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Hutchinson Regional Medical Center launches telepulmonology program

Hutchinson — Hutchinson Regional Medical Center announced a new telepulmonology program that will allow the hospital to provide top quality pulmonology services to patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of local provider schedules.

Faced with a growing shortage of physicians, rural hospitals nationwide are using telemedicine to ensure consistent physician coverage. 

“We are pleased to bring the benefits of telepulmonolgy to our patients,” said Ken Johnson, chief executive officer of Hutchinson Regional Medical Center. “The team of telemedicine pulmonologists we are working with are partners who collaborate with our own doctors and provide guidance and expertise to nurses and other clinical staff.”

Hutchinson Regional already utilizes telemedicine in its stroke program, which the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association has recognized with the Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award – recognizing the hospital’s commitment to ensuring stroke patients receive the best evidence-based treatments. 

In addition, Horizons Mental Health Center has been using telemedicine to provide therapy and evaluation services for more than 15 years. Telemed is used to do screenings through the Emergency Department, for appointments at the jail, and to treat patients in remote locations.

Partnership with a telemedicine pioneer

The telepulmonology program is made possible through a partnership between Hutch Regional and Eagle Telemedicine, an Atlanta-based provider that is a pioneer in the field.

“We are delighted to welcome Hutchinson Regional Medical Center to our telemedicine program,” said Talbot “Mac” McCormick, MD, president and CEO of Eagle Telemedicine. “We have devoted more than nine years to perfecting our telemedicine models of care, and we appreciate the enthusiasm with which our program has been adopted. It’s another proof point that telemedicine fills a vital need in health care today.”

At Hutch Regional, the Eagle focus is on pulmonology and critical care. Leading the Eagle team is Dr. Jeff Sadowsky, a seasoned intensivist board-certified in Critical Care Medicine, who provides telemedicine services to hospitals across the U.S. through Eagle Telemedicine. He and other physicians in the program will work closely with HRMC clinical staff as an integral part of the healthcare team. 

High marks from patients and hospital staff

Eagle’s program receives high marks from patients and their families. Elderly patients, who can sometimes be the most resistant to new technology, usually have no problem with telemedicine, and they appreciate the focus, quick responsiveness, and uninterrupted attention from the remote physicians. Doctors and other clinical staff like it, too.

“I was one of the biggest skeptics when I first starting hearing about telemedicine,” said Dr. Sadowsky. “But I learned it can be amazing in what it can do and how it can help take care of folks. It can bring the highest level of specialized care to patients even in the most remote locations in America. And in doing so, it helps hospitals like HRMC avoid transferring patients to distant metropolitan facilities to get the care they need.”

How telemedicine works

In the new program, a rolling cart is equipped with a digital stethoscope and other diagnostic equipment, as well as a videoconferencing monitor and camera that enable physicians from remote locations to communicate directly, face to face, with patients and staff.

The cart can securely access a patient’s electronic medical record and lab results. Working behind the scenes is a cloud-based telehealth network that enables the connection between patient and physician, and a small team of telemedicine physicians specifically assigned to Hutchinson Regional Medical Center. In this way, the physicians get to know the staff at the hospital, and build the working partnership required for top-quality care.