JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The state of Arkansas ranks 48th when it comes to access to physicians, and a medical school in Region 8 is pushing its students to improve healthcare.
Wednesday, medical students at the NYIT School of Osteopathic Medicine on Arkansas State's campus demonstrated ways to use telemedicine.
Dr. Darren Sommer is an internal medicine physician who teaches telemedicine at NYIT.
"As we become more specialized and as family practice and primary care doctors become more focused on smaller populations, the need to expand access to care for specialty services and new services in rural underserved communities becomes more important," Sommer said.
During the demonstration, it was clear doctors no longer need to be in the same room as their patients to get a diagnosis.
Screen to screen, second-year student doctors Michelle Tedrowe, Shil Punatar, and Mirsha Stiven showed how life sized screens, microphones, and high tech medical instruments give doctors numerous ways to diagnose a patient.
From hearing a patient's heartbeat to snapping a photo and sending it back, telemedicine is taking care of a choice families once had to make.
"Either take your family and come to an urban area to receive specialty care services or you don't get care at all," Sommer said.
"The mission of our school is to help the delta which is a very rural area so getting this opportunity I think has been great for us," Tedrowe said.
Through Sommer's experience serving in the U.S. Army and practicing medicine in multiple states, he saw a need for a new way to treat all patients no matter where they lived.
"I became passionate about how do we take technology and still have great patient physician relationships and bring it back into the community," Sommer said.
Sommer not only teaches the technique but enlightens future doctors.
"It's eye opening because from Chicago I didn't know these health discrepancies existed," Punatar said.
Sommer said Jonesboro's NYIT campus is one of the only schools in the country teaching this technology to first and second-year med students.
"This is a way I reach my patients, and from being in an office, to provide the need that is necessary," Stiven said. "I just think honestly it's a privilege for me to be learning this kind of technology."
Sommer said at the end of the day telemedicine can't be integrated overnight, but more doctors and students need to be open minded.
"Sometimes I see an older physician that comes in and embraces it and loves it and I see physicians that don't, and I see it with younger ones too," Sommer said.
He hopes the earlier they start teaching students and as new laws and reimbursement strategies are considered for telemedicine the more it can expand.
Telemedicine isn't only a focus at NYIT in Jonesboro, it's also getting attention from President Donald Trump.
President Trump announced a new telehealth initiative to better serve veterans across the country.
Sommer said they teach more than 100 students telemedicine techniques each year.
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