|Feb 17, 2011 --
USDA Rural Development
Gundersen Clinic, LTD
Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program
Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa
Remote rural residents in three states (Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa) had very basic medical care. They didn’t have access to computed radiography equipment or medical professionals to read the results, so they either had to rely on emergency medical transport or drive a great distance for diagnostic treatment.
How Rural Development Helped:
In 2009, Gundersen Clinic in La Crosse, Wisconsin received a Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant for $104,593 to fund computed radiography equipment at five rural medical sites. The sites are located in Vernon County, Wisconsin, Houston County, Minnesota, and Allamakee and Fayette Counties, Iowa. The communities will have nearby facilities to visit that will allow X-rays to be taken during initial treatment and read by experts at the Gundersen Clinic in La Crosse.
In 2008 RUS awarded $327,000 to the Gundersen Clinic to install computed radiography services at four rural medical sites in their service area which provided both general radiography and mammography to rural residents. The rural communities that benefited from the grant are located in La Crosse, Monroe and Trempealeau Counties of Wisconsin, and Fayette County of Iowa. The equipment allowed the radiographic images to be viewed and interpreted by radiologists at the hub site in La Crosse. The digital images are stored on a mass storage device at the hub site.
In 2007 RUS awarded $107,212 to expand TeleMedLink, the existing regional telemedicine system, by providing oncology and cardiology services to patients in remote areas as well as allowing remote monitoring of vital signs. It also provided an opportunity to schedule virtual visits between nurse and patient when the patient is in a community facility such as a meal site or a remote health clinic. Counties that benefitted from the grant included La Crosse, Trempealeau, Crawford, and Monroe of Wisconsin, Fillmore and Houston of Minnesota, and Fayette, Allamakee, and Winneshieck of Iowa.
And in 2006 RUS awarded $119,270 to install digital radiography services at four rural medical sites which allows the radiographic images to be received and interpreted by radiologists at their hub site in La Crosse. The rural medical sites are located in Allamakee County of Iowa, Fillmore County of Minnesota, and Juneau and La Crosse Counties of Wisconsin.
The Clinic is still in the process of ordering and installing equipment from the 2009 grant. The systems from the first three DLT grants are up and running and new medicine specialties have been introduced. The immediate benefit of the grants allows patients to remain close to home for evaluation and treatment. Patients being treated closer to home have resulted in cost savings to both the clinic and the patient. A closer facility also has shown that patients are more willing to go in for routine tests and medical care. Driving long distances for short appointments can many times be dismissed and proper check-ups overlooked.
Gundersen Clinic hopes to continue expanding medical specialties and attract new physicians therefore providing new jobs. Several interested doctors wanted to see how the response to distance medicine was received by the patients and their colleagues, before participating themselves. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and continued success is expected for the clinic.
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