Center for Telehealth links Southwestern Vermont Patients to D-H
What we’re learning so far from our telemedicine patients in Bennington is that probably 80 percent of them can be seen in this way (via telemedicine) to manage their disease.Daniel Albert, MD
“The doctor will see you now” has a whole new meaning in Bennington, VT. Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC) is now offering a high-tech telemedicine program that allows patients to be seen by Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H) specialists without having to drive two hours to Lebanon, NH.
Thanks to a partnership with the D-H Center for Telehealth, several SVMC rheumatology patients are now receiving care via telemedicine, using real-time video for their medical appointments. During the inaugural round of virtual appointments in late June, D-H rheumatologist Daniel Albert, MD, had video consults with more than a dozen SVMC patients.
For patients whose conditions are more complex, Albert makes twice-monthly visits to SVMC to see patients in person. He is scheduled to see patients at SVMC on July 7 and then will be conducting telemedicine consults from Lebanon on July 8. “I think this hybrid model of me going to Bennington intermittently and doing telemedicine intermittently is absolutely the right model,” says Albert.
As they do for any medical appointment, patients arrive at SVMC and are shown to an examination room. Using a special medical cart equipped with a camera and a video screen, a SVMC staff member then connects the patient to Albert at D-H in Lebanon. He examines patients with the assistance of a nurse, who uses high-tech diagnostic devices to scan certain areas on the patient. Albert is then able to review the video images live on his computer.
“What we’re learning so far from our telemedicine patients in Bennington is that probably 80 percent of them can be seen in this way to manage their disease,” says Albert. “During their telemedicine visits, some patients will get labs, some will get X-rays, and some patients will be prescribed meds. It runs the gamut of what we do in person. Exactly the same options are available to them as a telemedicine patient as an in-person patient.”
The partnership with Albert and the D-H Center for Telehealth arose, in part, because of the retirement of Dr. Brian Cunningham earlier in 2014 and the difficulty in recruiting a rheumatologist to a rural area, says Dr. Trey Dobson, SVMC’s chief medical officer.
“We have a significant population needing these services,” says Dobson, “and our goal is to provide patients access to Dartmouth-Hitchcock experts here locally. Telemedicine and our close relationship with the D-H Center for Telehealth enable us to do that. Now patients who were faced with traveling out-of-state for care can stay local and receive the high-level of care they’ve always gotten at SVMC.”
“We’re thrilled to partner with SVMC and to be a part of the excellent care they provide in the region,” says Sarah Pletcher, MD, the director of the D-H Center for Telehealth. “As patients around the country are discovering, telemedicine is a convenient and cost-effective way for them to connect with specialists.”
“We’re excited about exploring future telemedicine initiatives with the D-H Center for Telehealth,” Dobson adds. “This is just a small step in an initiative with significant potential to provide the community with needed services.”