Reaching patients, improving care

Longwood Foundation gives $1 million to College of Health Sciences


10:47 a.m., June 23, 2014--The University of Delaware College of Health Sciences (CHS) has received a $1 million gift from the Longwood Foundation to support state-of-the-art patient technologies, communications and conferencing at the new Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus

This technology will connect teaching and research, students and faculty, patients and providers, and ultimately link the University’s health care programs with partners across the state, region and country. Central to this effort is the overlay of technology that will enhance both student and patient outcomes.

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“When portions of the college relocated to the STAR Campus earlier this year, we gained amazingly innovative teaching, clinical and research space, but we still needed additional funds to equip the spaces with technology to fully leverage the design and maximize the use of spaces,” says CHS Dean Kathy Matt, referring to the state-of-the-art technology that the Longwood gift will support. “We are incredibly grateful to the Longwood Foundation for their belief in our mission and critical investment in our future. It has made all the difference.”

The Longwood gift will provide audio-visual technology for the building, including cameras to transmit clinical activity to the classroom, or cameras in the anatomy labs to teach more students about anatomical structures. 

Funds will also enable the college to purchase telemedicine carts to equip every exam room with the capability to bring much-needed specialists to a patients’ clinical evaluation without creating a need for patients to travel. Still other funds will be used to purchase software that will enable patients access to their medical record and better access their information from tests results.

Advancing patient care

Like many academic institutions, the college operates clinical sites and academic programs with clinical components, such as the nationally ranked physical therapy program, which includes an esteemed doctoral program and a clinic that is open to the public; the Nurse Managed Health Center (NMHC), which is a primary care center; and award-winning research programs in infant mobility, Parkinson’s treatment, cardiovascular disease, wounded veterans and rehabilitation.

The advanced technology supported by the Longwood Foundation will allow CHS to enhance patient care in Delaware, such as reaching a patient in Southern Delaware immobilized by Parkinson’s disease, interfacing with a paralyzed veteran in Louisiana trying his prosthetic leg for the first time, or connecting patients in Newark with leading specialists around the world. 

“The Longwood grant allows us, even in our small start-up phase, to immediately do things we otherwise couldn’t,” says Allan Prettyman, director of the NMHC. “For example, we can now reach Parkinson’s patients throughout the region, connecting them to experts around the world for remote diagnosis and counseling.” 

In addition to implementing electronic medical records (which will engage 75 percent of patients in their health care), Longwood funds will enable the NMHC to enhance its existing telehealth infrastructure, becoming a statewide leader in interdisciplinary telehealth for Parkinson’s disease care.

The NMHC already partners with an internationally regarded movement disorder specialist from the University of Rochester who “visits” Delaware patients via the telehealth computer screen. He makes two virtual trips to Newark each month, spending about an hour-per-patient during his four-hour blocks.

“This is not like Skype,” says Prettyman. “Dr. [Ray] Dorsey sees our patients, talks to them, measures their eye blinks and counts their tremors. This is high-end technology, state-of-the-art care that we offer our patients — at no cost to them.”

Through the Longwood grant, the college and NMHC hope to increase access to similar Parkinson’s specialists and increase care to Parkinson’s patients in Delaware by 50 percent. 

“We will change health care in a palpable, perceptible way because of this funding,” says Matt. “We’ll be able to build on our excellence in research and clinical practice, identifying biomedical challenges at the bedside, studying them in the lab and then translating those discoveries back to the patient in a way that leads to better diagnostics and treatment plans.” 

Enhancing education, improving research 

Enhanced technological capabilities, supported by the Longwood grant, will also make a clear and measurable impact on education and research, allowing the college to accommodate future enrollment growth of 10-15 percent per year, on top of the 23 percent growth it has witnessed in the past five years.

In addition, it would support graduate program development in speech language pathology and orthotics and prosthetics, as well as expanded clinical training opportunities for students in physical therapy, nursing, kinesiology, nutrition and behavioral health, and medical laboratory sciences. For instance, the video capture system in the NMHC would play students’ clinical experiences back to them to help them better review and critique their performances. 

The college also anticipates increased research funding and cross-disciplinary collaborations, with research teams using this advanced technology to encrypt and share data. 

“Technology and the new health sciences complex [on the STAR Campus] go hand-in-hand,” says Dan Flynn, Unidel Chair in Health Sciences and associate dean of research for the college. “Not only will we be able to deliver better, quicker patient care, we will improve our ability to train the next generation of health care professionals and create the next innovations in care through cutting-edge research.”

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