The University of New Mexico Hospital has a telemedicine program to help reach remote patients. And the hospital has a video about its telemedicine program here:
As a physician at UNM Hospital and one of the few hepatitis specialists in New Mexico in 2002, Dr. Sanjeev Arora had become increasingly frustrated with his inability to provide care to the thousands of New Mexicans who suffer from hepatitis C.
“I could only treat 70-90 hepatitis C patients per year in my clinic and there were more than 30,000 people with the disease in the state,” he said, adding that there was a six-month waiting list for patients to see him. And these were the lucky patients the ones who lived near Albuquerque or could afford the luxury of traveling to see a specialist on a monthly basis for the year-long treatment.
Treating hepatitis C is a complicated process; it takes many years to develop this special expertise and very few physicians in New Mexico have it. In rural and medically underserved areas, proximity to specialists, a limited number of specialty providers and inadequate medical insurance severely limit a patient’s ability to seek specialty care. This meant that thousands of rural patients across the state who did not have access to a specialist or the means to gain access would largely go untreated.
To Arora, this was unacceptable. “I asked myself if there was something I could do to make a difference,” he said. The answer he came up with was simple: A significant change in the way we treat common, chronic, complex diseases was needed.
How Project ECHO Works
In the case of a rural patient who was just diagnosed with Hep C, first the patient’s PCP would present that patient’s information during Project ECHO’s Hep C clinic. The patient themselves are not presented to the specialist. This would be done using video conferencing equipment or the telephone. Based on many factors of the patient, such as; alcohol usage, weight, smoking, and other health issues the provider is given a plan for the patient. These plans range from starting Hep C treatment to waiting for other complicating issues to get resolved (6 months of sobriety, weight loss, etc.). Once cleared the patient can start treatment, the provider follows the Hep C treatment protocol and presents the patient’s treatment status at important mile stones or when a health related issue may impede treatment. The specialist then may change the treatment plan to maximize the patient’s chance of cure.
Project ECHO is continually looking for rural providers (MDs, PAs, and NPs) throughout New Mexico to participate in any of its telehealth clinics on various medical matters.
And for video of a major telemedicine intiative in Ontario, see this story.
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