part of the Arizona Department of Health Services Children’s Rehabilitation Services program. YRMC’s "Neonatal Intensive Care Unit… is linked to the University Medical Center in Tucson, for emergency consultations on infants with serious, often life-threatening conditions." It also provides services for disabled children in the Yuma area.

Weinstein came to visit YRMC last month to get an update on current telemedicine activities at YRMC and to assess the utilization of its services.

"Babies’ lives have been saved in the YRMC Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Dozens of children with severe disabilities are being seen by a pediatric orthopedic surgeon in Phoenix over the network," wrote Weinstein.

Mike Sisson, applications administrator at YRMC, works with telemedicine for children’s health services. The equipment he works with is a "Tandberg Edge 95 MXP PrecisionHD (camera) that is connected to a 50-inch Plasma Panasonic flat screen television," he wrote in an e-mail.

Sisson said that he works mostly with children who are in wheelchairs and whose families cannot afford to drive outside of Yuma to see a doctor.

Sisson helps the doctors in Phoenix or Tucson to see how a child moves and looks through the plasma screen. There is also therapists in the room with Sisson, who become the doctors’ hands by bending, moving and feeling a child’s extremities.

Sisson said that the patients love this new program. "Sometimes it is the only way (for them) to see the doctor."

Gregory Warda specializes in neonatology and works in the intensive care unit with newborn babies at YRMC. "This is a great solution," he said. Through the screens "we can see doctors and nurses … It’s just like they were right here … and I can ask the doctor questions instead of writing a letter."

Dr. Weinstein said that he would like to see YRMC be an example to other hospitals who would like to implement the program.   "This program is fabulous," said Weinstein. "The people of Yuma are extremely fortunate to have this here."

Category: TeleHealth

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