Asante, OHSU Provide Online Medical Consultation Service

11/02/01    MEDFORD, Ore.

Southern Oregon clinicians can now go online to ask questions and get answers quickly from medical specialists at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.

The Professionals Information Link service, or PiL, is a new service of Asante Health System and OHSU to give southern Oregon physicians convenient access to medical specialists.

Here's how it works: physicians and clinical staff in Ashland, Grants Pass and Medford can visit a secure, designated Web site and post their questions. A specialist from OHSU will respond within two business days. PiL also provides conference schedules and health updates for doctors and handouts on certain diseases.

PiL is designed to make it easier for clinicians treating less acute patients with unusual symptoms to get an opinion from a specialist. The service is not designed for emergency cases. Both Rogue Valley Medical Center in Medford and Three Rivers Community Hospital in Grants Pass regularly consult with specialists at OHSU and other facilities by phone when the need arises for emergency care.

The service has been made available to about 20 physicians and nurse practitioners in the area and will be expanded in the coming months. The initial program is limited to questions about endocrine disorders or infectious diseases. The specialty list will grow as the program develops.

"The physicians in southern Oregon would call OHSU when they need help, but they don't like to pull the experts away from their work if it's not an emergency," says Medford physician Robin Miller, M.D., medical advisor to OHSU Partners, a collaboration between Asante and the Portland-based medical school.

PiL has been in operation since late August thanks to a grant from the Eugene Garfield Foundation and funding from OHSU Hospital, OHSU Medical Group and Asante. The program is administered by the OHSU Division of Medical Informatics and Outcomes Research, which took Miller's idea and created the system.

"This is part of the technological evolution of medicine," said William Hersh, M.D., director of medical informatics at OHSU and principal investigator of the PiL program. "The value of PiL is its 'asynchronous' nature, where clinicians in one part of the state can interact with specialists in another area, each at their own convenience. PiL takes advantage of existing Internet technology, but instead of wandering aimlessly across the Web for information, clinicians can direct a question at a specific, responsive source."

"Physicians in southern Oregon have been seeking ways to improve their access to specialists," says Roy Vinyard, president and CEO of Asante. "PiL is a significant step to achieve that goal and will assist our area's physicians in providing the best care to patients."

Asante Health System is a locally owned and governed, not-for-profit organization that consists of Rogue Valley Medical Center in Medford--Oregon's only national Top 100 Cardiovascular Hospital--as well as Three Rivers Community Hospital in Grants Pass, Genesis Recovery Center in Central Point and Hearthstone in Medford.

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