Telemedicine takes off at Vt. hospital - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Telemedicine takes off at Vt. hospital

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Patricia Davis is discussing her rheumatoid arthritis during an appointment with her doctor, but he's at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and she is in Bennington at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.

"Oh, this is terrific," Davis said.

She is having her appointment via telemedicine. Her rheumatologist at SVMC retired last month, and rather than drive the almost three hours to Dartmouth, she is now able to see a doctor there through a computer screen.

"A lot of our physicians are retiring, as in the case of rheumatology, but it's a rural area. It's hard to get physicians to move to rural areas," said Dr. Chris Barsotti of SVMC.

SVMC just got this technology in May. The equipment costs $15,000-$20,000.

"This is very powerful technology that can be used in a variety of ways," said Dr. Daniel Albert of DHMC.

Many things about a telemedicine appointment are similar to a regular appointment. Davis made an appointment like normal and has a nurse with her in the exam room. Albert can even get an up close look at her hands to evaluate her condition, except it's through a little camera and he sees her hands on a screen on his side. But there are disadvantages.

"Bonding to patients is a little more difficult, so that is one of the reasons we have new patients in a face-to-face situation," Albert said.

Davis also likes to bake goodies for her doctor, but says, "They've got to figure out a way to send food back and forth."

Davis says telemedicine saves her time and money.

"It would be a big undertaking to get to Dartmouth," she said.

And she'll be back for her appointment next month.

SVMC says they have been booked since they got the technology and are seeing 30-45 patients per month. They say they hope to get 4-5 more machines in the next two years.

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