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Rural Health Professions Training: Teaching Medical Students the Benefits of Telemedicine

Rural Health Professions Training: Teaching Medical Students the Benefits of Telemedicine | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

For medical students with the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, weeks of suspense will end on March 15. Otherwise known as Match Day, it’s the day the students will learn where they will go for their residency training, in their chosen medical field, after they graduate from medical school in May.

 

Sarah Joy Ring, who has completed the College of Medicine – Tucson’s Rural Health Professions Program and a 16-week Rural Health Distinction Track, is hoping for a residency focused on both pediatrics and emergency medicine, potentially in a rural location.  Her “capstone” paper, an in-depth research project that all Distinction Track students are expected to complete, carries the impressive title of “A Survey of Rural Emergency Medicine and the Discrepancy of Care for Pediatric Patients that Present to Rural Emergency Departments.”

 

During her training, she had opportunities to see how important telemedicine can be in rural communities.

 

“I was at sites that had telemedicine capabilities and spent some time chatting with the physicians about them. "I can specifically remember two experiences, one while on my family medicine rotation in Tuba City (in northern Arizona, where students learn about American Indian healthcare) and one during my RHPP summer in Flagstaff” (also in northern Arizona).

“Tuba City experiences a significant shortage of mental health providers in general, and specifically for children and adolescents," Sarah says.

“As such, they found using telemedicine helpful to connect the children of that region with services that they would otherwise struggle to receive, due to having to travel large distances to receive help, which incurs financial and time burdens for families.

“Moreover, a point that I found particularly enlightening when learning about this service, was with regard to what it means to live in a small population where it is quite likely you know most people living in the region," Sarah says.

“The physicians found that because of this, many adolescents experiencing difficulties often felt uncomfortable sharing with people who lived in the region, out of fear that they may tell someone, or that they were themselves a relative or family friend, which can be a common experience. Having someone to share with who lived out of the region and was not specifically invested in the region and an integral member of the community made many of these adolescents more comfortable with disclosing their experiences.  

“I also worked on writing about how telemedicine can be used to augment pediatric services in rural emergency departments for part of my "capstone" project and found some very positive results from multiple studies. For critically ill patients, one study found that in particular, telemedicine consults improved the access to critical care specialists, resulting in a reduced frequency of physician-related medication errors. Moreover, another study found that parent satisfaction was higher with telemedicine consults than with phone consults, which is a particularly important outcome when caring for pediatric patients and their family. Many of these same findings also translated to the pre-hospital environment, where ambulances that utilized telemedicine resulted in better assessments, more interventions in the pre-hospital environment, and improved outcomes for pediatric patients in pre-hospital care. 

“Overall," Sarah says, I think that we will continue to find that telemedicine is an excellent resource for rural providers that allows patients to have clinically significant access to additional resources and care that would otherwise be difficult or unavailable to the region."

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How Telemedicine Can Help Stroke Victims Faster 

How Telemedicine Can Help Stroke Victims Faster  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

In developed countries like the United States, stroke is still the third leading cause of death. In fact, each year stroke occurs in more than 700,000 patients, leaving many with disabilities and unable to resume a normal life.

 

When a stroke occurs, every second counts. The sooner a stroke victim is treated with medication that breaks up blood clots and restores blood flow to the brain, the less chance the patient will suffer permanent damage such as the loss of muscle control, mobility, or the ability to speak.

 

According to the American Stroke Association, ‘time lost is brain lost.’ That’s because every minute that passes before a stroke patient is treated, means the death of millions of brain cells.

 

Unfortunately, less than 30% of stroke victims receive clot-dissolving medication inside a recommended window of an hour or less for maximum effectiveness, according to information from Healthcare delivery network Kaiser Permanente.

 

But the same study reveals how telemedicine – or a telestroke system to be precise – can be a vital tool in getting stroke victims faster treatment – and thereby limiting the debilitating effects of the attack.

 

A Race Against Time

Basically, a telestroke system requires a neurologist and attending nurse to have a high-speed Internet connection and videoconferencing capabilities on a laptop, tablet or desktop computer.  The purpose is for the consulting neurologist to be able to talk to the patient or an emergency response team about what symptoms the patient is experiencing, evaluating the patient’s motor skills, viewing a computed tomography (CT) scan, making a diagnosis and prescribing treatment.

 

Data gathered from 300 stroke patients being treated in 21 Kaiser emergency rooms in Northern California shows that those who were diagnosed as having a stroke via a telehealth consultation received clot-busting medication intravenously much faster than the 60-minute guidelines from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association.

 

The Kaiser emergency rooms were equipped with telestroke carts, which included a video camera and access to patients’ electronic scans and test results. When emergency room staff contacted a staff neurologist and a radiologist via a telestroke cart, patients received anti-blood clot medicine in an average of 34 minutes. Eighty-seven percent of stroke patients received the intravenous medication in 60 minutes or less, 73% in 45 minutes or sooner and 41% in 30 minutes or less.

 

A Clear Priority

According to the American Stroke Association, American Heart Association, and the American Telemedicine Association, telestroke services could save thousands of lives each year and cut costs by $1.2 billion over the next decade.

 

The reason is because processes that used to happen sequentially during a stroke alert are now happening at the same time. That allows medical staff to provide evaluation and treatment to stroke patients more quickly, safely, and confidently, to avoid further brain damage.

 

The addition of specialized stroke services helps hospitals improve patient outcomes, decrease patient disability related to stroke, and reduce costs, while keeping patients in the community. Providing expert stroke consults remotely via telemedicine allows prompt care close to home for these patients, making a priority for health care providers nationwide.

 

If you are interested in bridging the gap of care for patients in need, whether they be in remote areas or unable to leave home, telemedicine can help provide quality care to more people in need. Contact TeleMed2U today, at (855) 446-TM2U (8628).

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Telemedicine’s Pivotal Role in Improving Mental Health

Telemedicine’s Pivotal Role in Improving Mental Health | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Living with a mental illness can be isolating and difficult. The long-standing stigma connected with mental illness, along with limited treatment accessibility, patients’ fear of the potential repercussions of family, friends, and employers finding out about their condition, have kept many individuals from seeking the support they need. Fortunately, these trends are starting to shift in a more positive direction.

 

Although some stigma and shame still surround such illnesses as depression, anxiety, OCD, and bipolar disorder, people are beginning to feel more comfortable about sharing their own strugglesand finding support from others online. Telehealth and an interconnected world are coming together to end stigma, and help people manage their mental health in a more effective way.

 

Perspectives About Behavioral Health Problems Are Improving

Technology has helped us to connect with one another in many positive ways, but this interconnectivity has been a double-edged sword for mental health. Social media and smartphones have led to a 24/7 lifestyle that can exacerbate or even create mental health issues. With that said, technology has also opened up a dialogue that is beginning to change the conversation and do away with the stigma surrounding mental illness.

 

Thanks to those who have shared their experiences online, more people are beginning to realize that mental illness is quite common. Ultimately, this change should mean that more people feel comfortable seeking treatment so they can live a healthy, more productive life.

Services Are Becoming More Accessible

Limited access to treatment has always been an obstacle for people seeking mental health services. Finding a therapist locally can be a challenge, because many mental health professionals may not accept some forms of insurance, or do not treat a patient’s needs. A 2017 Milliman report illustrated the shortage of mental health professionals nationwide, with only 8.9 psychiatrists for every 100,000 people, which leads to many people seeking treatment while waiting months to get help.

 

The American Psychiatric Association fully supports telepsychiatry, now that telehealth has shown it can improve accessibility and enable patients to get the help they need without the struggle. Patients and professionals have found that therapy sessions via video chat and other remote services are as good as “face to face” sessions. Telehealth support is also key for patients with  mental health needs; they can consult with a specialist without having to travel.

 

Telehealth is increasingly being utilized in emergency situations. Patients who are experiencing a mental health emergency can reach out to professionals 24/7 and receive remote monitoring when necessary. This helps to allow patients to maintain their independence while ensuring they have the support they need.

 

More Specialists Are Needed to Pave the Way Toward Change

Now that more people are opening up about their mental health challenges, many others are becoming inspired to take charge of their own mental health. That’s creating an unprecedented demand for behavioral health services in both traditional models and telemedicine. While this signals a positive cultural shift, the healthcare system is not prepared for this growing influx of new patients.

 

There are many mental health resources available to help people cope with common mental illnesses, but what is needed long-term is more mental health specialists. To ensure that every American has access to high-quality behavioral healthcare, we need more people to enter this growing field. According to some estimates, 70,000 mental health specialists in several disciplines will be necessary to meet demand by 2025.

 

The good news? Healthcare organizations are increasingly adapting to new trends to meet patients’ needs. Thanks to new same-day programs and mental health professionals at primary care facilities, patients can now get help in as little as 30 minutes.

 

Should You Pursue a Career in Behavioral Health?

A career in mental health is a great option for people who are committed to helping others.  While becoming a behavioral health professional takes time and extensive education, it can be a satisfying career, and specializing in telemedicine is a great way to help solve the shortage of qualified professionals.

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