It’s no secret that VA hospitals across America struggle with getting veterans timely care. It’s a battle 15-year Navy veteran Ivorique’ Turner has been entrenched in herself. After leaving the Navy, Turner landed a prestigious spot as Chief Medical Officer at the VA hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. “What I quickly learned is most VA hospitals are critically undermanned, so it makes it really, really hard to get things done,” Turner said. “The average person is working the job of three to five people. That affects the quality of health care that we deliver.”
She couldn’t believe the backlog of veterans who needed care, and the policies blocking her from taking action. Turner decided she couldn’t sit still and be part of a broken system. Instead, with the help of her biomedical engineer husband, she left the VA and launched a telehealth venture designed to give veterans affordable primary care quickly and efficiently.
“That’s where Eko came in,” said Turner. She needed tools that would allow her to listen to the heart and lung sounds remotely. And she needed the software to be able to live stream her virtual doctor’s visits.“We tried another product but it just too expensive and very clumsy. You had to have two of the stethoscope models, one on my end as the clinician, and then another one for the telepresenter. On my end, I didn’t need a full stethoscope. When we came across Eko, we knew we were on to something. Plus the customer service was phenomenal.”
Eko’s CORE Digital Stethoscope quickly links to an app on your phone, tablet or computer. During a telemedicine exam, not only can clinicians see and talk with their patients, but they are getting all the essential data from the stethoscope in real time. And even though the Eko CORE is miles away, clinicians can record and save that data, and add it to an electronic medical record with the touch of a button.
Turner is now CEO and Medical Director of eMDnow, which has a walk-in telehealth clinic in Jacksonville, as well as online services that allow veterans and their families to get expert medical advice from home or work. Walk-in patients are welcomed into an exam room embedded inside a pharmacy by a medical assistant also known as a “telepresenter.” That assistant uses undefined to capture and share the heart and lung sounds with Turner. An added benefit of Eko’s live streaming technology is it includes the patient in their own exam like never before.
“The patient is seated on the exam table and in front of them they see a telemedicine cart, which is a huge monitor and equipment that allows us to get vital signs. It’s really interactive for the patient because for the first time they can see what the inside of their ears look like, and hear what their heart sounds like and see the waves on the screen,” Turner explained. “I really like that aspect of it.”
At the end of the visit, Turner can e-prescribe medication, which can then be picked up steps away at the pharmacy, or anywhere the patient likes. And it’s not just convenience that is setting eMDnow apart. The service is the only telemedicine provider certified by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and run by a veteran. It’s a distinction Turner is very proud of.
“It’s important for our patients to know that we are veterans caring for veterans. We want to continue the unique experience that a veteran gets when he or she goes into the VA.” For Turner, the fight to provide timely, affordable care doesn’t stop at veterans. She is also using Eko tools to reach low income people who might not otherwise get care.
“There are a lot of people in the community of Northwest Jacksonville who don’t have access to health care,” Turner explained. “Not only do they not have a medical home, they don’t even have insurance, or if they do, they have Medicaid, which a lot of providers don’t accept because the reimbursement rate is horrible.” People are taking notice of what Turner is doing. eMDnow was recently featured on the local news. The story profiles a veteran and mother who would have had to drive two hours to a VA hospital to get care. “It felt really good to be able to help her. I was able to give treatment through telemedicine within minutes,” Turner said.
That is the whole goal of Turner’s new venture. Instead of patients having to chase down care, clinicians can use tools like the CORE Digital Stethoscope and telemedicine streaming service to travel to the patient.
“Telemedicine has really extended my reach,” said Turner. She now treats veterans all over the state of Florida, and looks forward to reaching even more patients, as the remarkable field of telemedicine grows.