Representatives from Clearwater and St. Mary’s Hospitals recently demonstrated the latest telemedicine technology to CEOs and physicians from five hospitals in Northern Idaho. Dr. Michael Meza and Dr. Kelly McGrath from CVHC and Dr. Andrew Gilbert from St. Mary’s Hospital joined Casey Meza, CEO, at the presentation to representatives from Kootenai Medical Center and their rural hospital partners including Shoshone Medical Center, Bonner General Hospital, Benewah Community Hospital and Boundary Community Hospital.
“St. Al’s has provided us with the expertise, the robots and the assistance to help us put our program in place and we are so appreciative, but, in reality we very rarely send a patient to Boise because of the geographical distance and our established ties to northern Idaho or Spokane,” said Casey Meza. “We would like to take what we have forged with St. Al’s and replicate that in northern Idaho where we send patients who need specialty or trauma care. If we can strengthen our ties with the specialists at Kootenai Medical Center and use their expertise it’s a more realistic situation for us and would benefit our patients and their families.”
Also included in the demonstration and presentation was Michael Ward, St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center and representatives from InTouch Health, makers of the RP-7 robot being used by CVHC and SMHC.
“Our intention is to increase the use of technology to bring medical expertise from the larger urban areas to rural hospitals,” said Dr. Meza. “You’re not going to find many specialists such as cardiologists, neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, ER specialists, etc willing to move to a small town because they need a larger population base, but our patients have the same type of issues as those found in larger cities. Our goal is to use the latest in technology to ‘bring’ the specialists here via our robots.”
Dr. Kevin Kavanaugh, a cardiologist with Heart Clinics Northwest also spoke about his relationship with SMHC/CVHC. He and his partners have regular clinic hours at both facilities, but he has begun visiting with many of his patients using the robot. “It gives him more frequent access to his patients who may need to see him more often,” said Dr. Meza
CVHC and SMHC already use Boise based psychiatrists, including a child psychiatrist to ‘see’ patients in their clinics. They also now consult with ER specialists based at St. Al’s in Boise when a complicated trauma patient enters the local emergency department. According to Meza, the remote ED specialist can assist in examining the patient, gather their vital signs, discuss with the local attending physician and aid in the decision making process.
During the presentation at Kootenai Medical Center in Coeur d’Alene the reps from CVHC/SMHC dialed in to the emergency department at Clearwater Valley Hospital to demonstrate the technology.
When a trauma or complicated cardiac patient comes in we’d like to have the technology set up so our ER doc can begin a visual consult immediately with the ED doc at Kootenai and have him or her be part of the assessment using the robot. They could advise and assist. If the decision is made to transfer the patient the doctors up north would be fully prepared for that patient on arrival. Also, consultations with additional specialists could result in a decision to retain the patient in our facility where they would be well cared locally close to family, said Dr. Meza.
Over 30 people attended the presentation including a cardiac surgeon, a neurosurgeon, a radiologist, two ED physicians, a neurologist, an infectious disease specialist, hospitalists, psychiatrists and the director of Kootenai Behavioral Health.
Following the meeting, Joe E. Morris, CEO, Kootenai Medical Center said “Most of the doctors expressed an interest to me in developing a referral relationship with both of your medical communities. The hospitalist, intensivist and ED physicians would be key physicians in facilitating referrals. The robot seems like a great tool for certain specialties for assessment and follow up and even for the hospitalist consultative coverage…The other north Idaho hospitals expressed an interest in pursing grants for robot equipment similar to yours.”
“I was glad so many smaller hospitals were able to attend and see the benefits of this technology because they are similar to our Cottonwood and Orofino facilities. We’re located in small towns, but we’re all trying to bring the best expertise possible to our patients, the true beneficiaries of these efforts,” said Dr. Gilbert. “We really appreciate the support St. Al’s provides us and their willingness to strengthen the ties between all Idaho hospitals.”