A Temple University program is looking for ways to allow doctors to check on patients’ health without ever seeing them in the office.
The program — which will receive $4 million from the national tobacco settlement — is intended to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in rural and inner city patients that have been traditionally underserved.
The research program, headed by Dr. Alfred Bove, is designed to investigate disease management through telemedicine.
With telemedicine, patients and doctors communicate via telephones or the Internet.
Bove, a professor at Temple University School of Medicine and past chief of cardiology at Temple, will head a team of 20 faculty and other healthcare professionals.
Bove holds both medical and doctoral degrees from Temple University.
Telemedicine is intended to reduce the number of hours spent visiting and waiting for doctors to have basic medical data collected, according to Bove.
The Internet-based system will allow patients to send information such as blood pressure data to the doctor online.
The doctor can then communicate with the patient directly without an in-person visit.
“When we wrote the grant, we realized that the [federal government] had already written a document showing that [telemedicine] was a national directive,” Bove said.
“In 10 years, everybody will be doing this.”
Patients participating in the study will be selected from current uninsured patients of Temple University Hospital and the Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania.
The head of cardiology at the Geisinger Medical Center, Dr. Frank Menapace, is a graduate of the Temple’s Medical School and will be the link between researchers at Temple and the Geisinger center.
The Geisinger center will work primarily with patients from rural areas.
The study will include 450 test subjects, about 300 from inner city Philadelphia and 150 from rural areas.
Initially, the group will be divided in half, with half using the telemedicine method and the other half continuing to regularly see a regular doctor.
After a year, the group making regular doctor visits will be offered the opportunity to use telemedicine.
“We hope to make office visits more efficient and avoid having patients go back and forth repeatedly,” said Bove.
The subjects will be required to log onto the web and report their personal data to the doctors.
Dr. Michelle Masucci and Dr. Nancy Morris are working to give patients Internet access through the establishment of 15 centers throughout the region, including wireless access in locations such as churches and senior citizen homes.
The project will take at least four years.
The grant money will be received between March 1 and April 15, with the study scheduled to begin May 1.
“Someday you will be surfing in California and get hurt,” Bove said.
“You can call your doctor here and they will be able to access your medical records from a database and give you healthcare right over the phone.”
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