Health Center Bettered By New Technology

The University of Vermont College of Medicine and Fletcher Allen Health Care are testing a technology that may increase the survival rate of critical patients who are transported via ambulance in rural areas.

UVM received a $250,000 grant to fund the testing and installation of mobile telemedicine technology in an ambulance that services the academic medical center.

According to a 1999 report published by UVM/ Fletcher Allen faculty in the Journal of Trauma, trauma victims in rural areas are nearly twice as likely to die from their injuries as people in more urban areas.

“Thanks to Sen. Leahy’s support, we have the privilege of testing this mobile technology in Vermont, where long rides and difficult weather conditions can complicate patient transport,” said Michael Ricci, M.D., who serves as clinical director of telemedicine at Fletcher Allen, Roger H. Albee Professor of Surgery, and vice chair for surgical research at the UVM College of Medicine.

“We have already linked our tertiary care expertise to sixteen rural hospitals throughout Vermont and northern New York. When used, this technology will allow a physician to monitor a patient during ‘the last mile’ of transport from a community hospital if necessary.”

“Using mobile telemedicine in trauma situations, is in fact, the tip of the iceberg,” said Ricci. “Imagine that we virtually place a high-risk obstetrician in the back of the ambulance with a difficult birth or a neonatologist in the ambulance with a sick premature infant. Suddenly our ambulance crews will have more support when unexpected and difficult situations arise.”

This program links the emergency departments of community hospitals with trauma surgeons at Fletcher Allen and UVM via telemedicine.

It allows a specialist to interact and develop a care plan with a patient and local provider via remote video consultation without requiring the patient to physically move to the medical center.