The following article is from Arkansas Hospitals magazine, a custom publication of Vowell, Inc., which also produces Arkansas Money & Politics.
Dr. Syed Hamid pioneered a regional hospitalist program at three rural Arkansas critical access hospitals that are part of Mercy Hospital Fort Smith. These hospitals serve Waldron, Paris and Booneville. Currently, Dr. Hamid is based in Booneville, and he travels each workday to all three hospitals to admit patients and do rounds.
The regional program has helped treat rural patients closer to home and offer a more consistent and higher level of care, Dr. Hamid said. Through Mercy Virtual, this program, which has been so successful for patients in the area, is about to take another step forward.
Now, Mercy Virtual plans to enhance the existing program by introducing a TeleHospitalist initiative this summer, expanding Dr. Hamid’s ability to treat patients even more. TeleHospitalist will expand the availability of Dr. Hamid’s services overnight and on weekends by enabling him to examine patients virtually rather than losing precious time traveling from facility to facility.
He initially had reservations about the TeleHospitalist program but says these concerns were allayed after he trained on its specialized equipment.
“It allows for real-time communication between the patient and me,” Dr. Hamid explains. “I was pleasantly surprised to find the audio and video quality to be excellent. The patients I talk with seem to be very happy with it.”
The equipment is very high tech. “For example, there is a stethoscope that lets me hear heart and breath sounds. I could hear just as if I were actually in the room examining these patients,” he said.
Mercy also plans to use the TeleHospitalist program for specialist visits at the Waldron, Paris and Booneville hospitals. Current plans call for cardiology and pulmonology visits that will happen virtually, and more specialties could be added later.