KOTZEBUE (AP) -- Three Northwest Arctic Borough villages are the first to take advantage of new video technology that virtually allows doctors to do just about everything short of hands-on surgery.
The advanced technology was installed in Selawik in June and in recent months added to clinics in Noorvik and Kiana, linking them to Maniilaq Health Center in Kotzebue. The connection helps doctors in Kotzebue better serve their constituents in remote villages.
And more technology is on its way from the Alaska Federal Health Care Access Network, which plans to link all 10 villages in the borough and Point Hope to the system, the Arctic Sounder reported.
Maniilaq is the first site to receive the technology through this program. But the project doesn't end there. AFHCAN was awarded $31 million in federal money to connect 235 villages in Alaska with similar technology. The majority of the connections will be in rural Alaska, said Wanda Asta Keller, public relations director for AFHCAN.
In the recent past, health aids either took digital pictures of a patient and sent those pictures to the doctors at Maniilaq -- a time-consuming process -- or they relied on guidance from doctors at the other end of a phone.
''The video going out now gives us a real-time look at what's going on,'' said Dr. Janet Shackles, Maniilaq's medical director.
With the new technology, doctors can see things that weren't available with still images, such as a patient's range-of-motion if there is an extremity injury, or the patient's reactions.
And there is other equipment that allows doctors to get instant information, such as an EKG, or allows doctors to see what's going on inside a patient's ear. The equipment can also be used to send pictures or video to Anchorage and beyond.
The technology also has applications outside of medical emergencies for training and video-conferencing.
In the villages, the equipment is installed in a room where most of the emergency activity occurs. Meanwhile, back in Kotzebue, the new technology is in the radio room, a room with many communications technologies.
Shackles said the purpose behind the new equipment is to give doctors more information so they can better care for patients.
''It's a lot faster and a lot easier to look at a picture,'' she said. ''A picture is worth a thousand words.''
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