Rural Health Care
Telemedicine is a health care delivery model that applies high-speed telecommunications systems, computer technology and specialized medical cameras to examine, diagnose, treat and educate patients from a distance. For example, through a telemedicine encounter, a patient in far southwestern Bainbridge, Georgia may seek medical treatment from one of Georgia’s leading specialty hospitals without spending the time and money required to travel for an in-person appointment.
The driving force behind the development of the telemedicine network was to enable every patient throughout the state to have access to the type of specialty care previously available only in the larger population centers. The program promises to:
- Increase access to specialty care throughout Georgia
- Improve timeliness of diagnosis and treatment.
- Improve the quality of care for rural patients.
When fully realized, the telemedicine network will consist of over 30 Presentation Sites located in rural hospitals or hospital-associated clinics connected to academic medical centers or related tertiary care facilities. The goal is to enable patients anywhere in Georgia to have access to specialty care within a 30-minute drive or less.
Specialty care sites have been established at:
- University Medical Center in Atlanta
- Medical College of Georgia in Augusta
- Mercer University Medical Center in Macon
- Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta
While the application of telemedicine varies based on the specialty consult needed, the sites will be equipped to offer two methods:
The network will provide an open web of access points established throughout the state, connecting rural areas, where barriers to specialty care typically exist, with advanced tertiary care centers in the larger cities. Once developed, the open access network will offer unprecedented access to specialty care:
- Live Video (Simultaneous) Consult: Connects the patient, primary care provider and specialist at the same time via video conferencing equipment to discuss the patient’s condition.
- Store and Forward (Asynchronous) Consult: Uses software to store and encrypt the pertinent medical data and images. The secured data is then transmitted electronically to the specialist for review and consult.
- It will connect each presentation site directly to any one of five specialty centers for diagnosis, consultations and reviews, dramatically enhancing access to specialty care for the rural patient.
- It will enable presentation sites to connect to each other — PCP to PCP — for peer review, collaboration and educational opportunities.
- It will enable the addition of new locations as the need or opportunity arises