In November 1991, Dodge County Hospital, situated in the rural town of Eastman, Georgia, became the pilot site for an interactive patient examination system which was developed to eliminate distance in the provision of health care. Since then, the network has enabled hospital staff to offer definitive care to about 85 percent of patients with more complex problems without them having to leave their own familiar doctor or community hospital. Georgia's pioneering telemedicine program resides under the responsibilities of the Medical College of Georgia Telemedicine Centre in Augusta.
Dodge County is a rural 92-bed hospital in a community largely consisting of elderly people who are reluctant to travel long distances for medical tests and consults. For this kind of patients, the benefits of a telemedicine network are very realistic, according to emergency department manager, Barbara Bivins, coordinator of the project. Moreover, the program even generates supplementary revenue for the hospital since physicians in Augusta have a possibility to order scans being taken in the local Eastman health care facility which has an average census of 40 to 50 patients and about twenty doctors in practice.
Dr. James Tison, internist at Dodge County, is using the telemedical system about once a week, particularly with regard to cardiac or endocrine problems, electrolyte imbalances and sometimes dermatological and rheumatological complications. The local physicians especially appreciate the user friendliness of the interactive telemedical consult, allowing doctors to talk to each other and the patient or his family by means of the network. Patients in turn, feel reassured to get more than one opinion during the telemedical conference.
Over the years, nurse Bivins has arranged countless demonstrations and consultations with the long-distance patient examination system to prove that telemedicine is much more than just a teleconference. By actually seeing and experiencing what the network is capable of, people gain a lively interest in the telemedical concept. Patients in the larger hospitals as well as chronically ill, homebound people will benefit in great amount from the future expansion of its implementations. The Dodge County Hospital staff hopes that one day, both traumas and medical emergencies, which are impossible to schedule, might be dealt with in this way. Read more sparkling stories about the further initiatives of the Medical College of Georgia at their Telemedicine Centre site.