For 10 years, children have benefited from a community-wide telemedicine program that gives them quick and effective health care, and now adults can too, thanks to the support of leaders at Grace United Methodist Church and a $10,000 grant from the Marie C. and Joseph C. Wilson Foundation. The Health-a-Access office within the church is also relocating to a sunnier and more convenient location with an exam and waiting room near the Thorn Street entrance.
“We’re excited to finally expand our services to adults so that when they can’t get into their doctor’s office, they can still get health care when and where they need it, by people they know and trust,” said Laura Markwick, a family nurse practitioner who is spear-heading the expansion. “We anticipate seeing many adults who have no regular doctor and no insurance and we will be able to help them to get both.”
Health-e-Access, based at Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center, allows information to be captured by a specialized camera that provides diagnostic-quality images of the ear drum, throat, eyes and skin. In addition, an electronic stethoscope captures lung and heart sounds and videoconferencing allows face-to-face communication. That information is transmitted to a health care provider (ideally, the patient’s own provider) who can then make a diagnosis and prescribe treatments.
Blood pressure screening will also be done for all patients, with the goal of identifying untreated hypertension. Treatment will be initiated as needed. All patients will be directed towards primary care providers if one is needed. The program is also making a concerted effort to provide an access point for healthcare within the refugee population served by Grace Community Village.
The church, located at 121 Driving Park Ave. in Rochester, was eager to participate in the expansion after several years of hosting the pediatric program.
“It fits perfectly into our mission of supporting the neighborhood,” said Lesley E. DeLong, Ph.D., Director of Grace Community Village, Inc., the church’s non-profit.
The church runs many programs aimed at helping their neighborhood, including food distribution, a clothing closet, an afterschool program for immigrants and a teen group that learns videography. When Health-e-Access approached church leaders about the potential expansion, they offered to move the program’s location to one more convenient for patients. It also gives patients a waiting area adjacent to the exam room to maintain privacy and will be more welcoming.
Health-e-Access recently hit a huge milestone – 10,000 pediatric telemedicine visits with health care providers since the program began in May 2001. In recent years, Health-e-Access has expanded beyond its initial focus of children in city child care programs to include every Rochester city school as well as weekend and after hours care. Health-e-Access connects eight doctor’s offices with more than 100 child care centers, schools, programs and neighborhood-based locations.
The program has made a dramatic difference for kids and their families, more than halving absence due to illness among children and helping parents avoid significant time lost from work to get care for their sick children. Children with telemedicine access at child care or school make 22 percent fewer emergency department visits than children who do not. The program has even more potential to impact the flow of patients to the emergency room. A 2008 community-wide study found that 40 percent of all visits to the pediatric emergency department could have been replaced with a more cost-effective and more convenient telemedicine visit.
This expansion will allow Health-e-Access to study telemedicine’s effect on adults’ healthcare usage, potentially saving them costly trips to crowded emergency rooms and saving them from missing work. Insurance does not yet cover telemedicine for adult general care, but the Wilson Foundation grant will subsidize the visits.
Health-e-Access hours for pediatric and adult visits are 4 to 8 p.m. Monday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Grace United Church, 121 Driving Park Ave. To make an appointment, please page the telehealth assistant at (585) 220-2890. When the beep sounds, enter a phone number for the assistant to call back.