TeleHeart brings heart care to rural communities

After returning home from a trip, Howard Zins noticed that he was very short of breath and was having trouble moving around his property in New Ulm. MN. He visited his regular doctor, who after examining him, suggested he meet with a cardiology specialist from Minneapolis Heart Institute®. Instead of waiting weeks for an appointment or having to drive more than two hours each way to meet with the specialist in Minneapolis, he was able to connect with Marc Newell, MD, a general cardiologist, via TeleHeart. Learn more about TeleHeart technology and Zins’ story.

[MUSIC PLAYING] The TeleHeart program is a program where we conduct video visits or across-the-screen visits with patients, where the patient is in their local community, and the physician is here in Minneapolis. It offers our patients access to care that they didn't have before. There are a lot of great rural physicians in Minnesota, and we're lucky to work with them. This is a great way for them to have another tool on their tool belt, to say, you know what? I think you need a cardiologist sooner than later. And sometimes people are forced to drive those few hours to come to the cities. And this is a way to hopefully prevent that for the patients and, again, offer that additional tool for the local physician. 

When we were in Texas last year, I started getting a little shortness of breath. And when I got home, it just got worse and worse. At one point, I couldn't walk from my shadow, over there, to the house without stopping at least once to catch my breath, and then at another time, maybe by the steps here. So I ended up going to the doctor, and stuff, and that's when they did an EKG and found out that that valve was just not working at all. 

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When I interacted with him the first time, he didn't look well. It was very clear that he was short of breath. He was trying to finish sentences and couldn't quite get there because he was so short of breath. Looking at his neck, you could clearly see that his jugular veins were distended, The and you could just see it in his eyes that he wasn't doing well. 

And that's the powerful part of this tool, is that, for example, Howard would have weighted either several weeks for his appointment in New Ulm, or he would have had to drive two hours each way to get an appointment that day. And TeleHeart offered him the opportunity to be seen that day. And he was in the hospital the next day, and definitely needed to be. 

I got a call one day from Deb, and was wondering if I would, rather than come up there, if I would meet at the clinic in New Ulm. I said, well, that's great. That saved me. Instead of 200 miles, I can only-- in 20 miles, I'm there. So I got there, and I wasn't even sure what this TeleHeart was until we got in the room, and she said, you're going to talk to the doctor on that. 

One of the first things I do is I show them the [? cart. ?] I show them what their role is in this visit, and then I reassure them that I'm going to be there to help them with this visit. So they don't have to worry about any technology components of the visit. And if there's anything that they don't understand, I explain that to them. I try to put them at ease right away with how this visit is going to go. 

Good morning, Mr. [INAUDIBLE]. 

Morning, Doctor. How are you today? 

Great, great, nice to see you. 

Good to see you, too. 

Great. Good, good. Do you mind if I call you Howard? 

No problem. I've been called all kinds of things. 

Well, as you know, I'm Marc Newell. I'm one of the heart-- 

And that certainly carries across the monitor very well. The patients can tell that you're interested, that you care. And you can have that real time interaction. For those that have used an interactive video with their kids or grandkids, they know that it's a very reliable interaction. And this is a privacy-compliant way to do that. 

Most of the patients are very amazed at how clear the camera image is of both, not only the doctor, but also of themselves. They really like the fact that they're able to make that connection with the cardiologist. 

It was almost like the doctor was there and seeing me and not touching me. But certainly, a doctor can tell a lot by your color and looking at a vein or looking at your eyes, and stuff. 

Can you still tell if somebody truly is not feeling well or not with what the physicians call the eyeball test? Well, the eyeball test absolutely works in telehealth. You can tell right away if the patient is not doing well or if they're doing better than you expected. 

I think I accomplished just as much doing it that way than driving 200 miles, without a doubt. I think it was great. 

It offers us to approach the world a little bit differently, in terms of providing care in rural settings, because again, we can be there more often. We can be able to do what we do downtown in Minneapolis, but then also be able to serve those in our communities that need us, when they need us. And so I think that's a very unique opportunity and one we're happy to provide for our patients and colleagues. 

With the technology that we have for MHI and delivering telecardiology for rural health care has been a huge step for, not only the patient in the rural setting, but also for Minneapolis Heart Institute, in being able to bring their quality care to the rural patient and being able to deliver that care in their home setting. 

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Related resources

teleheart provider talking with patient

Dr. Marc Newell connecting via Teleheart with his patient.