Thanks to modern technology, genetic counselors in Colorado Springs are now meeting with patients in Durango by two-way live audio/video conferencing. In a partnership with Mercy Regional Medical Center (MRMC), patients seeking genetic counseling services can schedule appointments with Penrose Cancer Center genetic counselors and meet with them virtually.
Appointments physically take place at Mercy Family Medicine’s Three Springs and Horse Gulch locations in Durango, where a medical assistant sits down with the patient in the clinic room, initiates the video counseling session and introduces the patient. In Colorado Springs, a Penrose Cancer Center genetic counselor logs on simultaneously and meets with the patient as if it were an in-person appointment.
“Prior to the start of this program, patients at MRMC didn’t have access to local genetic counseling services,” says Elena Strait, Certified Genetic Counselor. “This telemedicine program allows us to meet a need in a way that makes sense for MRMC patients. They are thrilled to receive this service without leaving home and Durango medical providers appreciate having us as a resource for their patients.”
Genetic Counseling Services include:
· Recording a detailed family history
· Using family history information to:
o Estimate the risk of developing cancer
o Estimate the risk of an inherited cancer
· Reviewing the pros and cons of genetic testing and helping patients decide if testing is appropriate
· Coordinating genetic testing
· Considering ways to screen for and prevent cancer based on risks
· Exploring implications to family members
Genetic counseling is a program that Penrose Cancer Center’s parent company, Centura Health, is excited to grow. The goal is ultimately to involve genetic counselors at other hospitals in the network to reach additional outlying communities throughout Colorado and western Kansas. Centura facilities are also currently servicing other rural affiliate hospitals with telemedicine services for pulmonology, outpatient gastrointestinal clinic needs and tumor board consultations.
What is Telemedicine?
Formally defined, it is the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status. It includes a growing variety of applications and services using two-way video, email, wireless tools and other forms of telecommunications.
Beginning forty years ago with demonstrations of hospitals extending care to patients in remote areas, the use of telemedicine has spread rapidly and is now becoming integrated into the ongoing operations of hospitals, specialty departments, home health agencies, private physician offices as well as consumer’s homes and workplaces.