Telemedicine takes county healthcare to new levelPublished 5:11pm Thursday, March 21, 2013
Equipment and software for the project was purchased through a $155,000 grant received from the Duke Endowment Fund.
Joe Crowder, with the St. Luke’s Hospital Foundation, assisted with the grant submittal. He said the area’s topography, in particular, made telemedicine a good fit.
“Most of the people particularly in the western region, in certain times of the year, might face difficult transportation issues in getting to a hospital so it solves a problem there,” Crowder said. “By doing this, we will also be able to get services from beyond St. Luke’s, which might provide the ability for the patient to either stay in our own hospital rather than being transported.”
Crowder described a situation in which the hospital could connect with cardiologists at a regional hospital to access a patient’s condition keeping them from having to be transported unnecessarily.
Shena Mintz first got involved with the project after meeting a man named Ed Spencer through her father-in-law’s contracting business. Spencer launched a similar effort in South Carolina. She said under Spencer, a program was put into place that allowed one psychiatrist to see 50 patients in one day instead of the 25 she was seeing in a week by driving back and forth across the state to visit with them in person.
WNC Telemedicine Consultant Incorporated, was formed about two years ago with the effort in mind of connecting residents of rural Polk County with healthcare specialists.
“It will help my family and my community. I just wanted to help our community be a part of something innovative,” Shena said. “For two and a half years we’ve been talking about this and now it’s here. The great thing is we can take this as big as we want to and it can expand.”
By June 1, Shena said the project expects to have another hospital and two additional clinics on board.
A fund-raising event, “A Taste of Telemedicine,” will be held Saturday, March 23 from 5-7 p.m. at the Saluda School cafeteria. The event will include a barbecue dinner with all the fixings and will give interested parties a chance to view the telemedicine equipment and how it works first-hand.