MONTICELLO — One of the few positives to emerge from the COVID-19 health emergency is an increased use and knowledge of remote technology.
People have learned to work from home, conduct meetings and stay in touch with family and friends. They also use it to stay on top of their personal health.
Thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Indiana University Health Foundation, IU Health White Memorial Hospital now provides improved telehealth services.
IU Health White used the funds to purchase two telehealth — or telemedicine — carts, systems that integrate cameras, displays and network access to bring remote physicians right to the side of the patient.
Last month, IU Health hospitals across the state received more than $600,000 in grants from the foundation for projects focused on making Indiana one of the nation’s healthiest states. The grant dollars supported the foundation’s funding priorities of people, progress and partnerships.
“The funding from the IU Health Foundation to purchase the most up-to-date telehealth carts has allowed us to continue our journey in providing the very best care for our community,” said Mary Minier, president of IU Health White Memorial Hospital.
Telehealth is the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public imaging, streaming media, and terrestrial and wireless communications.
Telehealth is used widely throughout the IU Health system as the standard of practice to provide care for patients at all times, regardless of location – or a global pandemic.
“We are able to increase our support services for our patients by adding increased care in specialties like cardiology, neurology, hospitalist coverage, surgery, GI and hospice care just to name a few, thanks to telehealth,” said Renea Smith, chief nursing officer for IU Health White Memorial Hospital.
Smith said rural hospitals and their patients have extra challenges to accessing specialty services at a distant site. With telehealth capabilities, patients have access to specialists within IU Health White Memorial Hospital versus having to transfer to another facility to receive specialty care.
Via telehealth, a physician is able to consult with cardiology or neurology, for example, about a potential heat attack or a stroke, Smith said. It allows an assessment that is inclusive of a full patient exam comprehensive of heart, lung and abdominal sounds, neuro exams and imaging that the physician on both ends can hear, see and discuss together live, with the patient all in the same room at the same time.
“Telehealth enables patients to receive care in their community, avoiding transfers and long travel times,” Smith said. “With the shortage of some medical specialties in rural communities, telehealth can play an important role in ensuring patients have access to the care they need close to home.”
IU Health officials said telehealth provides opportunities to make health care more efficient, better coordinated and closer to home. The goals of telehealth include the following:
• Make healthcare accessible to people who live in rural or isolated communities.
• Make services more readily available or convenient for people with limited mobility, time or transportation options.
• Provide access to medical specialists.
• Improve communication and coordination of care among members of a healthcare team and a patient.
• Provide support for self-management of healthcare.
“To date, we have been able to add nocturnist coverage which now allows 24/7 coverage and support for our patients, successful neurology consults as well as palliative care consult all with great success and ability to further support our patients needs within our own four walls, avoiding unnecessary transfers,” Smith said. “We have also used telehealth to support virtual psyche needs for our patients with great success.”