Part Two: High Tech Health Care On The Frontier

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Updated: Wed, 04 Dec 2013 04:36:12 CST

In Part One of High Tech Health Care On The Frontier, we learned that Nebraskans are now depending on regional centers, and with Tele Health systems, that's becoming more and more practical.
And while hospitals in towns like Broken Bow and Minden  have Tele Health monitors set up in their emergency rooms, trauma is just one part.
When it comes to Tele Medicine, mental health is leading the way.  And there's a reason why.
Wanda: Oh, almost nobody has a psychiatrist west of Lincoln," said Wanda Kjar-Hunt, Good Samaritan's Tele Health Manager.

Psychiatrists at Good Samaritan are using Tele Health every day to meet with patients across the state and psychiatry isn't the only specialty that's making use of the technology.

Good Samaritan is using Tele Health for everything from neurology, orthopedics, diabetic
education, wound care and oncology.  Making a difference in the lives of thousands of patients.
"Stop and think, if you were an elderly patient and you had to have chemo and you had to travel three to four hours to Kearney to see your doctor to have your chemo and then travel home, that would be just awful," said Kathy Gosch, Good Samaritan's Tele Health Nurse Coordinator.
"Now they can go in to their local hospital, see the oncologist over the television and get their treatment there the same day," added Kjar-Hunt.
But what about that face to face, doctor patient relationship?

"It doesn't take long and that camera is gone.  You're talking to those patients one on one and even though you can't touch them, the relationship grows," said Gosch.

"As one of your oncologist says, yes, I'd rather reach out and touch my patient but this is the right thing to do for the patient and, for us, it's been the right thing to do for a very long time," said Kjar-Hunt.

And just how long might surprise you.  Good Samaritan is the first hospital in the state to use Tele Medicine-- and they've been doing it since 1995.  But now is different.

"This is the big boom," said Kjar-Hunt.

And as Nebraska's rural population only gets older and smaller.  And the state's need for health care gets even bigger.  Tele Health could be the answer.

"We need to keep patients out of the hospital.  That's our goal now.  It used to always be taking care of the sick.  We really are turning our focus to keeping patients well and having the ability for them to go in their local community and get care faster," said Kjar-Hunt.
"Everyday there's a new way of looking at how we can use this equipment.  The sky's the limit as far as I'm concerned," said Melham Memorial Medical Center President and CEO Michael Steckler.

Now what about cost?  Kjar-Hunt said that when the first system was set up, it cost Good Samaritan Hospital $65,000.  Now, they can set up units on computers for less than $200.