(July 11, 2003)
A $114,081 grant has been awarded for telemedicine services to East Carolina University and the Caswell Center, which serves people with mental retardation and developmental disabilities.
This funding from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, coupled with in-kind support from the Center for Health Sciences Communication at the Brody School of Medicine, will electronically link patients in Kinston with specialty physicians in Greenville.
On average, Caswell provides residential services to 520 people. Of these, 97 percent are wholly dependent upon public assistance for medical care. In addition to residential services, Caswell Center also serves clients from 32 eastern North Carolina counties.
Transporting residents from the center for medical care can be a time-consuming process that involves multiple staff members per individual, according to Dr. Teresa Conner-Kerr, ECU associate professor of physical therapy and co-author of the grant application.
"People with mental retardation living at Caswell Center receive excellent basic medical care," Conner-Kerr said. "However, the facility must use outside consultants for diagnosis and treatment in specialty areas such as cardiology, neurology, dermatology, gastroenterology and orthopedics."
From July to December, Caswell clients participated in 756 off-campus medical appointments. Caswell officials estimate that 354 could have been handled through a telemedicine link.
"The average appointment takes more than three hours, and many times two staff members must accompany an individual to an appointment," said Conner-Kerr, who will serve as evaluator of the grant. "We calculated that this averages more than 1,203 hours a month of staff time to support these appointments. This equates to 7.5 full-time staff positions monthly."
Conner-Kerr, who provides physical therapy services to Caswell clients, co-wrote the grant proposal with Caswell staff members Sherry Rowe, director of physical therapy; Kate Snodgrass, clinical services director; and Sandra Hardison, coordinator of agency services.
Caswell Center Director Mike Moseley feels the grant will not only improve access to care for patients, but also allow the center to tap into continuing education and other presentations for its staff and professionals in the region. It also will provide mental health professionals access to the expertise of the Caswell Center's clinical professionals through the REACH-TV network, based at ECU.
The total cost to establish and operate the telemedicine connection is $302,321. In addition to the grant, ECU will provide in-kind contributions of equipment and program support totaling $91,750. The Caswell Center and its foundation will cover the remaining costs.
"Our participation in this project is a natural outcome of the technology and expertise that's available at ECU," said Dr. Jack Brinn, interim director of CHSC and the Telemedicine Center at the medical school. "This collaboration speaks well of our telemedicine services, and we're very pleased about this opportunity."
The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust was created in 1947 by the will of Mrs. William Neal Reynolds of Winston-Salem. Three-fourths of the trust's grants are designated for use for health-related programs and services across North Carolina with one-fourth for the poor and needy of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.