Telemedicine, now that is a word that either sounds from the future, or a phone call you get right when you sit down for dinner. At Emory though, telemedicine and organ transplantation are two medical innovations that work symbiotically to improve access to health care, patient outcomes, and the overall well-being for our Emory transplant patients.
Beyond providing consistent care at Emory’s Transplant Center, it is imperative that transplant patients have adequate follow-up care for a successful post-transplant recovery. Transplant patient, Ken Sutha, winner of multiple medals at the National Kidney Foundation’s U.S. Transplant Games, is living proof of the importance of follow-up care. Via telemedicine, Emory physicians stay in contact and provide guidance in keeping transplant patients like him healthy.
Patients at Emory come from all over our large state of Georgia, including many from rural areas with limited access to appropriate health care. Today, after transplant patients are discharged from the hospital following surgery, they have the option to get their laboratory test and clinic visits done virtually over a telehealth network. This allows us to serve our transplant patients, and especially those outside of Atlanta with convenient and effective follow-up care.
Emory started its transplant telehealth program in January 2009 in an effort to increase access to health care throughout the state and in the past three years, it has seen substantial growth. Kevin Clark, Emory’s transplant department business manager, said the program is on track to have nearly 100 encounters with patients this year.
“We looked at 41 patients over the past couple of years to get an idea of true benefit and what we found was that these patients actually saved about 9,400 miles of drive time,” Clark said. With 33 patient presentation sites around the state of Georgia, transplants patients from Florida are also making use of the telehealth network. Ocala, Florida, resident Frank Brickey traveled to Tifton, Georgia, regularly for evaluations with his Emory transplant physicians following a kidney transplant in October 2008. Rather than making the six-hour drive to Atlanta for each visit and staying overnight, he only had to drive three and half hours and could make it a day visit.
“There is no waiting time, you just went right in and they take your vitals and you sit down in front of the teleprompter on the screen and communicate with the doctor face-to-face,” Brickey said. “It is very beneficial in that they know about you and it’s neat to have that contact with them. It is very reassuring.”
Brickey and other patients have said the staffs at telehealth sites are professional, easy to work with,and relatable, making this post surgery option an easy and steadfast choice. Being able to stay in contact with the physicians who actually performed their transplant procedure proved to be a huge benefit when complications arose, or just for the
peace of mind of communicating with the doctor who knows the patient best.
“I would definitely encourage anyone that has had a transplant at Emory or anywhere else that they stay close to the team that worked on them, with their physician and with their coordinators,” Brickey said.
Since Emory started its telehealth initiative, the program has seen substantial growth, a true tribute to not only the system, but the doctors, nurses, technicians, and patients, all who collaborate together to make telehealth not only successful, but revolutionary, for the post-transplant care.
To learn more about the Emory Transplant Center, visit: http://www.emoryhealthcare.org/transplant-center/index.html target=”_blank”