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Telemedicine clinic for kidney transplant screening debuts

Jul. 19, 2018, 9:18 AM

Rachel Forbes, MD, left, and Beatrice Concepcion, MD, evaluate kidney transplant patients from West Tennessee using the telemedicine assessment model. (photo by Susan Urmy)

With the opening of a pre-transplant kidney evaluation clinic in Jackson, Tennessee, the Vanderbilt Transplant Center is joining a range of other clinical programs participating in telemedicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Intent on providing better access to patients seeking evaluations, the new clinic, a first for the Transplant Center to utilize telemedicine technology, will serve as a supplemental resource and offer appointments once a month.

“We appreciate Vanderbilt bringing much-needed telemedicine services to our patients who have been referred for kidney transplants. This type of care delivery enhances access to sub-specialty care in our region and supports our mission of improving the health and well-being of the communities we serve,” said James Ross, President and CEO of West Tennessee Healthcare.

While telemedicine evaluation is a cost-efficient tool that allows patients to remain close to home, patients will continue to be offered a choice between the telemedicine clinic or being seen on campus in Nashville.

“Offering this new service for the citizens of West Tennessee fulfills our Strategic Direction to Design for Patients and Families. The Transplant Center’s addition of this clinic is an important step in our initiative to expand telemedicine services across more specialties, and advances our commitment to better meet patients’ needs where they are,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Health System Officer for VUMC.

“We will see patients who have been referred to us for kidney transplant in an effort to save them at least one trip to Vanderbilt,” said Rachel Forbes, MD, assistant professor of Surgery and surgical director of the living donor transplant program at Vanderbilt. “We are hoping this will be a valuable tool for those patients who have a distance to travel.

“I think we are rare in offering this service as a screening tool, but we have had success using telemedicine at the Veterans Affairs hospital for years for kidney transplant evaluations. Because of the positive experience and findings for both providers and patients, we felt it would be good to roll out a telemedicine clinic at Vanderbilt,” she said.

Forbes, along with Beatrice Concepcion, MD, assistant professor of Medicine, will evaluate at least four patients per month using the telemedicine assessment model.

“This option will allow patients real-time assessments without the burden of travel,” said Forbes. “We will have documents from their referring physician and information provided during the intake process. We can get a thorough history and a very good sense of any issues and determine further testing that will be required for evaluation.”

The clinic saw its first patients June 13 at the Ayers Children’s Medical Center at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital, an affiliate health care center equipped with telemedicine services.

“We are looking forward to launching this new clinic,” said Amanda Lyles, MSN, RN, outreach kidney transplant coordinator at Vanderbilt.

“The idea is to provide evaluations remotely which can free up additional clinic spots at Vanderbilt.

“This will allow us to meet the needs of many more patients. As we learn more about this process, the possibilities are limitless and could expand to additional programs and evaluations.”

Patients who are approved for further evaluation will need to come to the Vanderbilt campus for additional tests and education.

“We are so pleased Vanderbilt Telemedicine will be able to offer patients living far from the hospital the ability to be treated by some of the world’s finest specialty physicians,” said Seth Karp, MD, H. William Scott Jr. Professor and chair of the Department of Surgery and director of the Vanderbilt Transplant Center.

Karp praised the work of Forbes, Concepcion and Lyles for implementing their vision to increase access across the state.

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