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November 2008 Issue

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Group Works to Implement Telehealth Program at UC

By Amanda Harper
Published November 2008

Telehealth has rapidly moved from a research concept to reality. When most people think of telehealth or telemedicine, they conjure extreme images of surgeons operating in space or a patient talking to a video monitor.

But reality involves physicians communicating through technology applications—both simple and sophisticated—that enable them to reach further into the community to provide specialized care.

Asmall group of physicians, technologists, statisticians and business administrators have formed a committee to pool expertise and resources and help guide the formation of a consolidated telehealth initiative at UC.

“There are physicians operating independent projects across the Academic Health Center. Our goal is to bring all interested parties to the table so we can share resources and develop standards for implementing this technology in UC’s clinical practices where it makes sense,” explains committee cochair Brett Harnett, research assistant professor of surgery.

“By pulling those resources together and minimizing the time physicians waste traveling back and forth, we can maximize our efficiency so that more patients benefit from our physicians’ expertise,” he adds.

Several pilot projects are in the works: Ronald Jaekle, MD, a UC professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology and director of perinatal services at University Hospital, is leading a project to increase the mater nal fetal medicine team’s reach to women with high-risk pregnancies.

“Maternal fetal medicine represents a small group of sub-specialized doctors who normally practice at academic-based hospitals in the city. But there are patients who need those services in more rural areas as well. We need to find a way to give patients access to us without completely disrupting their lives,” he explains.

The first step will be to implement services through existing partners, such as Christ Hospital, to fine tune a workable process for delivering care remotely.

For the pilot project, Jaekle’s team will use an audiovisual connection and special computer software to provide immediate second opinions on high-risk pregnancy ultrasounds.

“The equipment we have allows us to view the ultrasound images in real time while also making twoway visual contact with the patient via streaming video,” explains Jaekle. “We can talk to the patients when they are looking at the images; in essence, it’s as if we were actually there for the ultrasound.”

Jaekle says the hope is that by creating partnerships with rural hospitals, the team can refer more of the babies that need specialized care to University Hospital.

“There is no reason the technology we’re implementing now couldn’t be translated into other practices to expand our ability to care for patients,” he adds. “It gives patients the benefit of immediate access.”

Surgery installed a video conferencing system at University independent projects across the Academic Health Center. Our goal is to bring all interested parties to the table so we can share resources and develop standards for implementing this technology in UC’s clinical practices where it makes sense,” explains committee cochair Brett Harnett, research assistant professor of surgery.

“By pulling those resources together and minimizing the time physicians waste traveling back and forth, we can maximize our efficiency so that more patients benefit from our physicians’ expertise,” he adds.

Several pilot projects are in the works:

Ronald Jaekle, MD, a UC professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology and director of perinatal services at University Hospital, is leading a project to increase the maternal fetal medicine team’s reach to women with high-risk pregnancies.

“Maternal fetal medicine represents a small group of sub-specialized doctors who normally practice at academic-based hospitals in the city. But there are patients who need those services in more rural areas as well. We need to find a way to give patients access to us without completely disrupting their lives,” he explains.

The first step will be to implement services through existing partners, such as Christ Hospital, to fine tune a workable process for delivering care remotely.

For the pilot project, Jaekle’s team will use an audiovisual connection and special computer software to provide immediate second opinions on high-risk pregnancy ultrasounds.

“The equipment we have allows us to view the ultrasound images in real time while also making twoway visual contact with the patient via streaming video,” explains Jaekle. “We can talk to the patients when they are looking at the images; in essence, it’s as if we were actually there for the ultrasound.”

Jaekle says the hope is that by creating partnerships with rural hospitals, the team can refer more of the babies that need specialized care to University Hospital.

“There is no reason the technology we’re implementing now couldn’t be translated into other practices to expand our ability to care for patients,” he adds. “It gives patients the benefit of immediate access.”

Surgery installed a video conferencing system at University Hospital that allows emergency room physicians to see and talk to the operating room team. Emergency room staff say the system allows them to watch the operative procedure on the patient they just stabilized—something they could not do before.

At Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC), the Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children is using what Robert Shapiro, MD, professor of clinical pediatrics and emergency medicine, calls “low tech, high yield” telehealth tools to provide remote child abuse consultations.

The CCHMC team is often called to provide consultation services to rural hospitals outside of the Greater Cincinnati area.

“Traveling to outlying hospitals is often time and cost prohibitive,” explains Shapiro, who serves as medical director for the Mayerson Center.

“Telemedicine allows us to provide clinical services and distance learning programs on child abuse to physicians, nurses, social workers and law enforcement personnel that will enable them to more effectively identify and document cases of abuse.”

Telehealth initiatives will continue to develop, but Harnett stresses that more can be accomplished by working collaboratively and encourages interested parties to join the consolidated telehealth steering committee or simply use the expertise of the group for assistance.

For more information, call (513) 558-3252 or visit www.webcentral.uc.edu/surgery/telehealth.


Ohio Video Telehealth Resource Center Formed
Charles Doarn, research associate professor of surgery and biomedical engineering, has been named executive director of the Ohio Video Telehealth Resource Center (TVRC), a statewide effort to determine how education can be specialized, enhanced and scaled out.

“Many institutions—including UC and Children’s—have been using video conferencing technology for the past several years to provide educational opportunities,” explains Doarn, who is also co-chair of the UC telehealth steering committee and executive director of UC’s Center for Surgical Innovation.

“Creating this resource will strengthen and build more links between higher education and Ohio health care by supporting the use of highquality video for health education and training, research and associated clinical activities,” he says.

In a statement, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland said he looks forward to the TVRC as an extension of the unique capabilities of the University System of Ohio that will contribute to the improvement health are for both Ohioans and people across the globe.

Ohio has seven medical colleges and an extensive network of teaching hospitals with internationally renowned medical expertise.


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