Southern Illinois pushing forward with telemedicine expansion

The Southern Illinois University School of Medicine (SIU) is pushing full steam ahead with its telemedicine services, expecting to expand to about 50 sites by summer of 2017.

Much of the program's growth will be made to serve rural areas of Illinois, according to a report from The State-Journal Register.

"[Telemedicine] eliminates geography. It eliminates the barriers of space and time," Nina Antoniotti, SIU executive director of TeleHealth and Clinical Outreach, tells the publication.

There are more than 100 professionals from the organization trained in telemedicine who will help with the program's expansion.

Currently, there are sites at 11 community hospitals in the lower part of the state, as well as eight in Decatur. About 20 to 40 patients this month will be seen via telemedicine, but Antoniotti says that could increase up to as many as 500 by the year's end.

However, some doctors have warned that telemedicine is not a golden ticket to better care in every case.

Providers will have to learn how to best use telemedicine without losing the human element in patient care, as well as figure out the best ways to capture and analyze data without hampering clinical care, according to Ameet Bakhai, M.D., deputy director of research at Royal Free London NHS Trust hospitals.

John Mellinger, M.D., an SIU general surgeon, echoes that sentiment, telling the Register that many patients may still need care delivered in-person. However, he adds that telehealth could soon be the 21st century version of a house call.

For patients, it's a "big deal," Jon Crozier tells the Register. The 61-year-old patient who suffers from abdominal issues says his telehealth appointments saved him a 60-mile drive to the hospital in Springfield.

To learn more:

- here's the report