Originally created 08/01/96

Telemedicine linksEisenhower and Olympics

Although Atlanta is the center of international attention, some soldiers stationed there are as isolated as troops in war, and specialized medical care is hard to find.

Take the story of 2nd Lt. Rod Shambarger, who earned a painful blister on his small toe, a souvenir of his tour of duty in the Summer Games.

It wasn't a serious condition, but Dr. Jeff Alden thought the soldier should see a podiatrist to be safe.

Five years ago, that would have meant a day's leave and a long drive for Lt. Shambarger or an expensive consultation with a civilian doctor.

But not now.

Instead, Dr. Alden sent his patient to a van parked outside Sequoyah Junior High School in suburban Atlanta.

Inside the van, which is loaded with high-tech video and computer equipment, the soldier's foot was examined long distance by Keith Pfeifer, a podiatrist at Fort Gordon's Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center.

"It was such a unique experience," said Dr. Pfeifer, who stared at a television screen throughout the exam. "I've never done anything like that before."

The doctor decided to watch the blister and take some action if it becomes infected.

The exam is Eisenhower's newest application of telemedicine, a system that allows doctors in one location to examine patients miles away.

Last week, Eisenhower became a hub on the Georgia Statewide Academic and Medical System, a series of 62 planned telemedicine sites.

So far, four soldiers in Atlanta have been treated using the system, which will later serve Army retirees who don't live near a military medical center.

The medical center already uses the technology to treat troops in Bosnia and provide continuing education for physicians in isolated areas, said Jack Horner, executive director of the Center for Total Access.

After the Olympics, the van, owned by the Georgia Department of Corrections, will be used to treat prisoners in remote locations.

Telemedicine saves money and time without sacrificing patient care, said Laura Adams, director of operations for telemedicine at the Medical College of Georgia, a pioneer in the technology.

In 87 percent of the cases, telemedicine patients don't have to see a specialist in another town for more definitive medical care, she said.


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