Telemedicine technology connects North Dakota nursing homes to distant health care resources

Sioux Falls 21 November 1997 The Rural Utilities Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society and the National Institute for Long Term Care with a grant through its Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program to support a growing telemedicine network in western North Dakota. The Society selected the Californian systems integration company CyberOptions, Inc. to install its Integrated Telemedicine Workstations (ITW) into the first three sites at the long term care centres in Crosby and Noonan and at the Crosby Clinic. Other sites will soon follow. Frail elderly people in remote areas thus will benefit from the critical health care resources in distant hospitals and clinics.

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The Rural Utilities Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society and the National Institute for Long Term Care with a grant through its Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program to support a growing telemedicine network in western North Dakota. The Society selected the Californian systems integration company CyberOptions, Inc. to install its Integrated Telemedicine Workstations (ITW) into the first three sites at the long term care centres in Crosby and Noonan and at the Crosby Clinic. Other sites will soon follow. Frail elderly people in remote areas thus will benefit from the critical health care resources in distant hospitals and clinics.

The Good Samaritan Society is the largest non profit long term care organisation in the USA, operating over 230 centres in 26 states whereas the National Institute for Long Term Care concentrates its efforts on improving the quality of life for the vulnerable elderly patients. As the developer of the store-and-forward desktop workstation, CyberOptions was chosen to be their technology partner to participate in the grant. This company is collaborating with the local telephone companies to bring new, high-speed telephone lines to western North Dakota. In this way, residents from the Society's centres are provided with a valuable program of tools and management ensuring their health care through remote high quality support without having to travel for these services.

Within the next several months, most of the long term care centres in western North Dakota will dispose of an Integrated Telemedicine Workstation. The ITW basically consists of a desktop computer operating in a 32-bit Windows 95 environment combining computer technology with common medical devices such as dermscopes, slit lamps, otoscopes and so on. It is possible to create slide shows, to capture still and video images, audio clips and text information using stored patient information.

A relational database allows easy review of the patient records but protects at the same time his identity. The records are enhanced with actual images which can be manipulated by overlaying graphical and textual annotations. The ITW is able to operate in standalone systems as well as in Ethernet network environments. A roll-around option offers additional mobility. The ITW also features live video consultations between physicians, specialists and hospitals. At present, the applications include ophtalmology, ear/nose/throat, heart/lung audio, dermatology and general medicine.

In the long run, not only the residents of the Society's centres will benefit from this telemedicine network but also their families and the entire surrounding community. Via high-speed telephone lines, the rural facilities are connected to the health care providers of the patient's choice, whether local, regional, national or international, thus offering broadened economic opportunities, according to Michael Smith, CyberOptions' director of telemedicine programs. Read more about the North Dakota Telemedicine Program at the CyberOptions site.


Leslie Versweyveld

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