For approximately 13 years Chugachmiut health clinics have been part of the AFHCAN Telehealth system administered by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC). The system allows doctors and health providers at the Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC) to visit with and treat patients in rural villages through video, audio and computer equipment.
Connectivity has been an issue with the system since its inception. Chugachmiut’s clinics have been susceptible to inconsistent Internet service and connections. Other issues have been expensive equipment and hardware updates that don’t always function properly.
Many of these issues will be resolved thanks to a new grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development. The grant will allow Chugachmiut to purchase new hardware and equipment for its telemedicine systems.
“Telemedicine is an invaluable tool for health care in the region”
-Sue Steward, Community Health Aide Program Director
Often in rural settings there are emergency medical situations which require attention from doctors or advanced medical practitioners. Through the telemedicine equipment, a doctor in Anchorage can meet with, see and speak with patients or attending health aides. The doctor can diagnose the patient and advise the health aide on the proper care. Besides potentially saving lives it greatly reduces costs for travel and emergency medical evacuation.
Regularly scheduled consultations between ANMC doctors and patients in the villages will be greatly improved. Currently regular consults are performed via telehealth by family medicine, cardiology, dermatology and oncology practitioners.
In addition, the telemedicine carts are used virtually on a daily basis by Chugachmiut providers in Seward to consult and treat patients in the villages or to conduct meeting with community-based staff. These uses include Cynthia Langmade, PA-C, meeting with patients; Jeff Wolf, Health Aide/Care Coordinator, consulting with staff; and Regional Health Coach Gala Davis meeting with clients regarding fitness and nutritional issues.
“Telemedicine is an invaluable tool for health care in the region,” said Sue Steward, Community Health Aide Program Director. “These upgrades will help immensely and ensure we can offer our patients the best service possible.”