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Rural Mississippians Will Soon Have Greater Access To Healthcare

By Paul Boger | Published 06 Mar 2014 06:09pm | comments
More rural Mississippians will soon be able to get the same healthcare options that their counterparts in metro areas receive. MPB's Paul Boger reports a partnership between the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the federal government will incorporate ten rural hospitals into the state's growing tele-medicine system.
 
The University of Mississippi Medical Center will receive more than 575-thousand dollars from the U-S Department of Agriculture and other rural authorities to move the hospital's growing tele-medicine system into Northwest Mississippi. Through the program, doctors and medical specialists in Jackson will be able to monitor procedures and vital signs or provide medical advice to patients via the internet.
 
Kristi Henderson is in charge of the program. 
 
"We have the lowest ration of physicians to patients." said Henderson. "We are undeserved, we have challenges with transportation, and when you don't have access to care, disease progresses and they end up in the hospital. This is about not only preventing the worsening of a condition, but it's about having access wherever you may live."
 
Standing in front of a bank of computers Nurse Leslie Ishee monitors the vital signs of patients in Lexington in Holmes County. She says providing an extra set of eyes to watch vital sign help the nurses physically taking care of the patients.
 
"If you've had three nurses over 36 hours they may not realize that your heart rate went from low-normal to high-normal; it just looks normal." said Ishee. "We can see the trend in the heart rate and know that that means something is going on. Then  we can investigate a little bit and look at lab work and stuff like that. Then we interrupt the trend before it becomes a bad outcome for the patient."
 
Sam Miller is with North Sunflower Medical Center in Ruleville. He says telehealth programs have been beneficial to his emergency room staff residents of the Delta.
 
"I've had two nurse practitioners that are specially trained, and they are actually able to work the E.R. as an E.R. physician would." said Miller. "Using telemedicine they have very rapid, real-time, live communication with a board certified E.R. physician in a level one hospital. It's been a tremendous benefit to us."
 
More than 100 medical centers, clinics and health centers in rural Mississippi are now part of UMMC's telehealth program.
 

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