Telemedicine helps patients in rural Georgia - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Telemedicine helps patients in rural Georgia

January 12, 2007

Quitman - Health care specialists like dermatologist Cheryl Barnes are often in need but hard to find in rural areas of the state.  "We tend to hub in big cities and there are stretches of hundreds of miles in the state of Georgia that have no dermatologists available to them," says Barnes via webcam from Thomasville.

So state officials are working hard to improve health care in these areas.  "Our commissioners John Oxendine had a vision to bring better health care to rural Georgia and with a partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield, we came up with a solution," says Marty Nall, Telemedicine Liaison.

That solution was connecting rural hospitals like the one in Brooks County to a telemedicine network.  "It's a tremendous asset to hospitals like Brooks County. We have 25 beds here, five physicians in Quitman and we don't have a regular supply of specialists in our community," says Dr. Michael Sopt, a staff physician at Brooks County Hospital.

Using computers, patients can talk directly to Doctors in specialty areas around the state, and the doctors can talk back to them. This saves patients in rural areas time and money.

The specialists in other cities also have access to patients' medical records including X-rays, MRI's, and sonograms, allowing them to make a diagnosis while the patient can be treated at home.  "Its going to facilitate care, improve our outcome and help people get better sooner."

Brooks County is one of 47 hospitals throughout the state using telemedicine.

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