BENNINGTON -- Patients can now see a rheumatologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H. without having to leave Bennington.
Southwestern Vermont Medical Center announced Monday that since June many patients have been able to see Dr. Daniel Albert, a rheumatologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, by teleconferencing. Patients only had to come to SVMC and Albert was able to consult with them while they appeared on a video screen.
Albert also comes to Bennington twice a month to see patients with more complex issues.
"I think this hybrid model of me going to Bennington intermittently and doing telemedicine intermittently is absolutely the right model," Albert said in a release.
Patients seeing Albert via the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Center for Telehealth enter an examination room as they normally would. A nurse is there to assist them and run diagnostic equipment while the information appears before Albert, sparing both him and the patient the two-hour drive to Lebanon.
"Exactly the same options"
"What we're learning so far from our telemedicine patients in Bennington is that probably 80 percent of them can be seen in this way to manage their disease," said Albert. "During their telemedicine visits, some patients will get labs, some will get x-rays, and some patients will be prescribed meds. It runs the gamut of what we do in person. Exactly the same options are available to them as a telemedicine patient as an in-person patient.
Dr. Trey Dobson, SVMC's chief medical officer, said in a release that this is being done in part because of the retirement of Dr. Brian Cunningham earlier this year. The hospital has had difficulty in recruiting a new rheumatologist.
Nearly two years ago, all of SVMC's doctors became Dartmouth-Hitchcock employees. The move benefited both institutions and part of what SVMC was looking for was better access to specialists.
"We have a significant population needing these services," said Dobson, "And our goal is to provide patients access to Dartmouth-Hitchcock experts here locally. Telemedicine and our close relationship with the D-H Center for Telehealth enable us to do that. Now patients who were faced with traveling out-of-state for care can stay local and receive the high-level of care they've always gotten at SVMC."
Dobson said SVMC will likely explore more ways to utilize the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Center for Telehealth in the future.