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Telehealth latest way to provide care at Lovell Center

Jamie Jensen New BerlWisconshas totalexam camerplaced his eye by GlobalMed federal sales manager Rick Dinger Michigan during demonstratiTelehealth technology Lovell

Jamie Jensen of New Berlin, Wisconsin has a totalexam camera placed to his eye by GlobalMed federal sales manager Rick Dinger of Michigan during a demonstration of the Telehealth technology at the Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago. | Thomas Delany Jr.~ Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 13, 2013 9:09PM

NORTH CHICAGO — A veteran with hearing loss once had no choice but to make three or more time-consuming trips to the Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago for treatment. But no more, thanks to computer-based health services

Paula Mantas, telehealth nurse for Lovell’s community-based patient clinic, or CBOC, in McHenry County, said patients who were forced to travel an hour or more for a hearing test, and again to be fitted for a hearing aid and again for a follow-up visit, can now be seen at their convenience and don’t have to drive as far.

Mantas works with an audiologist who can see inside her patients’ ears from a hospital miles away as she holds a video otoscope inside the ear canal.

Lovell, the first of its kind in the nation to serve both veterans and active-duty military personnel and their dependents, on Thursday, April 11, showcased technology that enables home monitoring of patients with chronic diseases and certain health-care provider visits via secure, interactive videoconferencing.

“We’re getting the care closer to home,” said Dr. John Avramidis, Lovell section officer for primary care. “A lot of our patients are elderly and if they use this technology, there’s no commute and less of a wait time. “

Patients who have computers, Webcams and an Internet connection are already receiving treatment, including psychotherapy and speech pathology, in the comfort of their own homes under the Clinical Video Telehealth program.

Lovell doctors are making patient referrals to more than a dozen Telehealth clinics, educational programs that include wound care, rehab, smoking cessation, weight loss and nutrition, at its three CBOCs, which are also in Kenosha and Evanston.

“We’re changing the way we’re offering care for outpatient services,” said Lovell’s Telehealth Coordinator Bernice Arcibal, RN. “We’re teaching patients how to better take care of themselves and we’re making health care more convenient, at the same time we’re expanding our services.”

Lovell is also using Store and Forward Telehealth, which allows physicians to give medical opinions and make diagnoses by transferring still or motion pictures of a patient from one site to another.

In the near future, Lovell will offer teleretinal imaging to screen for diabetic retinopathy, a condition that can lead to blindness.

“Early detection and prevention is key,” Arcibal said.

One Clinical Video Telehealth set-up costs about $70,000, with some models selling for more than $100,000, said Jamie Jackson, a technician for Virginia-based Iron Bow Industries that since 2011 has done more than a $100 million in Telehealth business with the VA, linking to 140 VA medical centers and more than 500 CBOCs.

“We’re ensuring patients get the right care in the right place at the right time,” Arcibal said. “We want to make home the preferred place of care, whenever possible.”

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