Telemedicine: Healthcare closer to home
Technology lets rural patients save on travel to remote care sites
The problem is familiar for people in our region: You need treatment for a complex health problem, but getting to care is expensive and many miles away.
For our neighbors in remote communities, options for care can be limited and frustrating.
Within our 31-county service area, 49% of the population resides in rural-designated counties. Over 60% of the population has one or more chronic health conditions, and 16.9% are age 65 years or older.
These conditions create barriers to care and hinder early detection and treatment for chronic diseases.
“Telemedicine expands our ability to meet with patients and help them make decisions about their healthcare—even when doctor and patient aren’t in the same room.”
--A. George Neubert, MD, Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist, Geisinger Wyoming Valley
Geisinger is there
Using technology to bring care closer
Our Telemedicine program dramatically improves access to care in our region. Using two-way video, our hospital physicians and specialists provide expert advice to our outreach clinics and other providers when patients are too ill to be moved, live in remote communities or who need more clinical consultation.
We started our telemedicine program in 1996 with remote echocardiogram readings. In 2012, Geisinger provided over 50,000 Telemedicine encounters across 12 health services for 18 Geisinger clinic sites and 23 non-Geisinger health care organizations.
Within the Geisinger Wyoming Valley service area, telemedicine is already improving patient access to specialty care, including:
- Safeguarding high-risk pregnancies: Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialty Services (high-risk pregnancy) telemedicine at Geisinger Tunkhannock Community Practice Clinic offers patients advanced access to OB/GYN specialists, nurse practitioners, physicians, advanced practitioners and genetic counselors using audio/visual connectivity. Services include genetic counseling, patient education, consultations and chronic disease management.
- Fighting sleep disorders: At the Tunkhannock, Mt. Pocono and Lake Scranton Community Practice Clinics, our VirtualSleep telemedicine program enables patients to be evaluated for over 80 different sleep disorders.
- Helping emergency departments minimize stroke damage: During a stroke, every moment counts. For better stroke outcomes at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center, our telemedicine program helps the emergency department reduce diagnoses times and create faster treatment plans.
Who benefits from Telemedicine?
- Get timelier and easier access to specialty care
- Receive earlier diagnosis and health plan decisions
- Save money in reduced travel costs to larger city hospitals
- Can access care near home for family support
- Gain quicker access to specialists for improved clinical decision-making
- Reduce unnecessary transfers
- Increase quality and efficiency
- Provide a broader level of care to the local community
- Enhance clinical staff training and education
- Reduce costs associated through earlier diagnosis and detection
- Limits high cost transfers to emergency hospital care
- Patients feel less stress and better about their care overall
Removing boundaries to access
We support the FCC Rural Health Care Pilot Program to provide broadband Internet access to rural hospitals, as well as the Keystone Health Information Exchange (KeyHIE™) to provide access to electronic health information systems and improve healthcare coordination.
Improving primary care with eVisit
We’re exploring ways to make it easier to see your family doctor and avoid trips to the emergency room. “eVisits” would enable online access to a primary care provider for a variety of non-emergency conditions for both children and adults. We’re in the testing phase for eVisit now, so stay tuned for updates!