Food, Fun and Dermatology Screenings

More than 240 attendees at this year’s Minnesota State Fair received free dermatology screenings thanks to the Great Plains Telehealth Resource and Assistance Center (gpTRAC) and the University of Minnesota.  The telehealth awareness booth was designed to educate fairgoers about telemedicine services while calling attention to the dangers of skin cancer and the importance of regular dermatology screenings to monitor for warning signs of the disease.

Nearly 20 percent of fairgoers screened were advised to seek further evaluation for skin cancer.  Seventeen were suspected of skin cancer and twenty-seven for suspected pre-cancer skin conditions.

“Many of these fairgoers hadn’t made it a priority to get screened for skin cancer until they came upon our booth.  I think this demonstrates that telehealth services can help increase access to specialty care, like dermatological screenings, to ultimately help reduce overall healthcare costs through earlier diagnosis, management and treatment of disease,” said Stuart Speedie, Ph.D., Principal Investigator and Director of gpTRAC.  “Clearly, we accomplished something very positive at the State Fair and hopefully helped prevent the advancement of a dangerous disease in several Minnesotans.”

Telehealth offers increased healthcare service delivery to medically-underserved communities by connecting patients to specialists via technology.  More convenient access to care minimizes patient travel time, reduces out-of-pocket costs and increases the likelihood that patients obtain care when they need it.

During a telemedicine consultation, which can be conducted in a growing number of clinics across the state, a patient is connected to a specialist who is in a separate location via video. A nurse is often on hand with the patient to conduct physical exam tasks as requested by the specialist. Cameras and other monitoring tools allow the specialist to see on screen exactly what the nurse is seeing in person. In addition to skin cancer screenings, telehealth can be used for mental health evaluations, orthopedic consults, management of chronic diseases and a wide range of other medical services.

“This event wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of dermatologists at the University of Minnesota who volunteered 140 hours of time to conduct free screenings during the fair.  With their help raising awareness of telehealth, we hope that access to telehealth services will continue to grow across the state of Minnesota,” added Speedie.

The gpTRAC is one of eleven federally designated telehealth resource centers in the nation supported by a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).  Serving Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Wisconsin, the gpTRAC strives to promote health care services that take advantage of modern telecommunications technologies.  For more information, visit accesstelehealth.org or gptrac.org.

Click here to see a video of the state fair telehealth visits.

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