Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Reaching Out to Patients

A $265,000 grant was recently awarded to the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Munroe-Meyer Institute to help improve access to specialized epilepsy services while expanding telehealth technologies in rural areas in the state. Epilepsy clinics are now being offered to pediatric patients in rural Nebraska via telemedicine.

Currently, all of Nebraska’s pediatric neurologists and neurologist specializing in epilepsy have established practices in Omaha. This means that parents of children with epilepsy who live in rural Nebraska sometimes wait between four to six months for an appointment. When they do manage to schedule a visit with a specialist, many families have to travel 60 to 250 miles to the pediatric neurologist.

Project Access is a national program originally established in 2004 to help children and youth with epilepsy receive care in medically underserved and rural areas. The program is now in its third phase and has established state teams that are collaborating with the Epilepsy Foundation.

Recently the state’s Project Access initiative entered a partnership with the Epilepsy Foundation covering North/Central Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska to link rural epilepsy patients from birth to age 18 with urban specialists using telemedicine.

The process is simple. Patients check in at either good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney or at a telemedicine site approved by Medicaid close to their hometown. Nurses set up the visit via telemedicine technology, so patients are face-to-face with a pediatric neurologist located in a specially designed telemedicine examination room at UNMC’s Munroe-Meyer Institute in Omaha.

“These clinics have the potential to bring top-notch epilepsy care to the remote areas of our state,” said Joseph Evans Ph.D, Director of Project Access-Nebraska. “Not only are we using telemedicine for actual medical visits, but we are also delivering support group services and epilepsy education via the Nebraska State Telehealth Network.”

For more information, email efnebraska@efncil.org or contact Laura Neece-Baltaro at (402) 559-3014.