Positive feedback to telemedicine in RoseauAt LifeCare Medical in Roseau, Minn., patients 4 to 94 have received services through Altru’s telemedicine network since the program launched in 2008, said Sharon Brett, a registered nurse and telemedicine coordinator at LifeCare.
By: Pamela Knudson, Grand Forks Herald
At LifeCare Medical in Roseau, Minn., patients 4 to 94 have received services through Altru’s telemedicine network since the program launched in 2008, said Sharon Brett, a registered nurse and telemedicine coordinator at LifeCare.
“It’s been awesome,” she said. “Patients have been really positive about telemedicine because they don’t have to travel and can continue to see their specialists.”
Some of her patients are “very sick,” she said, and see several doctors in cardiology, urology, infectious diseases, pulmonary medicine and, sometimes, wound care.
“I’ve never had any complaints,” said Brett, who credits her 20-year nursing experience as key to the trust she’s built with health professionals in Grand Forks.
“We have a large screen. It’s like being in the same room with the doctor. You just can’t reach out and touch them.”
Roseau is one of 15 area communities connected to Altru Health System’s telemedicine network.
Like other healthcare providers whose employers join the network, Brett took initial training in Grand Forks, engaging first with the Wound Care Clinic.
The training in Grand Forks gave her “a feel for what they’re doing, so I could do the same type of assessment on my end here,” she said.
“It’s nice to start with one specialty until you get all the kinks worked out.”
Since 2008, LifeCare has added 11 medical specialties and is considering adding cardiology and orthopedic surgery to the mix, she said.
In Roseau, there’s a high demand for dermatology services, Brett said. “That was one of the first ones we started with, after wound care.”
She expects an increase in nephrology services, since the center has opened a new dialysis unit, she said. “There’s a great need for psychiatry too, unfortunately.”
Quality of care for pediatric psychiatry patients may even be better via telemedicine, she said, because “they think they’re on TV, so maybe they would open up a little more.”
With the possible exception of psychiatry, initial visits are conducted in person with the Altru doctor in Grand Forks.
The only deficit to telemedicine, especially early on, involves equipment malfunction, she said. “But that truly doesn’t happen very often. We’ve gotten it down to a science.”
The greatest benefit of telemedicine is not having to travel, she said. “It’s an opportunity to see your specialist and stay in town.”
Traveling to Grand Forks for a medical appointment, for some patients, can mean taking a day off from work or, sometimes, patients have to spend the night if they have an early appointment.
The expensescan be prohibitive for some people, and some elderly patients can’t travel, she said.