New video technology that allows patients and physicians to communicate with each other without being in the same location was introduced to Texas County Memorial Hospital board members at their monthly meeting
Stuart Mitchell, information systems director at TCMH, displayed the telehealth service. He said the unit allowed the hospital to connect with those in the Ozarks Independent Hospital Alliance (OIHA) network, and with some special encryption configuration, facilities that that are not part of the network.
Wes Murray, chief executive officer at TCMH, said on Dec. 14 three area patients of a West Plains psychiatrist were able to have a scheduled consultation with the psychiatrist via the telehealth unit. Mitchell helped facilitate the physician visits and noted all of the patients using the unit were happy to eliminate an hour-long drive to see the psychiatrist in person.
“One patient with a child explained that they didn’t have to miss much work and their child only missed one hour of school due to using the unit at the hospital to see the physician,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell and Murray said they have seen demonstrations of special tools that work with the telehealth unit to provide specialized physician services such as dermatology or cardiology.
“The dermascope has incredible clarity and quality in providing magnified images of the skin,” Murray said.
TCMH received the telehealth unit as part of grant through the OIHA. The grant was written to help hospitals in the OIHA network interact with specialists in the network. TCMH is not limited to using the unit only in the OIHA network.
Murray said TCMH hopes to provide neurology and other specialized services for hospital patients via the telehealth unit. The unit can also be used to conduct business that doesn’t necessarily involve patient care, although TCMH will be utilizing their telehealth unit to facilitate patient and physician office visits.
Communication through the telehealth unit is conducted through encrypted channels. Telehealth visits are not recorded, but there are tools available to capture an image or other data for permanent use in the patient’s chart when needed.
“The first telehealth service we will provide is psychiatry,” Murray said. “And we will continue to grow our telehealth service to better meet the healthcare needs of the people in rural Missouri.”