January 21, 2021
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By Gail M. Williams
Muleshoe Journal Correspondent

University Medical Center of Lubbock recently announced that they are teaming up with Muleshoe Area Medical Center through a telemedicine network. The program will assist Muleshoe in emergency cases and prevent unnecessary transfers to UMC.
Each hospital has a mobile computer with video-calling, and the cart can be moved to show a patient, X-ray or anything else the physician at UMC needs to look at to help the Muleshoe physicians.
The pilot program has been in place for about a year, according to Dennis Fleenor, Muleshoe Area Hospital District administrator.
“It’s been an excellent service for the community,” Fleenor said. “It provides access to Level I trauma physicians that our care team and patients wouldn’t have unless they drive an hour to Lubbock.”
Fleenor provided an example of a man who was brought to the Medical Center with a displaced shoulder. With the help of video-calling to UMC, the staff was able to perform a closed reduction, popping the shoulder back into place.
Without the telemedicine program, the man would have had to be transferred the hour’s drive to Lubbock, plus wait time, since his injury, though serious, was not an emergency.
“He was able to go back to work that day,” Fleenor said. “Without the telemedicine capabilities, he would have lost a day of work.”
Being able to diagnose and treat patients through telemedicine saves money for the patient and the insurance companies by cutting the cost of transportation. Plus, having access to state-of-the-art telemedicine equipment helps doctors and other providers on site.
“It’s definitely the latest and greatest,” Fleenor said. “A Bluetooth stethoscope can broadcast Grade 3 heart murmurs so that nurses can hear them. Using a scope, doctors can look inside ears for an infected eardrum or a foreign object. Ordinarily a doctor wouldn’t be able to say to a colleague, ‘Look in here.’ But with a 27-inch screen, everybody can see what’s going on.”
Ultrasound can project a ruptured spleen, liver damage or bladder retention.
“We can also have someone on the other end looking, saying this is what’s going on here,” Fleenor said. “Very sophisticated radiologists know what they’re looking for and can help make a better decision, providing better outcomes for the patient.”
UMC is the only Level 1 trauma center between Denver and San Antonio to the north and south, and Dallas and Albuquerque to the east and west. Level 1 is the most acute level of trauma, with Level 5 being the least acute. In addition, UMC is a teaching hospital.
“Patients from a large area are flown into UMC,” Fleenor said. “The local EMS also has telemedicine capabilities so that when they’re transported to us here, the EMS can help in the decision-making process, whether they stop here or are flown straight to Lubbock.”
Dr. Christopher Peil, UMC Emergency Center physician describes telemedicine as helping in three main areas:
Help care providers care for a specific patient
Help facilitate transfers to UMC
Arrange a follow-up with a patient
“Our telemedicine program provides care providers in Muleshoe a direct connection with UMC,” Dr. Christopher Peil, UMC Emergency Center physician, said. “It’s worked well, and we hope to expand this program to other facilities in rural areas to help them in this same way.”
Fleenor points out that telemedicine is not limited to UMC.
“If the patient is established at Covenant or Lubbock Heart Hospital, we work in collaboration with providers to get the best care for patients in Muleshoe,” he said. “We’re very fortunate to have this technology and level of capability right here in our own community.”

Gabby Perez

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