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Mary Free Bed offers virtual health consultations for out-of-state patients







Oftentimes, individuals seeking sufficient healthcare may find themselves at a disadvantage; whether this is due to finances, availability, or even comfort, these circumstances can create barriers exempting them from the healthcare they need. However, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital’s recent partnership with Chicago and Cincinnati Shriners Hospitals for Children have formed Telehealth, a service that allows patients to receive virtual consultations from their healthcare provider, an experience similar to FaceTime or Skype.

Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital focuses on the development of a patient’s healing process and Shriners Hospitals for Children specializes in treating orthopedic disorders, cleft lip and palate, spinal cord injuries, burns, and soft tissue conditions. Because each health facility is able to provide unique, specialized expertise for patients, as well as their families, Telehealth can connect patients with the best healthcare for a myriad of conditions. Their partnership is aiming to eliminate at least one barrier in healthcare: location.

“If you’re a mature organization and mature professional, you realize that you’re not all knowing,” says physical medicine and rehab physician Doctor Christian VandenBerg. “You realize you don’t have every resource possible, so we reach out for those partnerships to be better.”

VandenBerg has worked with Mary Free Bed for the last six years. On June 22, he was able to successfully work with their first patient through this partnership, who was based in Battle Creek.

VandenBerg says families who have follow-up appointments fitting into the criterion for a Telehealth consultation are able to communicate with Shriner’s technicians via Mary Free Bed’s facility; likewise, patients of Mary Free Bed located in Cincinnati and Chicago are able to do follow-up appointments through Shriner’s facility.

Much like Telehealth, Mary Free Bed has been offering virtual health services specific to their facility for about a year now, which Doctor Vandenberg uses often, assessing patient’s needs and determining where they would fit best in the ecosystem of their hospital.

“I often have a nurse or therapist there from the hospital that allows me to see how they’re [the patient is] moving,” says VandenBerg. “I can then have a conversation to clarify for the patient’s family my professional opinion on what are their needs and how can they best be met. And most importantly, to align expectations and goals of that patient and family.”

VandenBerg says having the ability to communicate with patients about the technical side of their impairments is only one reason why Telehealth is important.

“It’s not just about treating a specific disease or specific impairments,” says VandenBerg. “Impairments are things that get in the way of function. It’s really looking at that patient very holistically, very comprehensively, and so often, they need that contact. For someone to be successful, often they have to change their behavior.

Changing behavior is one of the most difficult things. You can’t do it in an isolated manner. You have to have those conversations to remain vigilant in your efforts, that encouragement that’s just so critical, as well as continuing to guide them in directions of healthier behaviors. To do that, you have to have conversations, and I think in doing that with the visual component, it makes a difference. It’s face to face.”

Images courtesy of Mary Free Bed.
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