Telemedicine broadens the DPT classroom experience
Students in Elon's Doctor of Physical Therapy program are using telemedicine to connect with physical therapists and patients across the country.
The Elon DPT students file into the Francis Center classroom with laptops open and ready to record the events of the day.
Today they’re sitting in on a wound consultation. They’ll ask questions and observe the action as Doug Herron, PT, fits a patient with a total contact cast. The patient has diabetes and the cast will help to heal a foot ulcer.
The procedure is relatively common but the circumstances aren’t exactly what they seem.
The Elon students and their professor, Daryl Lawson, are active participants but their vantage point in the Francis Center is 2,600 miles and three time zones away from the Reno, N.V. wound care center where the consultation is taking place.
This is telemedicine and its benefits are broad and far-reaching.
Lawson, associate professor of physical therapy education, initiated the project when he visited Renown Health Advanced Wound Care a few weeks ago. The center provides wound care to 40-50 patients per day across the state, many from rural backgrounds.
The use of video conferencing technology is increasingly common in medical schools. It puts students in real-life situations early in their education, and also allows them to learn from patients and clinicians from backgrounds they might not typically encounter. It also allows real time communication with the patient and clinician during the procedure.
Lawson’s students will spend 30-45 minutes each week in a teleconference as they track and interact with patient and the clinician during the rehabilitation process. They’ll watch the healing process in real time, rather than learning through theory or photo slides. The experience will grow their expertise, but also broaden their network as they learn from and converse with clinicians across the country.
Beyond expanding the classroom experience, Lawson also hopes to utilize telemedicine to better serve patients at a pro-bono physical therapy clinic he’s opening in Appalachia. When he’s not at the clinic, he anticipates using telemedicine techniques to follow-up with patients in research projects around the country.