Clinic develops solution to scarcity of medical specialists

Published: Apr. 9, 2017 at 3:59 AM EDT
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Finding a doctor has become harder and harder for Americans living in rural parts of the country, especially when they need a specialist. A clinic in Wise, Va. has come up with a novel solution.

Billy Seymour’s latest visit to the doctor is through a video screen. Seymour was at a clinic in Wise, Va. while Dr. Tracey Krupski was 300 miles away at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

The virtual visit was a follow-up to a bladder procedure, which was also done through telehealth. Seymour says seeing his specialist is now much easier.

“It takes between 5 ½, 6 hours to drive it, then you have to get overnight stay, all your food, so it's a lot of time and money,” said Seymour.

Nurse Practitioner Paula Meade developed the telehealth program and runs the free clinic in Wise.

"We don't have a urologist in the Wise county area or Dixon county. We have seven counties that we serve, and there's not a urologist available," said Meade.

Dozens of hospitals serving rural communities like Wise have closed in recent years. The National Rural Health Association says one out of every three remaining rural hospitals is at risk of closing.

Dr. Krupski says remote appointments can be part of the solution.

"There's a saying that 90% of the diagnosis is the history, so if you can listen and hear the patient you can make the diagnosis," said Krupski.

Seymour recommends other patients give it a try.

“It's an amazing experience. It saves time and money,” said Seymour.

The clinic is also using telehealth for cancer screenings and is hoping to expand their telehealth program to start doing ear, nose and throat checkups remotely.