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PA Hospitals Use Telemedicine to Treat Sexual Assault Victims

A telemedicine program developed by the Penn State College of Nursing is now in use in four rural Pennsylvania hospitals, giving nurses access to training and on-demand consults for treatment of sexual assault victims.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- A telemedicine program that helps small hospitals treat sexual assault victims is gaining favor in Pennsylvania.

The Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Telehealth (SAFE-T) Center, created last year by Penn State University's College of Nursing with grant money from the Department of Justice, has now been deployed at Penn Highlands Dubois, one of four hospitals in the Penn Highlands Healthcare system. Geisinger Lewistown Hospital, JC Blair Memorial Hospital and UMPC Susquehanna Soldiers + Sailors Memorial Hospital also have access to the connected care platform.

Through the telehealth platform, nurses in rural and remote hospitals and clinics can train to become forensic Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) or connect in real-time with a trained SANE provider when a patient visits the health system.

The program was launched in a pilot phase last year, and Penn State College of Nursing officials say they’re hoping to expand telemedicine coverage throughout the state.

“Penn State is really committed to being a part of the solution for victims of sexual assault,” Sheridan Miyamoto, an assistant professor of nursing and faculty member in the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network, said in a video posted on the university’s website. “The SAFE-T Center is necessary because people that are living in rural communities do not have the same access to high-quality sexual assault care if they’ve experienced a trauma.”

“We needed technology with the ability to capture high-quality forensic images while sharing with our remote nurse consultants in real time,” Bill Hartsock, a multimedia specialist in the College of Nursing and a member of the center’s telehealth support team, said in a June 2017 press release issued by Penn State, when the program was unveiled. “Many existing tools provide excellent images and are highly recommended by SANEs, but lack the teleconferencing capability needed to make this project successful. And a price tag exceeding $30,000 makes this type of technology inaccessible to rural and underserved hospitals.”

“Using chroma key technology, we can record full in-depth simulations in our training center with video overlays of team members explaining key points as the simulation progresses,” he added. “Virtual reality technology will allow us to design elaborate simulations giving nurses a firsthand view of physical exams as well as courtroom testimony. Many nurses in these rural areas have limited or no experience testifying in court. The simulations will give them the experience and confidence to present their findings accurately and professionally.”

With this week’s launch of the telemedicine platform at Penn Highlands Dubois, four hospitals are now using the technology.

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