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Updated: 4:55 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 | Posted: 1:22 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8, 2012
A new tool is virtually delivering healthcare to anywhere in the world. Doctors at UPMC's Department of Neurology recently added telemedicine to their medicine bag. This technology lets doctors see and examine patients who are hundreds of miles away, much like Skype lets people videochat long distance with family and friends. Dr. Valerie Suski has used this tool to meet with patients once a month. "It is a different way of doing it," she said. "It was hard to get used to at first." She recently met with Saundra Covington using telemedicine. Covington is being treated for a form of Parkinson's disease. She no longer drives, making the five-hour round trip to Pittsburgh from her home in Clarion a challenge. "If I had to go to Pittsburgh, I would lose a whole day. So I come here I don't lose any time," Covington said. "Here" is UPMC Northwest in Seneca. With the help of a nurse practitioner on the other end, Suski is able to run a series of tests to see and diagnose Covington. "I was really, really surprised that it worked," said Covington. Dr. Lawrence Wechsler is leading UPMC's telemedicine services and sees it as the wave of the future. "If those same people can get the care they need without moving from the place they're in, that's a huge advantage," he said. He said that is particularly important for people in rural areas or who are homebound. "One of the beauties of telemedicine is that it really doesn't matter where you are," he explained. "You can be down the hall or in Kazakhstan and it looks the same." Covington was amazed by how precise care can be. "The biggest surprise for me was the fact that she could look into my eyes through the camera," she said. She also said she felt Suski's bedside banner, even though she was two hours away. UPMC is using telemedicine at 16 emergency rooms, and even at its facility in Italy. It hopes to expand to more areas. Not all insurance covers this, though, so it's important to check with your provider.
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