Telemedicine lets doctors, remote patients see eye to eye

August 22, 2013 11:00 AM

Christina Carr

When the eye clinic in the Ruth U. Fertel/Tulane Community Health Clinic opened in Mid-City last year, approximately 800 local diabetics were in need of annual retinal exams or treatment for eye diseases.

Ruth Fertel Clinic

Through funding from the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Foundation, the eye clinic at the Ruth U. Fertel/Tulane Community Health Clinic can now offer comprehensive examinations through telemedicine technology.

“Before we started the eye clinic, there was no way for these individuals to be examined. Now, no patient is turned away,” says Dr. Delmar R. Caldwell, professor and chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Tulane University School of Medicine.

Due in large part to a grant from the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Foundation, the community facility is ushering in a new standard in comprehensive examinations through telemedicine, which allows healthcare providers to use telecommunications equipment and the Internet to examine a patient who is not physically present.

Foundation funds allowed the eye clinic to purchase high-resolution cameras, high-performance monitors and other cutting-edge devices needed to incorporate telemedicine technology into medical education and patient care.

“From my computer, I can consult with a student or resident as he examines a patient in real-time,” says Dr. Caldwell. “I can watch a video of him screening a patient’s eye as if I were sitting on the other end of the slit lamp, and discuss his plan and recommendations right away.”

And findings and images can be immediately noted in digital medical records or shared over the Internet.

Dr. Caldwell believes this technology improves access to medical services. As the Affordable Care Act increases the demand for health care, telemedicine can bolster clinic capacity across the country by enabling doctors to examine — and treat — individuals located anywhere, he says.

 “What we are able to do now is, in my opinion, the way of the future,” Caldwell says.

Christina Carr is assistant director of writing in the Office of Development.

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