J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital clinical director for emergency and critical care, Diane Baker, in the bed, along with PinnacleHealth neurologist Anowar Hossain, on the screen, and nurses Phallen Magill, second from right, and Jo Caccamo recently went through extensive training to learn how to use the telemedicine robot to further assist patients at the hospital.
J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital and PinnacleHealth have recently partnered to bring technology that will revolutionize how patients can be treated in Huntingdon County.
Telemedicine, which is becoming increasingly popular in the medical field, has recently been introduced at the hospital to treat patients in speciality areas such as neurology, toxicology, infectious disease and wound care.
The PinnacleHealth telemedicine program technology allows specialists from PinnacleHealth to examine and see patients through the use of a robot which is guided by the medical staff at J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital.
“It’s like you’re sitting right in the room with the doctor,” said J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital CEO Lisa Mallon. “If the doctor wanted to listen to the patient’s heart and chest, the nurse put a set of headphones on so she could hear it, put the stethoscope on the chest, and the doctor could hear exactly what the nurse is hearing 100 miles away.”
Mallon believes the telemedicine program will revolutionize how patients in Huntingdon County will be treated without having to travel far distances.
“This is something that will really help, especially at rural hospitals,” said Mallon. “Places overseas actually have telemedicine programs with people in the U.S. It’s not brand new technology, but it’s much more developed than when it first came out.”
J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital nursing director of emergent, critical care and telemedicine Diane Baker said the technology will allow the hospital to provide speciality services they currently don’t have at the hospital.
“It benefits patients by not having to travel and they can have an immediate consultation rather than making an appointment and having to travel,” said Baker. Baker, who was trained along with the staff at J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital, explained a little more of how this telemedicine program works.
“You can set up a time with a specialist at PinnacleHealth that’s conducive to both (the patient and doctor),” said Baker. “You take the telerobot to the room, and from (the specialist’s) end, they pretty much control the robot.”
She went on to explain the robot has an 18-inch screen where the patient and nursing staff can see and interact with the doctor and if the doctor wants to further examine the patient, he’s able to do so with the aid of the nurse and the robotic hand.
“He has the ability to zoom in on different parts of the body, do pupil checks, and the nurse assists where she can,” said Baker. “It feels like he’s right in the room. He also has access to the medical information we have on the patient. The families can also participate if they wish, just like you would with any other visit.”
“We’re talking about great specialists in Harrisburg we wouldn’t normally have access to,” said Baker. “The doctor isn’t going to take two hours to drive, do a one-hour consult and drive back. It’s not time feasible for them.”
Baker also believes there’s no extra cost to patients for the consult with the telemedicine program, and it costs the same as any other face-to-face consult.
Mount Union resident Charles Varner is one patient who benefitted from the telemedicine program, and he would sing its praises to anyone.
“It was amazing,” said Varner, who was having some eye trouble. “You don’t have to travel, and you don’t have to fill out paperwork if you go to Harrisburg. This way, you’re right there. It’s a good thing, and it saved me a lot of riding time. I don’t like to travel.”
Since the technology went live Feb. 10, Baker said staff has done at least one consultation per day.
“It’s amazing what they can do,” said Varner.