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HAMC offering telemedicine for diabetes patients

January 17, 2014
Tim Chapman - Tribune Editor , Pierce County Tribune

Heart of America Medical Center is bringing the expertise of doctors less available to rural areas right to Rugby through computer monitors.

The hospital is offering telemedicine services to patients with diabetes.

"If our rural patients need to see a specialist they have to go to Minot or Fargo or Grand Forks or Bismarck," said Lisa Thorp, an HAMC nurse specializing in diabetes education. "When you have some of these older folks that's quite a trip, particularly if they want them to be seen every three months. Now it's nice because we can have this collaboration with the diabetes specialist at an experienced diabetes center, such as Altru (in Grand Forks).

Article Photos

Tim Chapman/PCT
Heart of America Medical Center nurse Lisa Thorp (diabetes education) tests out the hospital’s new telemedicine program with Marsha Waind, manager of regional services and telemedicine for Altru Health System in Grand Forks.

Thorp can mount a camera on a computer monitor and connect to a specialist in another location with video and audio. The specialist can then look at a patient's feet, which is a good indicator of one's condition.

Electronic stethoscopes and otoscopes can be plugged into the computer with a USB cable to provide the specialist on the other end with important information taken at any regular face-to-face appointment. A nurse can help set up the cyber appointment and assist the specialist in observation and information gathering.

Specialists at Altru will be working with the HAMC staff. Thorp recently spoke with Marsha Waind, manager of regional services and telemedicine for Altru, through the telemedicine software.

"It's a little different to think that you're going to see your doctor on the screen," Waind said, "but in today's world it's not terribly unusual to have very older people see their grandchildren on Skype. The older people react very well to it."

Patients will be billed like they usually are for a doctor's visit and HAMC will receive a small site fee, Thorp said.

Dr. Eric Johnson, a board certified family medicine doctor who specializes in diabetes with Altru, will work with many of the patients who seek the telemedicine service. Those not already a patient with Johnson will be asked to establish care with a provider at HAMC, who will then work in collaboration with Johnson.

"The research and treatment in diabetes have just exploded," Thorp said. "To be able to tap into those resources and just given that he's a specialist, he can give us insight into some of the newer treatments earlier. I feel like we'll get a faster response and earlier access to better care."

In 2010, 11.3 percent of Americans 20 years or older had diabetes, according to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. HAMC's service area includes 13,000 people in a 50-mile radius. Based on the national average, 1,300 or more people in the area suffer from diabetes.

 
 

 

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