Telehealth helps enhance care for patients in McHenry County

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CRYSTAL LAKE – When Nicole and Ron Crudup take their son, Evan, to his doctor’s appointments at the Epilepsy Foundation, the visits begin in familiar fashion: The family settles into the room, checks Evan’s measurements with a nurse and waits for their doctor to come.

But when Dr. Marvin Rossi appears, it’s not in person but on a 55-inch flat screen TV mounted on the wall of the room.

Rossi, a neurologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, is able to connect with his patients in McHenry County using a form of telehealth the Epilepsy Foundation has been using for about two years.

Nancy Monica, the director of telehealth for the foundation, said video chatting technology helps patients in McHenry County have access to specialists who are not available locally without the hassle of driving to Chicago. The Epilepsy Foundationrecently expanded its practice to include those with a traumatic brain injury.

“It’s almost overwhelming how much [patients have] embraced it,” Monica said. “The beautiful part of this is they see the sub-specialist, but he’s connected to the social services right here within our own community.”

Between Rossi’s medical expertise and the staff members’ local connections, the foundation aims to provide patients with treatment plans that include medicine and social services.

While that setup is not common in McHenry County, Monica said she’s confident the practice will become more widespread over time.

According to the Illinois Telehealth Initiative, an initiative of Partnership for Connected Illinois, there is a projected shortage of 130,000 physicians by 2025, meaning it will be more important to connect patients with doctors across distance.

The Crudups first brought Evan, 4, to the Epilepsy Foundation last summer after he began having seizures. They first met Rossi in person and later had genetic testing done.

After their son was diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy called Landau-Kleffner Syndrome, they’ve had follow-ups every four to six weeks in which the doctor helps them manage Evan’s medical care.

“We’ve never done anything like this, but I think having that we’ve already met Dr. Rossi in person and everything, it helped because we already had that comfortable relationship and trusted him,” Nicole Crudup said. “It makes it a lot easier.”

While Rossi said the technology has been crucial to his ability to see patients in McHenry County, he can’t rely on it solely to administer care.

He always tries to meet patients in person first to establish a relationship during his monthly visits to Crystal Lake, and during video visits, he counts on Monica and other office workers to take notes and coordinate.

“It’s a big deal from my perspective as a neurologist to work with patients whom I can see,” Rossi sad.

The Epilepsy Foundation’s use of video chatting is just one application of telehealth, which is a wider term that encompasses a variety of uses for technology in medicine.

Elsewhere in Crystal Lake, Leap of Faith Technologies has developed a technology called eMedonline, which allows patients to use their mobile devices to manage their medication intake.

The technology is meant to eliminate non-adherence to medication instructions, which the company says causes more than two million serious adverse drug events annually.

Company founder and chief science officer Barbara Rapchak said she’s worked in telehealth for about a decade now and has received a number of grants over that time to develop the technology.

While many may think telehealth is only needed in rural areas, Rapchak said eMedonline is equally relevant to patients in any setting and of any age. And in clinical studies with an average age of 65, patients have not had problems adapting to the program.

“It’s an evolving market and an evolving industry, and it takes a long time to take these technologies embedded in medicine,” Rapchak said. “It’s a tricky industry, a niche to be in, but extremely valuable to people and the future of society and something I believe in.”

Tags: Telehealth, Telemedicine

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