Telemedicine program starts at Drew
Publication Date: Wednesday May 31, 1995

HEALTH CARE: Telemedicine program starts at Drew

Stanford doctors diagnose via television images

An East Palo Alto patient with a cardiovascular problem used to have to go to Stanford Medical Center for diagnosis, treatment and medicine. Now, a patient can do that at Drew Health Center, thanks to a television camera and a computer.

Telemedicine, which started at Drew in January, has been used for years by physicians in rural areas to have consultations with specialists hundreds of miles away.

Now, the technology has come to urban areas as a way to improve and increase the delivery of medical services.

"There is great potential," said Jana Katz of Stanford Health Services, the project manager. "We've only scratched the surface."

The program is a two-year pilot project funded by a Pacific Bell trust fund, CalREN.

So far, Stanford has established telemedicine links with Drew, with a group of San Jose doctors, and is about to begin work at the Lytton Gardens nursing home in Palo Alto.

A fourth link has also been established--with physicians in Singapore to hold discussions on radiology and other consultations.

The system, which includes a computer, television cameras and monitors, is different from one doctor making a telephone call to another doctor because the data is transmitted electronically. In some cases, a physical examination of the patient can also be made by the television link.

"Both (doctors) have the exact information they need for a very explicit case review," Katz said. Data that can be scanned and transmitted includes EKG and ultrasound test results, she said.

For the time being, the Drew telemedicine link is used only for conferences among physicians, but Katz said she thinks the project will eventually include images of the patient, too, which is how the link with the San Jose Medical Group is being used for dermatology patients.

The Drew cases so far include cardiovascular and obstetrics/gynecology patients, but will soon include dermatology patients, too, said Manfred Hayes, Drew's CEO.

"Our patients are often referred to Stanford specialists, but they don't always show up for their appointments," Hayes said.

Appointments are missed because of transportation problems--it takes two bus rides to get from East Palo Alto to Stanford Medical Center via public transit. Language barriers, fear of large institutions and economic issues also contribute to the failure of patients to get to Stanford, Hayes said.

The telemedicine project is one of the ways Drew is establishing closer ties with Stanford. Talks are under way for a formal affiliation with Stanford Health Services and with Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, Hayes said, and resident physicians in Stanford's obstetrics/gynecology department now do a rotation at Drew.

Drew Health Center, which began in 1967 as a neighborhood health clinic, now has a patient base of about 10,000 people in East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park, with four physicians, a staff of 45 and 33,000 patient visits a year.

Drew is planning to build new facilities on its University Avenue property, including a new treatment building, Hayes said.

--Don Kazak

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