Evolving medical care

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By Optic Editorial Board

Whether you’re a fan of ObamaCare or not, it’s hard to argue with its goal of providing affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reducing the growth in health care spending.

Like it or not, we, as a nation, need to figure out ways to make our health care system more efficient.
That’s why the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center’s recent announcement about a new telemedicine program is so encouraging. 

The program makes neurological and neurosurgical specialists available to rural hospitals across the state, including our own Alta Vista Regional Hospital.

Small, rural hospitals lack the resources that hospitals in metropolitan areas have. Unfortunately, that means that patients in Las Vegas sometimes have to be transported 120 miles away to see specialists.

UNM Hospitals and Albuquerque-based technology Firm Net Medical Xpress recently installed a network of high-definition cameras and conferencing equipment that effectively enables specialists at UNM Hospital to examine patients at 13 hospitals across the state.

That means that UNM neurologists and neurosurgeons are now able to consult over the internet with patients and their doctors who are hundreds of miles away. That’s great news if you have a loved one who suffers a stroke in Las Vegas and needs to be evaluated by a specialist.

UNM Hospital says that among the benefits of the new program is that it prevents unnecessary and expensive medical transports to Albuquerque. According to UNM, many patients were being transported by helicopter or plane to UNM Hospital to receive treatment from a specialists. But UNM found that nearly 40 percent of those patients could have stayed at their local hospital.

Net Medical President and CEO Dick Govatski characterizes the program this way: “What we’re trying to do is to be able to reduce the costs of these transports and be able to provide immediacy to that patient — healthcare coverage by a specialist who has treated thousands of patients and knows exactly what to look for.”

In a rural state like New Mexico, telemedicine programs like these are important. They increase the quality of care for people in rural communities and they make our health care system more efficient.

We applaud the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and participating hospitals for investing in it.