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New telemedicine program will improve access at western Wisconsin hospitals

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Starting last month, inpatients needing after-hours non-emergency care at Amery, Hudson and Westfields hospitals will see a HealthPartners hospital medicine doctor via video link after hours.

Jon White, MD, a hospital medicine physician at Regions Hospital holds a video consultation with a patient at Westfields Hospital & Clinic with the assistance of Susie Wendlandt, RN, Westfields.

The new program will improve access to hospital medicine specialists during overnight hours. Ultimately, care can start sooner for patients, enabling them to remain closer to home for treatment. The night time care team will be better supported by the improved access.

The technology being used for the video consultations has been piloted at the three hospitals for more than a year to make sure the technology was reliable and easy to use.

“Patients receive the same high quality care, which can now progress faster by having a hospital medicine doctor available immediately through this technology,” said Kreegan Reierson, MD, Chief of Hospital Medicine for HealthPartners St. Croix Valley hospitals. “Our nighttime care team is better supported by this improved access to the hospitalist and we believe it will mean more patients can remain in their community for care, no matter the time of day or night.”

A hospitalist continues to be available in person at each location from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Outside those hours, the after-hours hospitalist will admit new patients and initiate care plans, order prescriptions and more remotely through the video link.

The popularity of telemedicine continues to spread rapidly across the country. It is of particular benefit to patients in more rural communities, who can access specialists without having to travel far from home. Cost-effective technology has been used to reach more remote locations across the U.S. for more than 40 years.

According to the American Telemedicine Association, more than half of all U.S. hospitals are now using some form of telemedicine. Around the world, millions of people use telemedicine to monitor their health conditions and wellbeing in the form of remote monitoring systems and wellness cell phone applications.