The Western Washington Rural Health Care Collaborative (WWRHCC), a group of 8 CAH hospitals, has received a grant from the USDA-Rural Utilities Service for $248,400.00. The purpose of the grant is to provide the funds to help the “Collaborative” connect to Tele-Specialties via Tele-Radiology, using Tele-Health technologies. The Collaborative is building a Tele-Specialty Cooperative (The Co-Op) to meet our communities’ much needed access to specialty healthcare.
The five members of the WWRHCC involved in this project are Ocean Beach Hospital, Willapa Harbor Hospital, Mark Reed Hospital, Morton General Hospital, Forks Community Hospital. Also included is Garfield County Public Hospital District, Pomeroy, WA a CAH that shares many of the same characteristics of the five WWRHCC hospitals. Currently, many of the WRHCC’s hospitals have a Radiologist part-time, and one not at all. When radiology studies are done, in the absence of a radiologist, reports have to be taken to another facility to be read, increasing the turnaround time for reports back to the primary care physician anywhere from 2 to 3 days.
To make this work, the plan is to build a Teleradiology (Network), which will provide “real time” x-ray interpretations and access to radiologists (who are in short supply). Having the patient’s x-rays transmitted to a site that has a Radiologist present gives the quick reports needed for family practice physicians to plan their care. The Collaborative will use radiologists who contract with WWRHCC members to provide services to those other members who have limited or no coverage; a website will be developed to assist with access to radiologists schedules.
Once the connections have been developed for radiology, the plan is to include other specialty practitioners. The important concept of this project is to allow for “sharing of scarce resources” such as Radiologists, but also the access to specialists for consultations via telecommunications. The ability to provide specialty care in our communities will decrease the inconvenience and costs of traveling to urban areas for care and reduce costs of care while improving the overall quality of care provided. The members of the Collaborative are looking forward to making this project a reality.
Source: WRHA newsletter, February 2006 [pdf]