Telemedicine use spreading in NNY

Charles Wainwright – Wainwright Photo
A doctor at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse communicates in 2016 with a patient using telemedicine technology.Use of the technology in the north country has grown exponentially over the past three years.


More north country patients than ever are accessing health care remotely through new “telemedicine” services.

    More than 1,700 appointments in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties were recorded over the past three years by the North Country Telehealth Partnership.

    Through telemedicine, patients in rural areas can visit their local hospital or doctor’s office and speak with medical specialists elsewhere in the state. There are more than 90 hospitals and healthcare providers currently using the secure video-conference technology to provide services such as counseling, diagnostics, and neurological assessment.

    The North Country Telehealth Partnership is an initiative of the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization, and has grown exponentially since its 2014 inception.

    The number of telemedicine appointments recorded through the North Country Telehealth Partnership has jumped from only 40 in 2014 to 315 in 2015, and more than 1,300 in 2016 so far.

    “Patients are gaining access to the care they need, when they need it, and where it is most convenient for them.” David C. Johnson, North Country Telehealth Partnership program coordinator, said in a statement. “While questions about reimbursement and regulatory restrictions remain challenges to the implementation of telemedicine, this is only the beginning of its success in our region. Telemedicine is becoming and will be an essential part of the standard way to deliver care.”

    According to FDRHPO, healthcare providers using the technology see fewer missed appointments and greater efficiency – especially with patients seeking behavioral health care. Less than two percent of the 1,700 telemedicine appointments were considered incomplete.

    FDRHPO quoted Dr. Steven L. Lyndaker, founder of Lowville Medical Associates, as attesting to its benefits. His practice was one of the first in the region to adopt telemedicine.

    “Convenient access to high-quality psychiatric care through our tele-psychiatry service has been the single most impactful FDRHPO initiative at Lowville Medical Associates over the past few years,” Dr. Lyndaker said. “Numerous patients have received timely care, avoiding considerable delay from time of referral to time of consult and thereby, quite honestly, reducing their emotional suffering. I am so grateful to offer this option to some of the most vulnerable in our practice.”

    As new technologies emerge and expand, so grow the capabilities of telemedicine to diagnose and treat remotely. According to Mr. Johnson, the region is in the process of securing a portable retinal camera for local diabetic retinopathy screenings.