March 13, 2009
SIU Telehealth Connects Health Care Activities Statewide
Health care providers and patients in numerous Illinois communities are now regularly connected thanks to a large video conference effort at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. SIU’s Telehealth Network and Programs, based in Springfield, links providers, including physicians, across the state for educational, clinical and administrative activities.
“Our goal is to bring the state’s health care resources to central and southern Illinois,” says Deborah Seale, executive director of SIU telehealth programs. “SIU’s interactive telecommunications network establishes a valuable, real-time visual link between the people at various locations. The network enables health care providers, educators and patients to come together, sometimes for the first time, to solve problems that they could not solve alone.”
The network also saves time and money by eliminating the need to travel for medical education. It allows physicians to keep up-to-date with current practices or consult on patient cases without taking significant time away from seeing their patients, she explains.
Computers, video cameras, monitors and related telecommunications equipment provide the audio and visual communication link between SIU and downstate hospitals and other remote locations. A video conferencing system is installed at several SIU facilities in Springfield and Carbondale and each of the 149 sites in 101 communities. The State’s Illinois Century Network provides the high-speed telecommunication lines for many of the locations.
Seale and her staff of seven, including technical and program coordinators located at SIU, organize and operate the transmission of the forty-six ongoing weekly video-conference meetings, including about 20 educational conferences. Each remote site has an individual with technical expertise and a coordinator who handles logistics.
The most popular use of SIU’s telehealth network is for continuing medical education, which allows physicians and allied health staff across the state to participate in medical lectures given at the medical school in Springfield. Known as “grand rounds,” the teaching conferences are video conferenced by the internal medicine, neurology, psychiatry and pediatrics departments. The two-way communication means those at a remote location can attend a weekly one-hour lecture and then ask questions of the speaker in Springfield.
“About 35 to 40 physicians and hospital staff at 25 sites in central and southern Illinois attend our internal medicine conferences remotely every week. It’s a good way to reach people who might not otherwise be able to participate in these conferences,” says Dr. David Steward, SIU professor and chair of internal medicine. A total of 90 physicians and staff combined attend SIU’s grand rounds talks that are teleconferenced to 58 remote sites.
Fifty hospitals in the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network use the network often to meet from a number of locations for training or to discuss important administrative issues. “Working with the rural hospitals is one of our highest priorities. Many of the programs, offered either by SIU or one of our partners, are directed to them,” says Seale.
Two-thirds of the projects using SIU Telehealth Network and Programs are sponsored by partnering organizations and the remainder by SIU. Partners include the Area Health Education Center, Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network, Illinois Division of Developmental Disabilities (IDD) in the Department of Human Services, Illinois Hospital Association and Illinois Rural Health Association.
One of the largest partnerships is with the IDD Telehealth Program which offers educational programs at more than 30 sites including other states – West Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
“We work with other health and medicine institutions including the SIU Schools of Nursing and Pharmacy in Edwardsville, and the University of Illinois Colleges of Nursing, Pharmacy and Medicine in Rockford to make that happen,” says Seale.
Clinical care for patients is the last type of telehealth activity to be developed because of various policy issues and structural limitations. One new project is a psychiatry pilot for patients which is currently being developed. New hospitals are being recruited.
More information about joining SIU’s Telehealth Network is available by calling their Springfield offices at 217-545-7830 or going online to www.siumed.edu/telehealth.
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Listed below are Illinois communities that have SIU Telehealth participants. This list includes permanent sites, not temporary installations. Click here for a detailed list that includes all the participant sites or request via email email@example.com.
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