Ventura clinic in state telemedicine experiment
By Matthew Tresaugue Staff writer
Published Wednesday July 28, 1999
Twelve-year-old Daniel Torres Jr. looked nervous, shifting in his seat on the edge of an examination table. "Has anyone given you a lollipop yet?" Dr. Chris Landon asked.
The question got a smile from Daniel, even though he knew the doctor who asked it could not give him one. Daniel was in the farm town of Madera, more than 250 miles north of Landon's pediatric clinic in Ventura.
In a demonstration Tuesday of things to come, Landon was able to check Daniel's ear infection from miles away via computer and other high-tech medical instruments.
It was all part of a new statewide telemedicine project that allows patients in rural areas to have more access to specialists, without requiring either to travel. Physicians also will be able to store and forward pictures and data to specialists for recommendations.
Thanks to a $1.8 million state grant, Thousand Oaks-based Blue Cross of California will link more than 40 remote hospitals and clinics to six specialty sites, including the Pediatric Diagnostic in Ventura where Landon works.
"This clinic is a jewel for the children of Ventura County," said Landon, executive director of the 9-year-old specialty center. "Now it will be one for children throughout the state."
Once the telemedicine program is up and running, the Ventura clinic's eight specialists will be able to consult on cases from the the Mojave Desert to Crescent City near the Oregon border.
Health-care providers believe the new program will save rural, underserved patients time and money by reducing the need for long trips.
"For a lot of people, to take a day off work to go to UC Davis (to see a specialist) cannot be done," Landon said.
Part of Tuesday's goal was to save the Torres family a four-hour drive to Ventura to see a pediatric dermatologist for another medical
problem of Daniel's. Madera's family clinic does not have one on staff.
As Daniel sat in his doctor's office in Madera, his scarred back was studied by Dr. Paul Rehder, a Camarillo pediatric dermatologist.
After a few minutes scanning an image transmitted by an exam camera, Rehder was unable to make a diagnosis. He said the picture's quality was fine, "nearly as good as you get in a textbook."
But, Rehder said, he needed Daniel's doctor to send a copy of a biopsy report for a lesion on the boy's back before a diagnosis could be made.
"It does accomplish a purpose from this distance and will ultimately benefit the boy," he said. Namely, Daniel's family will not have to make a long trip without good reason, Rehder said.