When officials at Terre Haute North Vigo High School asked Randy Stevens, M.D., to help with the immunization clinic, he thought out of the box. Using telemedicine equipment from the Lugar Center for Rural Health, Dr. Stevens and three colleagues were able to participate from their office.
The school, along with several nurses, hosted the clinic so that approximately 700 students received the necessary vaccinations required by the state. While other doctors were on site, Dr. Stevens and his colleagues divided up the time and worked shifts.
“Telemedicine is an interesting thing to do,” he noted. “It’s going to be at the forefront in the future. This was an innovative way to help out with the clinic and a neat use of technology.”
|Randy Stevens, M.D.
The physician sat in front of a computer camera hookup with a secure Internet line to the school.
On the other end, a student sat near similar equipment, allowing them to both see and interact with each other. A nurse held medical information up to the camera so Dr. Stevens could review it and verify the student needed the vaccinations. To his knowledge, this is the first time the technology has been used for school clinics.
“There were no real physical examinations,” he noted. “We reviewed the medical history and looked for any history of allergies, then recommended the vaccinations that needed to be given. It was a nice smooth, easy way to help the schools and students.”
Stephanie Laws, R.N., project associate with the Lugar Center, helped Dr. Stevens with the effort. The center currently uses the video diagnostic equipment to link patients in five regional hospitals to cardiology and mental health specialists outside of their communities.
“The idea of using this technology for the good of the community is very exciting,” said Laws. “Right now, we are thinking about how we can provide a more collaborative effort.”
For example, she explained if depression rates increased at a particular school, the technology could be utilized to provide a psychiatrist. Laws and
Dr. Stevens also are discussing how telemedicine can be used for occupational health physical exams.
Read more about the Lugar Center’s telemedicine efforts here.
Here is what you need to know to get started with telemedicine in your community
Telemedicine requires secure, HIPAA-compliant systems, according to Stephanie Laws, R.N., project associate with the Lugar Center in Terre Haute. Only certain teleconferencing systems provide the security you need.
If you are considering telemedicine in your community, Laws recommends these companies:
Laws also suggested partnering with local organizations, such as a hospital or clinic. If you have questions about using telemedicine equipment in your community, email or call her at (812) 238-7479.
Additionally, grants for telemedicine technologies and projects will become available this summer through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to Laws. Read more about the grants here.