New UC Davis Telemedicine Program advances community-based health care
More than 30 community hospitals and primary care clinics in Northern California are now in line to receive videoconferencing and related telehealth equipment from UC Davis Health System. It’s part of a new program recently launched by the Sacramento-based health system that targets rural areas that want to establish telemedicine programs or improve existing infrastructure
The telemedicine loan project will provide videoconferencing units and peripheral medical equipment, such as specialized cameras, to health-care sites located within the health system's 33-county service area, which reaches from the Oregon border south to Merced County. Each site had to apply for the program and they had to be public or non-profit entities that provide care to underserved populations.
Telemedicine uses high-speed data lines linked to video units to connect large urban medical centers with community hospitals and clinics, allowing medical specialists to consult with community physicians and their patients via live, interactive videoconferencing.
The telemedicine at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, for example, provides direct clinical care to patients at a distance, giving clinics and hospitals throughout the state access to more than 40 medical specialties not readily available in most smaller communities. Since it was established in 1996, UC Davis’ telemedicine program has conducted more than 20,000 telehealth consultations.
Telemedicine technology overcomes the lack of specialty medical care in rural and remote communities by providing a wide range of expertise, from pediatric critical care and radiology to infectious disease, dermatology and psychiatry. UC Davis is one of five UC medical campuses that assessed its regional needs and established an equipment loan program using funds from a bond measure that was passed two years ago.
"We certainly need to produce more doctors, nurses and other health-care providers who are dedicated to practicing medicine in smaller communities. But we also need to take advantage of the innovations in telecommunications so that highly trained specialists at academic medical centers like UC Davis can share their expertise with other clinics and hospitals. "
— Thomas Nesbitt, director of UC Davis Center for Health and Technology
“We certainly need to produce more doctors, nurses and other health-care providers who are dedicated to practicing medicine in smaller communities,” said Thomas Nesbitt, executive associate dean for UC Davis Health System and director of its Center for Health and Technology, which is coordinating the equipment loan program. “But we also need to take advantage of the innovations in telecommunications so that highly trained specialists at academic medical centers like UC Davis can share their expertise with other clinics and hospitals. By approving Proposition 1D in 2006, California voters helped ensure that the most advanced health-care expertise eventually will be able to be delivered anywhere, at anytime, in the state.”
The loaned equipment will be available to health-care sites and the communities they serve for an extended period of time. If, for some reason, a site no longer uses or needs telemedicine, or if the site’s status as a health-care provider changes, the equipment-loan program would enable UC Davis to redistribute equipment to other appropriate sites.
The University of California’s Office of the President is in the process of considering each of the UC Davis site recommendations. It will make the final determination about equipment distribution to the sites. Project coordinators anticipate that by the end of 2009, each of the 14 sites will receive telemedicine equipment, along with installation support and training from UC Davis technical experts. However, the purchase of equipment and its distribution could be impacted by economic and budget issues at the state level, which could delay funding for the project.
UC Davis Center for Health and Technology
The Center for Health and Technology at UC Davis Health System in Sacramento is dedicated to leadership in the application of telecommunications and information technology to increase the availability and efficient delivery of high quality health care. It brings together programs in distance education, telehealth training, community outreach and telemedicine specialty care.
California voters approved Proposition 1D in 2006 to help fund all levels of higher education, including construction and renovation of facilities to address enrollment demands, seismic safety requirements, and the renewal of outdated infrastructure. The multibillion dollar bond measure included money to expand the class sizes at University of California medical schools and to enhance the university’s telemedicine programs.