EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – Local health providers are finding new ways to use technology to help patients.
In the last week, the Marshfield Clinic Oakwood Center began using TelePharm. When patients go to the pharmacy window to pick up a prescription, they will be greeted by a pharmacist through webcam in real-time.
Bruce Bergmann, pharmacy manager at Marshfield Clinic Eau Claire Center, said pharmacists from the Eau Claire Center simply put on a headset and a pharmacy tech will connect them to the patient remotely.
“TelePharm is an extension of a pharmacy so we can utilize pharmacy staff at other sites to allow us to offer pharmacy services to smaller locations,” said Bergmann.
The virtual pharmacist is no different than an in-person pharmacist. Bergmann said they will verify the patient, discuss the medication with the patient, side effects and patients can respond with any questions they have. The web-cam pharmacist at the Oakwood Center will see up to 80 patients a day.
He said it cuts down on the cost of having a pharmacist at smaller clinics and increases workload for pharmacists at the bigger clinics, essentially consolidating. TelePharm can be found at the Marshfield Clinic Riverview Center, regional Cancer Center inside Sacred Heart Hospital and the Oakwood Center.
“The current technology allows us to even visualize the medication to read the numbers on the tablets themselves,” said Bergmann.
At Mayo Clinic Health System-Eau Claire, Dr. Paul Horvath, MD with the emergency department said they’re up to 700 patient visits via TeleMedicine this year. Mayo has been using the web-camera tool for several years now.
“It’s a tool that allows us to take the pretty high level specialty expertise and get that to patients who don’t have that immediately available in their community,” said Horvath.
It saves time for patients in areas like Barron, Bloomer, Osseo and Menomonie who need to see specialists.
Marshfield Clinic uses a similar service called TeleHealth at its clinics.
“From a patient perspective, it’s a huge cost saver. They no longer have to drive from a remote site into a referral center and spend the day in a car, getting meals getting a hotel room, whatever they need to do,” Horvath said.
Mayo Clinic's TeleMedicine technology has improved throughout the years. Specialty doctors like neurologists can do routine clinic follow-ups with patients who suffer from a stroke or multiple sclerosis, pulmonologists can check on people with sleep apnea, while the emergency department uses it to facilitate transfers of patients from smaller critical access hospital emergency departments to the referral center in Eau Claire.
“We have a TeleStroke program where we can get a stroke neurologist at the other end of the connection and help to rapidly assess and diagnose and treat patients with time sensitive diagnosis like strokes,” said Horvath.
Patients can even be connected Rochester Mayo Clinic for higher level care.
At UW-Health in Eau Claire, Dr. Dennis Breen, MD said MyChart makes the lives of patients and doctors easier. It’s a downloadable app.
“Basically it’s a way for patients to access parts of the data that’s in their charts, including lab information, immunization statuses and information about the lab that they get and it allows them to ask questions of their physicians and nurses that take care of them,” said Breen.
Patients can send doctors and nurses messages, meaning experts are at the tip of patients’ fingertips. When a physician responds, the patient will be notified via email and they can then logon to the app and check the message.
“We have patients who ask questions about their general health, we have patients who send us their blood sugars and their blood pressures, we have some people on anticoagulation with Coumadin and will send their INRs,” said Breen. “Basically any other questions they have about their health or setting up an appointment.”
You can setup an appointment by clicking on the “Appointment” button as long as it’s two weeks in advance. Patients can even look at the medications they’ve had previously and request refills. Breen said it allows easier access of information for the patient without waiting on the phone to talk to somebody. The app also reminds patients when they’re due for immunizations.
“For doctors, they can answer on their time and include information that is then documented in the chart right away when answering the questions,” said Breen.
The UW-Health MyChart app can be downloaded on Apple devices. After a visit with UW-Health, patients will be given a link to create a secure username and password.