Grants Fund Interactive Video Connection Between Seven Rural WNY Hospitals, 2 Buffalo Hospitals Buffalo Mds Will "Examine" Patients In Rural Facilities

By Lois Baker

Release Date: November 15, 1994 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A patient is wheeled into the emergency room of a small rural hospital. While the resident physician works on the patient, a phone call is placed to the region's major trauma center in an urban teaching hospital 75 miles away.

As the call goes through, the emergency room's video teleconferencing system is switched on and in minutes, an emergency medicine specialist in the metropolitan trauma center is "examining" the patient via video screen and consulting with the rural physician on treatment.

This is not a scene from the popular new television series "ER." It is real-life drama that will be played out soon in seven rural hospitals across Western New York.

The rural hospitals will be linked to two of Buffalo's medical centers via interactive videoconferencing equipment and high-resolution fiber-optic cable purchased with $450,000 in grants from the federal Rural Electrification Administration and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

An Arthur D. Little study has estimated that similar high-tech links nationwide could save $36 billion a year in health-care costs.

The grants were awarded jointly to the Western New York Health Sciences Consortium -- composed of the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and its eight teaching hospitals -- and the Western New York Rural Healthcare Association.

The consortium embarked on a multimillion dollar project a year ago to link the urban teaching hospitals and the medical school electronically, making possible a common patient index, exchange of medical reports and scans, improved communication between physicians, teaching faculty, medical students and residents, and providing access to the extensive medical databases maintained through UB's health sciences library.

Memorial Hospital in Wellsville; Lake Shore Hospital in Irving; Olean General Hospital in Olean; Salamanca Healthcare Complex in Salamanca and Westfield Memorial Hospital in Westfield.

Each hospital's emergency room, conference room and library will be wired for connection to the new equipment, which can be wheeled between connection sites. Video teleconferencing capabilities were established more than a year ago between the two urban hospitals and Cuba Memorial Hospital as part of a demonstration project funded by Sprint and NYNEX.

The new federally financed project will help end the professional isolation often experienced by physicians practicing in rural areas far removed from high-tech urban medical centers.

It will provide access to expert medical diagnosis and treatment for rural residents, allow more effective evaluation of emergency-room patients and permit some patients who might have been transferred to urban hospitals for evaluation to remain closer to home.

Physicians at rural hospitals will have access to the resources of the medical school's health sciences library. The project also will make it possible to provide continuing medical education seminars originating in Buffalo to physicians gathered at a rural site.

The video teleconferencing equipment will be available to community organizations when not in use by the hospitals.