Telehealthcare coming to Hancock County
Mercer University’s School of Medicine is teaming up with several health care agencies to provide an innovative way to treat residents who live in rural areas that are at least 30-minutes away from a hospital.
Dr. Jean Sumner describes the new TeleHealth program as “groundbreaking.”
“The Hancock initiative is an effort to re-establish primary healthcare services to people in Hancock County,” Dr. Sumner explained.
The healthcare access project has been up and running since August.
“It is the ability that is now available through good technology to examine people from a distance,” Sumner continued.
When a resident needs medical attention, they will call 911 and an ambulance equipped with the new technology will arrive at their home. Paramedics use the medical kit which allows them to communicate with doctors and specialists to assess the patient’s health concern.
The doctors will give emergency workers instructions on how to care for the patient via a secure website. According to Georgia Partnership for TeleHealth liaison Sam Stephenson, ambulances frequently respond to non-emergency medical calls.
“One of the goals of the project is to hopefully reduce the number of unnecessary transports to the emergency room,” said Stephenson.
“When people talk about them calling 911 as their primary care, that’s all they have,” explained State Senator David Lucas (D-District 26).
Lucas is credited with getting the project funded and up and running.
“We’re the only place in the country that’s doing it right now,” added Lucas.
The state senator admits hearing about residents not making it to the hospital in time was the main reason why he wanted to do what he could to help.
“There was a nine year-old kid who had an accident on a go-cart and he sat out in a field for about 30 minutes waiting to be helivaced to the Medical Center here in Macon, and that kid died,” he explained.
According to Lucas, there is no guarantee the child would have survived the accident even if there was not a 30 minute delay to get medical attention.
The Department of Community Health gave a $100,000 grant to start the rural health project. Each kit costs about around $15,000.
Neighboring states have also contacted the senator’s office wanting to do similar health care initiatives.
Grady Hospital in Atlanta is going to start an ambulance service in Hancock County on September 15, according to Lucas.