Doctors gone digital: Midstate hospital adds new option for neurology patients

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A Midstate hospital is offering a new option for neurology patients.

UPMC Pinnacle has launched telemedicine in their neurology department. ABC27 News spoke with a multiple sclerosis patient who decided to talk to a doctor virtually for the first time

Last month, Penn State Health had to drop over 2,000 neurology patients like Debra Hartman due to a neurologist shortage. That’s why she decided to give telemedicine a shot.

“It was like having a doctor in the room with me. In addition, I had a nurse practitioner who actually did the physical exam,” said Hartman

In the last few weeks, UPMC Pinnacle has added over 100 new patients.

“We roughly get about 10 to 12 calls per day, and we’re trying to get those patients scheduled,” said Dr. Rhunelle Murray, a neurologist at UPMC Pinnacle

To handle the influx, they outfitted a room with a two-way camera and digital monitoring tools to share patient data with specialists at their Pittsburgh headquarters. 

“He could ask to adjust the camera as I was going through the examination if he couldn’t see something,” said Hartman.

Her digital doctor, Rock Heyman, says this was also his first experience having a virtual patient. 

“It can be a scary disease. It can be complicated. It can be expensive. The technology actually made it pretty easy for the patients and myself to establish a rapport. So, I felt we had a good connection … and in dealing with all the issues of multiple sclerosis,” said Heyman, a neurologist at UPMC. 

“It’s nice to be able to consult with someone who’s at the cutting edge of research,” said Hartman.

It’s estimated that most hospitals across the U.S. will launch telemedicine programs just like this by 2020. 

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