Telemedicine programme offers Fresno transplant patients better access to their medical team

San Francisco 13 September 2000A pilot telemedicine programme, which is initiated by California Pacific Medical Center's Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Team is the first of its kind in the United States to significantly reduce the amount of travelling for patients who live too far away from the medical centre. While the actual transplant surgery is performed at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, the addition of telemedicine and local doctor visits takes some of the hassles out of life for patients with a new organ.

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The programme, that connects Fresno-area patients to their San Francisco-based transplant team, offers "virtual visits" in which patients communicate via live television with a kidney transplant physician, social worker or nurse co-ordinator for check-ups and discussions about medication side effects, symptoms, lab work or emotional issues. Already, more than 25 patients have participated in the programme.

"With telemedicine, I can talk to my physician in San Francisco about post-transplant side effects and my overall health via the television", stated Bernice Woods, a Fresno resident who received a kidney transplant in February 2000. "I have had two telemedicine sessions and it is just like talking to a doctor in person, plus a lot more convenient than having to drive to San Francisco."

"Telemedicine enables us to always be within reach of the transplant patients, even if they are 200 miles away from the Medical Center", commented Steven Katznelson, MD, a nephrologist with California Pacific's Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Programme. "This technology, along with our monthly visits to outreach clinics in Northern California, makes it easier for patients to see their transplant team and offers the very best care and most convenience possible."

The telemedicine technology uses cameras mounted on televisions in San Francisco and Fresno and three ISDN lines connecting the two units. The system allows for an immediate transmission of crisp images and sound. Patients sit in front of the television, while a microphone connected to the camera picks up their voice and relays it to the other site instantly, so communication occurs in real time.

In addition to telemedicine, transplant team staff reaches out to patients through monthly clinics in Fresno, Modesto, Roseville and the East Bay as well as periodic visits to the South Bay, Reno, Eureka, Redding, Fairfield, Hawaii and the Pacific Rim. The telemedicine technology is not intended to replace outreach clinic visits, but rather expands patients' accessibility to their physicians and other experts.

California Pacific Medical Center's Kidney Transplant programme began in 1969 and is now one of the largest private-hospital transplant programmes nationwide. Presently, over 110 patients annually receive kidney transplants at California Pacific. The Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Programme has performed more than 2800 kidney transplants and 50 kidney-pancreas transplants since its inception.

California Pacific Medical Center is the largest private, non-profit, academic medical centre in California and a Sutter Health affiliate. The medical centre brings together exceptional patient care with medical and nursing education as well as pioneering research. In addition to primary and acute care, the Medical Center is recognised as a regional referral centre, providing access to breakthrough medicine to communities throughout Northern California.


Leslie Versweyveld

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