RamamurthyArunPatients with Alzheimer’s and dementia in rural Ohio will have easier access to specialists at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Neurological Institute thanks to the center’s latest effort to use technology to deliver quality health care to underserved populations throughout the state.

The Institute’s Department of Neurology is partnering with the Madison County Health Care System in a telemedicine program for elderly patients dealing with cognitive impairment, says Ohio State project lead Arun Ramamurthy, MD, who specializes in neurology. Details and logistics are being finalized with a target start date of fall 2019, Ramamurthy says.

Located in west-central Ohio, Madison County comprises 465 miles of mostly farmland and less than 1% of the county is urban. The county is home to about 6,000 people who are 65 or older.

Medical center neurologists will be available a half-day each month at the outset with plans to increase hours with demand.

Patient visits will follow the same procedures as they would if the doctor and patient were in the same room, and the doctor-patient relationship will include the same privileges, such as prescribing medication. The only difference is communication will happen over a computer screen.

The primary benefit to rural patients is they gain access to quality care that is not available where they live without the inconvenience or cost of having to travel a long distance.

“It’s more about the outreach,” Dr. Ramamurthy says. “When you look at the health outcomes of people in underserved areas and the lack of medical services in those areas, this is a way to get better, more cost-effective outcomes to those areas. As a system, we provide health care to systems that need it."

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