With the baby boomer population continuing to rise, it is more important than ever to ensure this population has access to healthcare. It is estimated that by 2029 the population of those over the age of 65 will be just over 71-million and will make up 20 percent of the total US population which will be a 6 percent increase from the population in 2012. With the increase for need in specialized health care to the aging population, Priya Mendiratta, M.D., Associate Professor in the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatrics, wanted to see if she could have an impact on providing care to more rural residents with the use of technology.
In the fall of 2017, Dr. Mendiratta met with the staff of the Ozark Health Nursing and Rehab Center in Clinton to develop a plan to see referred patients from the facility via Telemedicine.
“Our goal is to deliver care to the residents in the community where they live without having to be transported to our facility in Little Rock.” Says, Dr. Mendiratta.
The first patients were referred in December of 2017 and are continuing today with plans to expand and grow the services offered to the facility. Ozark Health Nursing and Rehab is located in the town of Clinton Arkansas with a population of just over 2500 residents 70 miles north of Little Rock.
The facility is attached to the Ozark Health Medical Center and has just under 120 beds available to residents. The facility offers short term and long term care and offers a wide variety of medical services to its residents.
“This is just an additional enhancement of the care that we offer to the residents of our facility,” said Edna Prosser, CNO, Ozark Health, “It gives us the ability to consult with a geriatrician that can offer advice and suggestions on how best to treat our residents with multiple comorbidities, so far we have seen some very beneficial outcomes by having access to Dr. Mendiratta.”
Currently, Dr. Mendiratta conducts clinic one day per week and will typically see three to four patients that have been referred by the clinical staff at the facility. She gets to interact with the patients in real time and can view their charts and make recommendations on the best courses of treatment for these patients.
“A lot of what I am doing is coordinating with the staff and providers at the facility to see if we can work together to come up with ways to treat these patients to make their quality of life better. In some instances it’s as simple as managing the multiple medications they are on to see if we can come up with a better combination.” says, Dr. Mendiratta.
In addition to working with the clinical staff on site at the facility, Dr. Mendiratta also coordinates with other specialists at UAMS to determine what the best course of action would be for certain conditions.
“We had a patient here that was adamant that they did not want to be transported anywhere for a specialty appointment, this patient has what we believed to be, a neurological condition that we did not have the ability to properly diagnose. Dr. Mendiratta was able to see this patient over telemedicine, consult with the neurological specialists at UAMS and make an accurate diagnosis. Since then, we have started the patient on the recommended medication and it has made a world of difference.” Said, Daphne Brown, DON, Ozark Health Nursing and Rehab Center.
“It has been wonderful working with the staff at Clinton!” says Mendiratta, “we have had a few hiccups in working with the electronic medical records and getting everyone used to my accent, but all in all it has been a wonderful experience. I am looking forward to what the future of healthcare like with the implementation of telemedicine and what it means to be able to provide the much-needed care to our aging population.”
Currently, Dr. Mendiratta is working to set up a full telemedicine clinic where she can expose the rounding residents at UAMS to the benefits of telemedicine so they can provide better and more efficient access to care for patients in Arkansas. Earlier this year she received a grant from the UAMS Office of Interprofessional Education to support her efforts in Telemedicine and providing care to rural patients.
“The more patient-centric evolution of future healthcare transformation, especially for rural areas, lies in providing telemedicine services. Further goals for providing care for geriatric patients who are unable to travel long distance due to mobility, pressure ulcers and other geriatric syndromes like dementia, delirium, and depression can be helped immensely with telemedicine technology. Our goal is to integrate telemedicine technology with interprofessional and interdisciplinary collaborative, practice, communication and education in addition to possible caregiver support, in improving the health of older rural Arkansans. ” says, Dr. Mendiratta.
To learn more about the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Center on Aging, visit www.uams.edu.