Connecting Across the Miles: Telemedicine Expands Opportunities for Collaboration

Brandon Florence, BSN, RN wasn't about to let distance get in the way of a positive experience for his patient—specifically, the 12 miles separating them at UW Health at the American Center, and the resources the patient needed at University Hospital.


A last-minute scheduling issue left Florence, a nurse clinician at The American Center, without an interpreter to help communicate with his Spanish-speaking patient, who needed help managing diabetes, and her daughter, who was along for support.


Telemedicine can't replace face-to-face care but can be a great tool when an in-person consult just isn't possible.Thinking on his feet, he contacted diabetes educator Sheri Rembert, RN, BSN, CDE, at University Hospital, and arranged for Rembert and the interpreter to connect with the patient using telemedicine video technology.


"It went so smoothly!" recalls Rembert. "And it was very much a team effort. Even though we were in two different locations, between patient and family education, the nursing staff and the physician, we were able to come up with an individualized care plan to help her gain better control of her diabetes."


Florence has worked with UW Health for three years, and moved to The American Center when it opened on Madison's east side in August 2015. "It's great to have technology that connects us with those additional providers and services," he says. "It gives our patients access to the high level of care the community has come to expect from UW Health."


Florence, his patient and her daughter were able to speak with Rembert, through the interpreter, using a telemedicine cart that seamlessly opens up a video connection between any two locations. Even though she was across town, Rembert could easily ask the patient what she was doing at home to control her diabetes, which in turn helped the patient's physician develop the right management strategies.


The American Center also features four e-ICU rooms with two-way audio and video communications. These allow critical care nurses and physicians miles away at an offsite location, to keep an eye on the patient, ask questions and provide guidance at any time—24 hours a day, seven days a week.


Telemedicine can't replace face-to-face care in all situations. Rembert and her fellow educators have found some teaching situations—such as coaching a patient how to check their blood sugar or how to use an insulin pen—aren't a good fit for video conferencing. But she says it can be a great tool at other times, especially when an in-person consult just isn't possible.


Florence agrees: "We should pursue new ways to do whatever we can to improve the patient and family experience." While video carts can't compete with the human connection of being in the room with a patient, it's another added service UW Health can offer its patients, and Florence says he looks forward to using technology more often in the clinical setting.