Vanderbilt University and BellSouth present remote eye screening solution to save diabetic patients from blindness

Nashville 10 July 2002BellSouth and Vanderbilt University Medical Center have celebrated the grand opening of a centre that provides a cutting-edge health care solution and expert care to people at risk of losing their eyesight due to diabetes-related complications. The comprehensive solution allows doctors in remote clinics, who may not be able to detect early signs of diabetes-induced blindness, to send images of patients' retinas to experts at the Vanderbilt Ophthalmic Imaging Center (VOIC) in Nashville, Tennessee. Highly trained medical personnel at VOIC will examine the images and determine if any abnormalities exist that could result in permanent eye damage.


"Every day in the United States, 50 people go blind from diabetes because they didn't obtain the proper care", noted Lawrence Merin, director of Vanderbilt Ophthalmic Imaging Center (VOIC). "Annual eye examinations of the retina are vital to preventing blindness in diabetes patients, but not every diabetic patient obtains this standard of care."

The BellSouth networking technology enables doctors in outlying clinics to take detailed, high-resolution images of patients' retinas and use a high-speed DSL or frame relay data connection to send the digital images directly to the VOIC. By combining imaging technologies, Vanderbilt's leading ophthalmic care and BellSouth's high-speed data solutions, diabetic patients unable to come to a major medical centre now have access to this innovative new model of health care Vanderbilt offers.

The networking solution Vanderbilt and BellSouth implemented is an effective means of providing patients in remote locations greater access to medical specialists. By leveraging the scale and coverage of BellSouth's high-speed metro data network infrastructure, remote clinics in either urban or rural areas can connect directly to the VOIC in Nashville.

Vanderbilt has already deployed the high-speed data and imaging technology in the Cayce Clinic and the Mathew Walker Comprehensive Health Center in Nashville, and has plans to expand the technology to numerous other clinics with the endorsement of the insurance industry.

On hand at the grand opening celebration were Dr. Harry Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs at Vanderbilt; Marty Dickens, president Tennessee for BellSouth; Cathy Taylor, Director of Disease Management for the Vanderbilt-Meharry Alliance; Dr. John Penn, acting chairman of the Vanderbilt Department of Ophthalmology; Dr. Denis O'Day, executive director of the American Board of Ophthalmology and former chairman of the Vanderbilt Department of Ophthalmology; and Jack McMahon, vice president and general manager for BellSouth Business in Tennessee, Kentucky, North and South Carolina.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) is a major referral centre for the Southeast and nation. It is made up of Vanderbilt University Hospital, the Vanderbilt Clinic, Vanderbilt Medical Group, Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, Vanderbilt School of Medicine, and Vanderbilt School of Nursing. The Medical Center employs more than 8000 people and generates a regional economic impact of more than $1 billion annually.

Among the unique services offered by VUMC to the community are the Burn Center, Level I Trauma Center, LifeFlight helicopter ambulance service, the Level 4 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the state's only National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the Middle Tennessee Poison Center. In addition to its activities in patient care and education of medical and nursing professionals, VUMC also is known as a research centre, with its faculty members having been awarded two Nobel Prizes for Medicine.

BellSouth Corporation is a communications services company headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, serving nearly 45 million customers in the United States and 14 other countries. Consistently recognised for customer satisfaction, BellSouth provides a full array of broadband data and e-commerce solutions to business customers, including Web hosting and other Internet services. In the residential market, BellSouth offers DSL high-speed Internet access, advanced voice features and other services. BellSouth offers long distance service for both business and consumer customers in Georgia and Louisiana.

Leslie Versweyveld

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