Mercy Hospital Using Tele-Medicine To Treat Patients

Thursday, March 5th 2015, 7:52 pm
By: News 9

Hospitals around the state are in a dire situation. That's according to the Oklahoma Hospital Association.

They say rural hospitals are being hit the hardest.

Some experts feel this futuristic strategy could help save small-town hospitals in present time.

Tucked away in Logan County, is one of Mercy Hospital's smaller facilities.

Where among idle hallways and quiet nurses stations is Ena Whitlock.

"It was very convenient it was so close," said Mercy patient Ena Whitlock.

With her health improving she's learned the value of proximity while the clock ticks for this kind of care.

"They need these small hospitals. The people need them, I needed it the other day," said Ena.

"They'll have a difficult time supporting inpatient care. They won't have the physicians, they won't have the volume of patients," said Craig Jones, Oklahoma Hospitals Association Director.

Oklahoma Hospital Association's Craig Jones said changes in Obamacare and the state's decision to not expand Medicaid have also impacted hospitals.

OHA reports hospitals in Oklahoma could lose $2.3 Billion in the next ten years.

So to keep filling inpatient needs like Ena's, Mercy Hospital is rolling-in the latest technology. It's known appropriately as "tele-hospitalist."

"Sometimes I'll forget there's a camera and there's a screen," said Dr. Ariel Lufkin, E-Physician with Mercy.

Specialists and E-physician Dr. Ariel Lufkin can observe patients like Ena via webcast from larger facilities miles away. She can even hear the patients heartbeat through a Bluetooth stethoscope.

"Just about a full gamete of any diagnostic studies that we would do I can see here," said Dr. Lufkin.

For anything hands-on, an experienced nurse facilitates between the patient and physician. Nurses also aid with first impressions,

"You know I didn't know what you were like, I didn't even know if I liked you," said Ena.

But like her health, Ena came around to the idea.

All involved agreed, "It's a tremendous resource," said Jones, and could likely be part of the cure for small town hospitals.

Mercy has plans to expand its program, while OHA is putting together a model for all small hospitals going forward.