Telecommuting has opened so many doors for people who want to need to work from home. I love telecommuting for work and not only because I can get up and work in my pajamas. I have so many more opportunities to do the work I love on my own schedule so I have time for the other parts of my life that tend to operate on a more sporadic agenda. Telecommuting is starting to leach into more job sectors in the last few years, and the medical community hasn’t been immune to its charms.

Recently, the medical community has found an ingenious use for telemedicine by offering virtual follow-ups to hearing tests on newborns. This technology has been especially useful in rural parts of Tennessee where families don’t always have the means to commute into the city for follow-up exams.

Through a telemedicine initiative, audiologists from the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center have been able to conduct follow-up hearing tests for newborns much more sucessfully. Dr. Anne Marie Tharpe, professor and chair of Hearing and Speech Sciences and associate director at Vanderbilt says that about 50% of infants who don’t pass their hearing tests don’t return for a follow-up exam. She’s hoping that with the new telemedicine initiative, more families will have greater access to these exams and at the same time, young pediatric audiology and pediatric speech language pathology students will learn how to treat patients remotely.

The technology is designed for the audiologist to remotely take control of a computer at a site closer to the patient’s residence and interact with the family as if they were in the same room. “This allows the clinician at Vanderbilt to control the system at the remote site using some simple secure software. Additionally, video-conferencing equipment with high definition cameras is used to provide clear real-time communication between the caregiver and the clinician,” said Dr. Devin McCaslin, associate professor of Hearing and Speech Sciences.

The hope of Tharpe and her team is that more families will be willing to seek treatment options for their children if they aren’t required to miss work and take the long journey into the nearest city with the necessary medical facilities.
The initiative was made possible through the acquisition of two training grants that totaled $2.5 million. They were awarded from the U.S. Department of Education, and additional support was gathered from the Maternal Child Health Bureau’s Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) grant to the Department of Pediatrics.

Source: Vanderbilt University Medical Center (2013, September 5). Telemedicine initiative allows remote hearing tests for newborns. ScienceDaily.

Keyword Tags: