GOWANDA - Wouldn't it be nice to visit the doctor without having to travel to the office? Some members in Gowanda have this luxury.
Residents at the Gowanda Rehabilitation and Nursing Center on Miller Street have access to telemedicine care which was presented during an open house Wednesday. Residents can see medical doctors without having to leave the facility. Doctors are available through video conferencing. By using this technology, patients do not need to be transferred by ambulance which can be costly.
Gowanda started using this technology in 2010. Home Administrator Peter Fadeley said the center learned about the technology in a long-term care magazine and the home invested in technology to start testing the program. As a result of this program, the facility can take in residents who were released from the hospital sooner. Even for patients who require more health care, the hospitalization rate was decreasing.
OBSERVER Photo by Samantha McDonnell
Dr. Kent Chevli demonstrates the telemedicine technology as he talks to those in attendance in Gowanda from his office in Cheektowaga.
"This showed the program can work," Fadeley said.
The telemedicine program allows doctors from outside of the area to check in with patients who are unable to leave or patients who just want the convenience of seeing a doctor in-house.
Any doctor has access to the records of the patients as well as all tests that are prescribed. The facility does tests in-house such as bloodwork, X-rays and bladder scans.
Those attending the open house were able to tour the space in which telemedicine conferences take place. For those waiting for doctor appointments, a waiting room is available. In addition to the telemedicine room, there is a separate room for psychologist and psychiatrist visits with patients. Dr. Joanne Shea teleconferences from downstate New York in Long Island to residents two days a week. Her current schedule includes Wednesday and Friday afternoons. Shea, who was teleconferencing during the open house, said after talking with residents she forgets that she is not physically there.
"It does not feel like I'm on a computer," she said.
Shea felt that telemedicine was beneficial due to the distance. Residents feel more at ease confiding to Shea since she is a separate party, she said.
Dr. Kent Chevli, a urologist from Cheektowaga visits with patients once a week. Chevli was also available during the open house to demonstrate how telemedicine works.
"With this (telemedicine), if a patient needs to see a urologist, I'm on (telemedicine) on Thursdays," Chevli said. "I can diagnose 90 percent of patients."
Chevli said patients have a longer wait time before an appointment without telemedicine for specialized doctors. With this technology, the longest a resident would have to wait to see Chevli is approximately a week.
Cardiologist Dr. Robert Gatewood also uses telemedicine to communicate on a regular basis with patients so they do not have to travel to his office located in Williamsville. To aid him in seeing patients, Gatewood uses an electronic stethoscope, allowing him to hear the lungs and heartbeats of his patients.
"(Telemedicine) is the wave of the future," he said.
Each telemedicine room is equipped with a computer with a webcam. The doctor has the capability of changing camera angles and zooming in to see a patient's eyes for example. The space where Shea conferences can also double as a conference room for family that does not live in the area. If relatives would like to speak with a resident, they can schedule appointments online as long as they have Internet access and a webcam.
Currently, the telemedicine program works with doctors in 10 different specialties areas but Fadeley hopes to expand the areas of medicine. The program is currently working on an emergency telemedicine program in conjunction with Mercy Hospital in Buffalo. Fadeley would also like to expand the program to community residents in an outpatient setting.
Attending the open house were many governmental officials including Sen. Catharine Young, Cattaraugus County Legislators Paula Stockman and Richard Klancer, Gowanda Mayor Heather McKeever and Gowanda Board Member Carol Sheibley.
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