Telemedicine Connects Veterans to Critical Medical Care
Patients of the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) who live far away have better options when it comes to medical care thanks to a new telemedicine program being used in its Anesthesiology Pre-Operative Evaluation Clinic (POEC).
“Telemedicine is an invaluable tool in health care. Where distance and travel are critical, telemedicine plays a big role in delivering effective health care services to our Veterans, utilizing modern technology and communications,” said Prasad Atluri, M.D., Anesthesiology Service Line executive and professor of Anesthesiology at Baylor College of Medicine.
Telemedicine is the ability to provide interactive health care using modern, video technology. It allows patients to visit with their health care providers and receive immediate care.
Using a special computer connected to a large monitor, a high definition camera, a microphone, and headphones, Anesthesiology POEC staff members are able to perform pre-surgery exams from Houston while the patient is comfortably located in an exam room at a remote outpatient clinic.
“We want to make sure patients are appropriately evaluated and prepared for surgery,” said Sandi-McBean, R.N. “With anesthesia, the most important things we check for are the heart, lungs, and airway. In a telemedicine visit, we listen to their heart and lungs through headphones. With the help of a nurse, we are able to check the patient’s airway by focusing the camera inside their mouth.”
Decreasing the patient’s commute usually reduces the patient’s stress tremendously.
“For many patients, telemedicine saves the patient the time and aggravation driving into Houston from outlying areas,” said Belinda Hadnot, PEOC Program specialist. “For out-of-state patients, this saves significant time and money previously spent on air fare and lodging.”
Telemedicine visits at the Anesthesiology PEOC started this past July at the Beaumont VA Outpatient Clinic, but plans are in the works to have it available at all seven Houston-area VA clinics. The decision to fund this project was made because of the myriad of benefits the telemedicine program provides.
The POEC assists patients with pre-operative work-up prior to being admitted to the hospital. This helps patients prepare for a safe surgery process so patients can quickly return to normal activities of daily living and family.
“Telemedicine allows health care providers more time to spend on continuity of care,” said South Central VA Healthcare Network Director George “Buzz” Gray at a recent MEDVAMC Town Hall Meeting. “It decreases parking headaches and waiting times. Care delayed is not the type of care that we want to provide.”
Patients have noticed the difference.
“Telemedicine has made getting health care easier for me,” said Marine Corps Veteran Ronald Broussard, who recently took part in a telemedicine visit. “The service I received today was great; I would do it again.”
Members of the POEC staff say the time saved by conducting telemedicine visits has proved invaluable in continuing to make the VA the health care provider of choice.
“The telemedicine visit today probably saved Mr. Broussard hours,” said Leslie Yarmush, M.D., Anesthesiology POEC director. “It saved him the time stress of driving and then finding a place to park. He is the 23rd patient we have conducted a telemedicine visit with. So far, all of the patients absolutely love it.”