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Telehealth allows vets to be seen in Syracuse without leaving Massena


MASSENA — The future of medicine is now at the North Country Veterans Clinic at Massena Memorial Hospital.

With the introduction of a telehealth service, veterans in many cases can be seen by a doctor at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Syracuse without leaving Massena, saving them at least a six-hour round trip.

“Right now we have upwards of 13 clinics set up for telehealth,” said Zachary K. Chapman, Massena Memorial senior director of practice management.

Among them are mental health, rheumatology, two pain clinics, diabetic education, cardiology, women’s health, anti-coagulation, nutrition and dermatology More clinics will be on the way, too.

“We certainly see it growing and growing. We’ve had a ton of positive feedback from local veterans and providers. It provides endless opportunities to really treat our veterans,” said William Ashby, facility telehealth site coordinator at the Syracuse center.

Telehealth in many cases allows veterans to be seen by a doctor in Syracuse for one of those conditions without leaving Massena. Mark. P. Brouillette, senior director of ancillary and support services at Massena Memorial, said veterans who are referred to a provider in Syracuse will travel to Syracuse initially, but then can follow up in Massena through the telehealth program.

“Obviously, especially with Massena being so far, so many veterans have to travel every time to Syracuse. This cuts down on the travel time,” Mr. Ashby said.

Sandra Sweet, licensed practical nurse and telehealth clinical technician in Massena, helps veterans link up at the North Country Veterans Clinic with a videoconferencing chat, allowing them to conduct medical visits with a physician in Syracuse using a computer screen. Altogether, seven sites are linked up to the Telehealth system.

“The clinics are scheduled by the telehealth team,” Mr. Chapman said.

The technology is so advanced in that, in the case of cardiology, a stethoscope that’s placed on a veteran’s chest in Massena can be heard in Syracuse. Cardiologists also can read EKGs or look at blood pressure readings via the teleconference.

But telehealth is only one of the changes benefiting veterans at the North Country Veterans Clinic, according to Mr. Brouillette.

He said it recently has hired additional primary care providers for the clinic, and those people have completed the lengthy credentialing process and are now seeing and treating local veterans.

“Our North Country Veterans Clinic is once again 100 percent staffed with three full-time primary care providers and four additional part-time providers,” Mr. Brouillette said.

The full-time primary care providers are physician assistant David Tisdale and nurse practitioners Erica Lussier and Carole Miller. Mr. Tisdale has been with the clinic since its opening. Additional part-time staff includes physician assistants Joe Lamb and Amanda Rydberg and Dr. Priti Mandalaywala. Physician assistant Bruce Bassity is working through the VA credentialing process.

In addition, Mr. Brouillette said, the clinic has added another social worker as part of its behavioral-health services. Kathy Green is the full-time psychiatric nurse practitioner, and the part-time staff is Sheila Hamilton, Cindy Babbitt, Kathleen Mattis and Joan DeLarm.

Along with bringing the clinic back up to 100 percent staffing, its hours have been extended to accommodate four 10-hour days a week. The clinic is now open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

For more information, call the clinic at 769-4253.

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