Sunday, June 5, 2011

Telemedicine Working in Mississippi

A fourteen year old boy involved in an accident in Mississippi was fighting for his life after being the victim of an accidental gunshot wound to the chest. Most of the time, these victims don’t survive. The boy and his brother were on their property for a family outing when he was hit by a rifle’s bullet. His father had given the boy’s brother the rifle for Christmas and they had gone hunting together many times. But his brother’s accidental shot caused the incident.

An article appearing in the May 16th issues of “CenterView”, a University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) publication, explained how saving the boy’s life began with a nurse practitioner at Perry County Hospital began by using the services of the TelEmergency network.

The nurse communicated via video and talked to the emergency medicine doctors at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. They decided that the boy should be flown to Forest General Hospital in Hattiesburg by the UMMC’s helicopter service Air Care. At that point, the boy received emergency open heart surgery to stop the bleeding but during the surgery he lost 34 units of blood and almost died three times.

In addition, the doctors felt that since the bullet from the rifle had entered the chest and came out the right side, it probably had done some damage to the major vessel controlling the arm’s blood supply. The doctor’s thought he would probably lose his arm and also feared that he would have brain damage because no one knew how long his brain had been without oxygen.

Dr, Kristi Henderson, Director of the Training Program for Nurse Practitioners in TelEmergency, reports that because of the initial fast action in contacting TelEmergency and the expertise of the medical team, the boy not only survived but he is living a normal life because every person and the TelEmergency system worked efficiently and effectively to save his life.

The system is particularly valuable in rural hospitals since they can easily connect with board-certified emergency medicine physicians in the UMMC emergency department via video. Rural hospitals in Mississippi simply can’t afford to staff their emergency departments with emergency medicine doctors. Grant funds provided by the Bower Foundation provided the needed start-up funds for equipment to provide the service.

In treating stroke patients, Dr. Alexander Auchus, Chairman of the Department of Neurology uses the TelEmergency network to consult either by phone or by video to help determine if the patient at a rural hospital is a candidate for thrombolytic drugs to remove the clot.

“Sometimes, the patients still have to come to UMMC after thrombolytic drugs, because they may need a catheter-based procedure to manually remove the clot”, Auchus said. “We see this as a way to provide an additional level of expertise for the people all over the state.”

In addition, the UMMC Department of Psychiatry links to sites in the Mississippi Delta using grant funding from the Delta Health Alliance. Since, there are few resources except for the state run mental health centers in the Delta, video is used to teach mental health professionals all across the Delta and provides video connections from the Mississippi State Hospital to mental health centers.