St. Mary’s and Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics continue to expand the number and types of specialist services available through their telemedicine program. Dr. Benjamin Yokel, a dermatologist based in Virginia, Minnesota, will be providing dermatology services via the RP-7 robot at both SMH’s Cottonwood clinic and CVH’s Orofino clinic.
Dr. Yokel received his MD degree from Johns Hopkins University where he also completed his dermatology residency in 1992. He has served as a dermatologist for the past 19 years.
“There is no single reason I decided to become a dermatologist. Partly, it was the result of my own exposure to dermatology over the years and partly because I enjoy the varied nature of the specialty and the opportunity to treat patients of all ages and backgrounds,” said Dr. Yokel. “I find the practice to be intellectually stimulating. It is especially rewarding when I can help solve complicated medical problems with a simple skin exam or procedure.”
Dr. Yokel currently practices at the Duluth Clinic – Virginia, a new four story, 82,000 square foot clinic adjacent to the Virginia Regional Medical Center, a member hospital of the Essentia Health System. Both SMHC and CVHC are members of Essentia, based in Duluth, Minnesota.
“Our goal is to provide as many services locally, as possible, which sometimes means using specialists from larger cities who are interested in sharing their expertise through technology,” said Curtis Fryer, SMH/CVH Telemedicine Director. “Essentia was approached about helping us locate a dermatologist because enough of our patients need a dermatology consult. The new service will be more convenient for patients. They can see a specialist close to their home.”
Dr. Yokel visited the area earlier in the year and ‘saw’ three volunteer patients. Although he was in an adjoining exam room, the robot and the newly purchased zoom camera were used to test the system. He then also examined the patients in person. “It was actually easier to do the exam using the camera because I could zoom in and out to better view the affected area,” said Dr. Yokel. “Because dermatology is such a visual specialty, it is well suited for telemedicine. It is the most effective and efficient way to evaluate patients living in rural areas far from the closest specialists.”
Due to the two hour time difference, Dr. Yokel will see most Idaho patients in the afternoon after he has seen his Minnesota patients. Referrals to him can be made through a patient’s primary care provider. Char Arnzen, RN, is trained to use the robot and the store and forward zoom camera during the patient consult.
In addition to dermatology, both CVHC and SMHC use other specialists through their telemedicine program including psychiatrists, hospitalists, cardiologists and emergency care specialists.