Four benefits of telemedicine

Over the years, telemedicine has grown rapidly because it offers four fundamental benefits for patients, physicians and health care systems

Telemedicine is the use of technology by physicians and other health care providers to consult about a patient’s medical care across a distance. According to the American Telemedicine Association, telemedicine has been used by health care systems and hospitals for more than 40 years.

Over the years, telemedicine has grown rapidly because it offers four fundamental benefits for patients, physicians and health care systems:

  1. Improved access. Patients in distant locations have access to improved health care services, and physicians and health facilities are able to extend their reach.
  2. Cost and efficiency. Telemedicine has been shown to reduce the cost of health care and increase efficiency. Better management of chronic diseases, shared medical professional staffing, reduced travel times and fewer or shorter hospital stays benefit the patient and the hospital system.
  3. Improved quality. Studies have shown that the quality of care provided through telemedicine is as good as services provided during an in-person consultation.
  4. Patient demand. As patients are learning more about the benefits of telemedicine, they are turning to it more frequently as a reliable source of medical care. Telemedicine technologies reduce travel times, thus reducing related stress for the patient. Additionally, patients have access to services and physicians that may have otherwise been unavailable.

Norton RuralMed expands

Norton Healthcare received a $241,951 distance learning and telemedicine grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand its Norton Rural Medicine Initiative (RuralMed) from three rural, community-based hospitals to six. In addition, RuralMed received $121,175 in matching funds from the Norton Healthcare Foundation. Since 2012, Norton Healthcare has received more than $700,000 in local and federal grants to support the program.

“Norton RuralMed provides access to specialty care not available in these rural communities, done in an efficient manner that cuts down on travel time for our physicians and reduces unnecessary patient transfers,” said Jennifer Murley, director, health care informatics.

Norton Healthcare’s telemedicine affiliate hospitals are:

  • Breckinridge Health, Hardinsburg, Kentucky
  • Carroll County Memorial Hospital, Carrollton, Kentucky
  • Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center, Leitchfield, Kentucky
  • Westlake Regional Hospital, Columbia, Kentucky
  • Harrison County Hospital, Corydon, Indiana
  • Scott Memorial Hospital, Scottsburg, Indiana

Access to physicians with specialties in pulmonology, cardiology, neurology, infectious diseases and critical care, as well as patient navigation assistance and health education, are available through RuralMed. Other services, such as oncology, will be added as needed. Clinical providers in these outlying areas also will be able to access professional education support via RuralMed.

Telemedicine consultations are performed with a video camera and monitor to connect a patient with a specialist, employing equipment such as digital stethoscopes, vital signs monitors, general examination cameras and otoscopes. The system has the capacity for up to 12 simultaneous connections. A clinician at the patient’s home hospital serves as the specialist’s hands in using the telemedicine equipment.

For more information, email Murley at jennifer.murley@nortonhealthcare.org. To request a telemedicine consultation, call (888) 4-U-NORTON/(888) 486-6786.


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