Remote Access

April 24, 2018

Ashland Virtual Multi-Specialty Clinic pioneers telehealth for the UH system

UH Clinical Update - April 2018

Geography has always been a big barrier for many patients in Ohio who need health care – particularly when they need to see a specialist. University Hospitals is using telehealth to override the limitations that geography can impose.

So it’s logical that UH Samaritan Medical Center in Ashland be one of the first UH medical centers to offer outpatient specialty care from UH Cleveland Medical Center via telehealth.

Neurology was first.  Neurologist telehealth appointments in Ashland began as a pilot project in August 2016. Now, UH Samaritan has full “virtual integration” with UH Cleveland Medical Center, allowing patients in the Ashland Virtual Multi-Specialty Clinic to receive outpatient specialty care in neurology and hepatology as well as for vascular conditions.

UH physicians who have telehealth appointments with patients in Ashland include Tony Furlan, MD, Chairman of Neurology at UH Cleveland Medical Center, who specializes in stroke; Warren Selman, MD, Chairman of Neurosurgery; and Anthony Post, MD, a hepatologist. Patients also have telehealth access to vascular treatment. In May, telehealth at UH Samaritan will expand to include the specialties of gestational diabetes and a month later, maternal fetal medicine.

Before telemedicine, patients in Ashland did not have access to specialists in neurology or hepatology, unless they drove to UH Cleveland Medical Center.

The physicians hold regularly scheduled ‘clinics’ at UH Samaritan so that patient appointments are held on particular days.  Most appointments come as referrals from family practice physicians in Ashland County, who call the main scheduling department at UH Samaritan to make a telehealth appointment for their patients.

Sarah Titler, RN, assistant manager for the outpatient clinic at UH Samaritan, says surveys given to patients since 2016 show that 94 percent of those who have had telehealth appointments were pleased with their experience.

Some of them may have had initial trepidation about telehealth, but that quickly abated during the appointment, says Titler. “We are a rural area and we have an older population who we thought might be concerned about this new and different way of medicine delivery,” she says. “But the anxiety of driving to Cleveland for an appointment with a UH specialist was far greater.”

There also is no need for the patients to be technologically adept, which might have been another concern. “We bring the patients into the exam room, have them take a seat, and we take care of all the set up,” says Titler, including the 42-inch video screen on which they will talk with the physician.

As with any other doctor’s appointment, the typical pre-appointment intake is done by a clinician at the hospital, including weighing the patient, and taking their blood pressure and body temperature. That information is conveyed to the telehealth physician before the appointment begins, as are the details of what medications the patient is taking.

“We will stay with them through the appointment, especially if they are nervous,” Titler adds. The clinician who is present in the room also can check to see if they have symptoms such as jaundice or edema, among other physical signs of illness, as well as provide any physical examination that the telehealth physician advises. 

Nearly 250 telemedicine appointments have been held so far in Ashland, and UH telehealth is expanding to many other UH locations this year.

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