Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 11, 2014

Telemedicine offers access to medical experts

Lana Bellamy
The Independent

ASHLAND — High-risk-pregnancy patients in Ashland can now access fetal medicine experts from afar with King’s Daughters Medical Center’s new “telemedicine” practice.

KDMC has teamed with staff at Louisville’s Kosair Children’s Hospital to deliver consultations from KCH maternal fetal medicine specialist Kristine Lain five days a week via webcam.

Patients and their families are able to enter the patient room and convene with Lain as she talks to them one on one through a camera installed into a computer monitor.

Lain can see live scans of ultrasounds, provide education to providers and patients and answer questions from the patient or family members.

“One of the biggest advantages of telemedicine has been access, particularly for patients — access to care that they might not otherwise have had or easier access to care in a more efficient way,” Lain said.

She estimated telemedicine has engaged around 1,000 patients since it launched seven months ago.

Initially, Lain visited KDMC twice a week, but now she said on-site visits have been reduced to once a month.

Though she said not every ultrasound at KDMC will require a teleconference, about two-thirds need additional consultation.

High-risk patients who typically get telemedical advice can be separated into three main categories:

‰women with internal medical complications, or a history of medical issues, that could jeopardize the pregnancy, including chronic hypertension, asthma, seizure disorders or similar conditions;

‰women with a history of or with current obstetrical complications, such as preterm delivery, multiple gestation (having two or more fetuses) or similar issues;

‰and women with suspected fetal problems such as abnormal fetal growth, medical anomaly or malformation.

In addition to high-risk patients consulting with Lain, she also speaks with physicians and patients when there are challenges with routine imaging or ultrasounds, as is common with multiple gestation.

While the practice has not expanded to home consultations yet, Lain said she hopes technical capabilities will progress in that direction.

Lain said telemedicine was brought to KDMC because of its physical and mental benefits for patients with complicated pregnancies.

“In the end, we’ve helped a higher percentage of moms and their babies stay at home, stay in their community and be with their families,” she said, adding it also simultaneously lends access-essential subspeciality care.

Kathy Cremeans, director of KDMC’s maternal fetal medicine, said telemedicine has already proved beneficial to high-risk patients through timely specialty care, which aided in catching pregnancy issues early.

Lain said the connections used during consultations are encrypted and managed through secure servers in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The equipment was given to KDMC by KCH.

LANA BELLAMY can be reached at lbellamy@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.