New Technology Connects Hospitals Miles Apart

By KBJR News 1

June 29, 2012 Updated Jun 29, 2012 at 8:33 PM CDT

Aurora, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - New technology at an Iron Range hospital is allowing patients in Aurora to see doctors in Duluth without ever having to leave their bedside.

The Telemedicine program allows healtchare providers at Essentia Health-Northern Pines in Aurora to communicate with doctors at Essentia Health- St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth via a camera and monitor system.

"The patients can see them as well as we can and talk to them," said Dr. Michelle Oman, "We also have some equipment that connects so if we're listening to a heart they can listen with us because we have a special stethoscope that does that."

Telemedicine is a pilot program at Northern Pines that started in January. Healthcare providers hope that it will better patient care in rural communities.

"We're like an extra eye in helping during the acute phase of the patient's care and then also we're able to help get the patient to the right person once we know they're going to be transferred [to Duluth]," said Dr. David Pipho.

The most help might come in staffing. Dr. Michelle Oman says it's hard to find physicians to work in rural hospitals.

"There were only two physicians in the community and to staff 24–7 with two providers is unmanageable," she said.

Now, with the click of a button, the problem is lessened.

"I call it the third eye in the sky. That's kind of my nickname for it," said Northern Pines nurse practitioner, Jason Lenz.

Essentia Health's Dr. Michelle Oman says the technology is also helpful because doctors in Duluth are already familiar with a patient in the event that they have to be transferred to Duluth.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.