Amy Copeland, Saluda Medical Center’s director, right, demonstrates how to use the center’s new telemedicine equipment. (photo by Samantha Hurst)
Amy Copeland, Saluda Medical Center’s director, right, demonstrates how to use the center’s new telemedicine equipment. (photo by Samantha Hurst)

Telemedicine takes county healthcare to new level

Published 5:11pm Thursday, March 21, 2013

Patients walking into Saluda Medical Center soon will have access to healthcare that might otherwise cost hundreds of dollars and tanks of gas to experience.

WNC Telemedicine Consultants Incorporated, a 501 (c)(3) organization that formed two years ago, installed mobile workstations at the center and at St. Luke’s Hospital that will virtually connect patients with doctors.

“One of the things we’re proud of is that the clinic serves the uninsured and underinsured of our area,” said Saluda Medical Center (SMC) director Amy Copeland. “Specialists want several hundred dollars up front to see patients and we have residents here who can’t afford that kind of money or the gas and lengthy amounts of time off work it takes to get to those specialists in some cases.”

Now the patients won’t have to drive anywhere.

Instead, Copeland’s staff can roll out a mobile workstation that consists of two screens, an orthoscope and a camera that provide real time interaction with a doctor on the other end. A nurse at SMC can use the scope to look into someone’s ear or eyes or the camera to give the doctor an up-close look at a rash, for example.

The technology itself is flexible. The equipment was designed on an electronic lift so it can be used to assist doctors in examining a child or someone who uses a wheelchair. The system can also run on a battery backup, allowing it to be moved from room to room easily.

“This technology will cut down on the length of stay in emergency departments, cut the costs taxpayers have to pay when uninsured individuals seek costly ED treatment and the costs of transporting patients to the hospital,” said project manager Shena Mintz. “We’re trying to come up with new ways for the community to have 24/7 healthcare access.” 

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