“Tele-cardiology is an innovative way of delivering essential cardiac patient care services using cutting edge technologies,” said Lakshmi Prasad Vemulapalli, a physician based out of San Antonio who created the program and is at the OKMH specialist clinic on Wednesdays. “This is very similar to video conferencing that is becoming more available. With these technologies, distance is no longer an obstacle to getting better access to specialty care any time of the day or week.”
OKMH officials state that the hospital will now have 24/7 cardiology access, which means that patients no longer have to always be transferred to San Antonio-area hospitals when coming to the OKMH emergency room with cardiac symptoms.
“The set-up consists of a web camera and a computer monitor that our nurses place at the bedside of the patient,” explained OKMH Chief Nursing Officer Vincent Sowell. “We then are able to pull Dr. Vemulapalli up on the monitor and to discuss any concerns the patient has as well as discuss the patient’s plan of care. This works very similar to Skype or face-time, which most folks already use. This is very advanced technology and a great opportunity for residents of our community to have 24/7 access to a cardiologist consultation.”
OKMH has taken the web technology a step further by adding the various medical tools such as a stethoscope that will allow Dr. Vemilupalli to listen to a patient’s heart tones. From a patient’s perspective, a nurse places a stethoscope over different areas of the chest according to Dr. Vemilupalli’s instruction via the web cam. The patient is able to view the doctor as he listens on the screen.
Dr. Vemilupalli believes that the tele-cardiology program is good and important for the Karnes County community, specifically because rural communities in general have older populations by demographics and have lesser access to specialty care including cardiac care. With the burgeoning population growth seen at Karnes County due largely to the Eagle Ford Shale, the lack of access becomes even more acute to the Karnes County area, according to Dr. Vemilupalli.
“Just this past month, the tele-stroke program was able to assess a ER patient’s stroke symptoms and administer the life saving, clot-busting drugs immediately, effectively saving a life, all with the aid of this amazing technology,” said Barbara R. James, the director of marketing and public relations for OKMH. “Tele-medicine is changing the face of rural medicine and we want to be on the cutting edge of that wave.”