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Teleneurology services coming to Williamson Medical Center

Oct. 24, 2013, 10:04 AM

Neurologists at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and patient care teams 18 miles away at Williamson Medical Center (WMC) will take advantage of network technology to provide remote neurological patient examinations on an urgent basis.

During weekdays from the Vanderbilt campus or from off-site clinics, and on nights and weekends from their homes, eight faculty neurologists in a weekly rotation will provide around-the-clock coverage for patients at WMC needing urgent neurology consultations.

To facilitate remote patient exams at a moment’s notice, Vanderbilt neurologists and their WMC team members will carry iPads equipped with video-conferencing software.

Neurologists will also use special software for viewing high-definition medical images over the Internet, such as X-rays, MRI and CT scans. And they’ll use Vanderbilt’s secure Provider Communication Wizard to send their electronic consultation notes to WMC (meanwhile, a project is under way to support more direct sharing of electronic medical records between VUMC, WMC and other facilities in the Vanderbilt Health Affiliate Network).

“There is a national shortage of neurologists,” said Starling Evins, M.D., WMC chief medical officer. “We have worked toward hospital coverage in neurology here at Williamson Medical Center and have been stymied by this manpower issue. We have been and continue to be grateful for the coverage we have had by Oscar Mendez, M.D., Paul Buechel, M.D., and Rejane Lisboa, M.D., but they have been overworked and we have had large gaps in the coverage schedule. This is what led us to look into teleneurology, and we are excited to close the gaps in coverage with this new relationship with the teleneurology program at Vanderbilt.

“This, along with two new neurologists in the community, Hamilton Peters, M.D., and Charles Clarke, M.D., means we are going to be able to provide stroke coverage here and even pursue becoming a stroke care center in the future,” Evins said.

According to David Charles, M.D., chief medical officer of the Neuroscience Institute and medical director for VUMC Telemedicine, the new contract for teleneurology services signals the beginning of a more prominent role for telemedicine at Vanderbilt.

“For any hospitals and outpatient facilities that may find it helpful, our plans are to offer innovative telemedicine services more broadly for both urgent and routine patients,” Charles said, adding that some of the Vanderbilt specialties soon likely launching or expanding telemedicine services include Neonatal Audiology (which already provides telemedicine), Endocrinology, Cardiology and Genetic Counseling.

Charles noted that for scheduled, non-urgent telemedicine, the tools typically include large-panel Web monitors supporting the richest possible communication between specialists, patients and care teams.

“In clinics and other scheduled patient care settings, you’re trying to create an experience for the patient that is as close as possible to being with a physician,” he said.

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