July 3, 2014
OSU TeleHealth connecting doctors with patients in rural Oklahoma
OSU-CHS President Kayse Shrum, left, introduces the panelists Steve Casady, Dr. Duane Koehler, Dr. Pam Forducey and Jaime Pop at the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s Health Care Forum on Friday.
To ensure Oklahoma residents in rural and underserved areas have access to specialty health care services, Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences is utilizing telehealth to connect physicians across the state with patients hundreds of miles away.
Oklahoma’s telehealth resources were the focus of the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s Health Care Forum on Friday. Telehealth combines electronic information and telecommunications technologies to provide long-distance clinical health care.
“OSU Center for Health Sciences has been a leader in telehealth for nearly 20 years,” said OSU-CHS President Kayse Shrum, as she introduced the speakers at the forum. “Telehealth is a great equalizer in health care that enables us to use our physician resources more efficiently.”
Oklahoma is currently facing a shortage of physicians, particularly in rural parts of the state. Telehealth technology helps to alleviate some issues associated with the shortage by bringing health care services to these communities.
OSU TeleHealth is one of the largest systems in the state with over 90 sites in more than 60 communities. Technological innovations and the Internet connect physicians in one community to patients in another.
Panelists for the forum, titled “Telehealth Applications in Oklahoma,” included Steve Casady, director of OSU TeleHealth, Dr. Duane Koehler, assistant to the dean for rural education at OSU-CHS, Dr. Pam Forducey, director of applications at Integris Health, and Jaime Popp, telehealth nurse specialist at Integris Health.
According to the OSU Center for Rural Health, more than 400 facilities, including 67 hospitals, in Oklahoma use telehealth platforms to connect patients and physicians.
“Using these programs, patients avoid the expense of traveling to another city for treatment and physicians are able to see more patients,” said Casady. “These patients have access to health care resources that are otherwise unavailable in their hometown.”
The OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine utilizes telehealth while training medical students in the Rural Medical Track. These students, who are in rotations at hospitals and clinics across the state, can use videoconferencing technology for classes and meetings with professors and classmates in Tulsa.
“Students training in rural locations can still participate in lectures and discussions without having to travel back to Tulsa,” said Koehler. “They save travel time and expenses and can focus on their studies.”
Specialties like neurology, dermatology, psychology, psychiatry, pulmonology, cardiology and internal medicine are available through telehealth programs in Oklahoma.
The OSU Mobile TeleHealth Clinic can bring services to Oklahoma communities without requiring a fixed telehealth site.
“The mobile clinic is equipped to extend specialty care to rural towns,” said Casady. “We are also capable of setting up in areas where these services are needed.”