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Adventist Health partnership brings Telehealth to Rural Health Clinic

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Northern Inyo Healthcare District’s Rural Health Clinic plans to unveil its new telehealth partnership with Adventist Health during a special evening presentation this coming week.

Telehealth uses advanced video conferencing technology, giving local patients the opportunity to connect with Adventist Health’s medical specialists, all without having to travel for hundreds of miles.

Dr. Stacey Brown and Medical Assistant Jessica NicholsDr. Stacey Brown and Medical Assistant Jessica Nichols show the telehealth cart. Patients will be able to connect with specialty physicians from Adventist Health using this advanced video conferencing technology.  Photo by Barbara Laughon/Northern Inyo Healthcare District

The Tuesday, April 24 presentation begins at 6:30 p.m. in the hospital’s Main Lobby. A live demonstration of the service followed by a question and answer period will top off the evening. Presenters will include Dr. Kevin S. Flanigan, NIHD’s Chief Executive Officer; Dr. Stacey Brown, lead physician of the RHC; and Stephen Hoekendorf, Adventist Health’s telehealth liaison.

Specialty services offered through telehealth include Cardiology (heart), Endocrinology (diabetes, thyroid), and Rheumatology (joint and immune issues). In the future, other services will be added.

Dr. Flanigan noted that other telehealth services the District considered could only provide a limited number of specialists, all requiring different equipment. “Adventist Health not only has numerous specialists that our local patients can schedule appointments with, but they also view this care delivery model as a strong partnership and not a revenue stream,” he said.

A telehealth visit is very much like a regular face-to-face visit with a doctor, except that video technology is used to see, hear and speak with the specialist. A mobile cart houses the sizable video screen, computer, and specialty equipment; allowing the station to be moved to other exam rooms if needed. The Northern Inyo Hospital Foundation purchased the $35,000 system and cart for the healthcare district.

In addition to the patient, a telehealth coordinator (Jessica Nichols, a Medical Assistant at the RHC) is in the private exam room to introduce the patient to the specialist, assist with the examination, and operate the equipment. Specialized, state-of-the-art equipment gives the doctor the ability to conduct standard exam functions such as listening to the patient’s heart or taking an up-close look at any physical issue.

Experts acknowledge there are times when telehealth patients would be asked to physically visit the specialist with whom they are working. Advanced exams or testing would often require such trips; however, initial consultations and follow-up visits can be handled via the telehealth system, saving patients time and money.

Other benefits of telehealth include better coordinated care because the doctor and specialist can easily communicate; and, the ability to see a specialist sooner for faster treatment.