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Remote Medicine: GWU Medical Faculty Treat Antarctica Personnel

Telemedicine Program Allows Doctors to Diagnose and Advise Patients from Thousands of Miles Away

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A telemedicine program for researchers and scientists working in Antarctica became fully operational this week as the GW Medical Faculty Associates -- an academic, multi-specialty physician group affiliated with the George Washington University -- completed the installation and testing of a secure satellite video conferencing system. The program provides medical consultations to providers on site in Antarctica who need additional advice or support for emergency or routine care.

"We've come a long way from the two-way radios used decades ago," says Neal Sikka, M.D., Director of the Section of Innovative Practice in the MFA's Department of Emergency Medicine, and the program's medical director. "Although our patients are in the world's most remote location, our physicians are able to provide specialized healthcare 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

Through the Antarctica program, the group's emergency physicians serve as consultants to treating physicians and physician assistants who are on site at three U.S. bases in Antarctica as well as on two marine vessels which remain at sea for months at a time. In addition, MFA specialists from a wide range of medical disciplines provide specialty support. The primary methods of communication are telephone and e-mail; secure video conferencing is generally used in the most serious cases.

"Over the years, our doctors have developed the skills necessary to 'see' the patient through the eyes of another healthcare provider; they ask the right questions, assess the quality of the information and make recommendations that will work in remote locations," says Robert Shesser, M.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine. For nearly 20 years, the GW Medical Faculty Associates' emergency physicians have practiced "remote" medicine, providing medical support to commercial shipping and fishing vessels, international travelers and cruise lines.

"We can offer patients high quality medical care -- no matter where they are," says Michael Hite, R.N., Director of Remote Medical Programs. "Just as important, we offer continuity of care, because our doctors get to know both the patient and the on-site medical provider. The MFA physicians team with the on-site providers to ensure the best medical care possible, given the limitations of their remote locale."

Medical encounters are recorded in a secure electronic medical record that can be accessed in either D.C. or Antarctica. Since the program was initiated in early 2009, MFA physicians have performed 12 consultations involving specialists in Dermatology, Cardiology, Orthopedics, Gastroenterology, Infectious Disease and Ophthalmology.

SOURCE GW Medical Faculty Associates
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