(EFFINGHAM, IL) – HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital continues to seek ways to allow area residents to get advanced specialty care close to home. One of the latest steps is the hospital’s acquisition of a second telemedicine “robot” to provide direct access to intensivists, board certified physicians who specialize in the care of critically ill patients, most often in the intensive care unit (ICU). This purchase was made possible thanks to donations received from area individuals and businesses to HSHS St. Anthony’s Foundation, who granted $22,230 to the hospital to acquire the equipment.
Through this new telemedicine cart and monitor, intensivist physician on staff at HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in O’Fallon are available for consultation 24/7 to physicians and nurses at HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital. St. Elizabeth’s and St. Anthony’s are both part of the Southern Illinois Division of Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS).
St. Elizabeth’s Project Manager of Telehealth Erin Kochan shared, “Through telemedicine, St. Anthony’s can facilitate an encounter between the patient and an intensivist even though they may be miles apart. The remote presence intensivist can examine the patient using sophisticated videoconference and other medical equipment, speak with clinicians and family members, review any imaging scans and other tests, and support treatment decisions with documentation in the medical record,” she explained.
Telemedicine has been used at St. Anthony’s since 2015, when the hospital began partnering with HSHS St. John’s Hospital through their 24/7 tele-stroke program. A telemedicine cart and monitor stationed in the Emergency department is used by physicians to allow a tele-neurologist to examine a patient suffering a stroke to help expedite treatment decisions, reduce disability, helps many patients avoid unnecessary transfers, and ultimately save lives.
Telemedicine has also been used at St. Anthony’s for neonatal consultations with SIU Medicine since 2016. For newborns with health issues or concerns, a neonatologist can view the baby through the monitor and consult with pediatricians, the hospital’s neonatal nurse practitioner as well as their nursing staff to provide extra support and input.
The hospital also recently launched a partnership Heartland Human Services in January 2018 to fund a telemedicine psychiatrist, and offering nursing support for the program to help meet gaps in behavioral health in the community.
Ryan Jennings, MD, chief medical officer at HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital, explained why St. Anthony’s is continuing to expand the use of telemedicine. “We are blessed to have excellent physicians on our Medical Staff from a variety of specialties, and we continue to recruit more specialties to provide quality care locally. But given the smaller size of our community, it can be difficult to recruit certain specialties due to the limited number of cases we might have for them, so that is where telemedicine is important,” he explained. “There are health situations where it is helpful to have another specialist consult on a patient. We used to conduct these consultations over the phone, but that only allowed us to describe the symptoms. With this new advanced technology, the specialist can basically see the patient with their own eyes, see how they are reacting, while viewing their scans at the same time, as if they were in the same room with the patient.”
Director of Philanthropy Michael Wall shared why the HSHS St. Anthony’s Foundation wanted to support the purchase of this equipment. “The Foundation recognizes the value of using gifts and contributions from businesses, families and individuals to enhance the quality of care provided to our patients right here in Effingham County,” Wall said.
HSHS has been a pioneering leader and advocate of telehealth technology in Illinois, founding the Illinois Telehealth Network (ITN) through a HRSA Rural Health Network Development grant, other federal grants, and significant matching grants from the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis Foundation. Today the network consists of 26 health organizations across the state, both HSHS affiliates and non-HSHS affiliates. ITN’s mission is to promote the capacity of its members to improve access to health care in rural, underserved and disadvantaged communities through the application of telehealth and telemedicine solutions.
Photo: Celebrating HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital’s newest telemedicine “robot” to provide intensivist consultations for critically ill patients is (left to right) Erin Kochan, project manager of telehealth at HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, where the intensivists are located, standing alongside HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital representatives Autumn McCormick, ICU, third floor and IV therapy manager; Bobbi Kinkelaar, clinical nursing director; Ryan Jennings, MD, chief medical officer; Michael Wall, director of philanthropy; Kelly Sager, chief nursing officer; and Theresa Rutherford, president and CEO.
About Illinois Telehealth Network
The ITN is an established federal 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation comprised health care organizations that are committed to the following mission and vision: Mission: ITN promotes the capacity of Members to improve access to health care in rural, underserved and disadvantaged communities, through the application of telehealth and telemedicine solutions. Vision: ITN will connect and share resources, strengthen rural health care and save lives. ITN strives to support all facets of telemedicine services—including technology, care delivery best practices/protocols and billing/reimbursement—and assists members in identifying and implementing solutions to strengthen rural healthcare and support patient care in their respective facilities. For more information, visit www.illinoistelehealthnetwork.org.