Telemedicine Initiative helps doctors assess patients from miles - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Telemedicine Initiative helps doctors assess patients from miles away

HARRISBURG, IL (KFVS) -

Technology is allowing doctors to diagnose patients from miles away. 

It's called the Southern Illinois Telemedicine Initiative.

At the Harrisburg Medical Center, the initiative's focus is on stroke patients.

Instead of waiting for a doctor to arrive to the hospital, the hospital is able to call in through this program and the doctor can then hop online and assess, diagnose and help treat the patient from miles away, as if he or she were in the room with the patient.

Cameras that are attached to the monitors, allow the doctors to see the patients, patients' families, and an up-close and detailed look of the patients.

In the event of the stroke, SIH Brain and Spine Neurointensivist, Dr. Alejandro Hornik said, said he's able to give advice on therapy to the family.

"We know patients who have strokes, need to have the right therapy right away," Dr. Hornik said.

"We get a complete assessment of the history, the vital signs,the blood work, we can see their neuroimages remotely from our computers and we can see the examinations and make very quick decisions on this life and death matter, which is stroke that creates tremendous disability in our society," Dr. Hornik explained.

According to a press release, Telemedicine brings health care access to rural locations by enabling practitioners to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients remotely using the latest telecommunications technology and allows patients to receive expert medical care without having to travel.

"We're seconds away from the bedside and this compensates from any traveling time,"Dr.  Hornik said. "So we're trying to compensate on the right emergent care with technology."

The Southern Illinois Telemedicine Initiative connects SIH specialists to the Memorial Hospital of Carbondale, Herrin Hospital and St. Joseph Memorial Hospital, as well as Harrisburg Medical Center and Marshall Browning Hospital in DuQuoin.

Franklin Hospital in Benton and Hamilton County Hospital in McLeansboro are also apart of the Initiative and will go live within the next two months.

According to the release, the initial work involved standing up comprehensive resources to bring advanced stroke diagnosis and treatment (teleneurology) to each of the organizations in the telehealth network, and also created structure for additional needs in a variety of specialties ranging from fetal ultrasound to behavioral health (telepsychiatry).

Harrisburg Medical Center went live with the technology in earlier this spring.

Health officials say the purpose of the program is to deliver education, diagnosis or medicine between remote locations via telecommunications in “real time.”

"This will allow patients to connect with specialists anywhere in the country really," Harrisburg Medical Center President, Rodney Smith said. "Telemedicine does not replace bedside care, but enhances the care, it allows us in rural areas to enhance that care."

Health professionals of the Southern Illinois Telemedicine Initiative say this will provide better care quicker in rural areas where in-person treatment is not always readily available.

The technology purchases were from a $488,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Additional collaborators include the SIU School of Medicine, Illinois Hospital Association, Connect SI and SIH as a system.

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