Telemedicine may conjure up visions of distant doctors disconnected from their patients, but nothing could be further from the truth, says Dr. Miriam I. Redleaf, associate professor of otolaryngology, and physician in the UI telemedicine otolaryngology clinic in Rockford.

The services in otology – conditions of the ear – are provided using video otoscope technology provided by the University of Illinois Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC). While Redleaf directs a family medicine resident examining the pediatric patients at the UI Rockford’s Telemedicine Clinic, she is viewing the feed from the otoscope in the telemedicine office in Chicago. Via a secure internet connection, patients and their parents speak directly to Dr. Redleaf.

As Redleaf and the family medicine physician make an ongoing treatment plan, Redleaf finds that the family has more time and opportunity than usual to learn about the diagnosis and appropriate treatment. “It’s an educational experience for everyone,” said Redleaf.

The clinic, which opened Jan. 12, is a collaborative effort between the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford, UIC College of Medicine at Chicago and DSCC.

The goal is to provide high-quality treatment of ear and hearing conditions to children – especially those in underserved populations – who otherwise would be without access to the specialized knowledge and experience Redleaf can offer. The program, providing information technology-driven medical services across communities in real-time, is thought to be among the first of its kind in the country.

Patients so far have included children with malformations of the ear, facial weakness and chronic ear infections. Redleaf eventually hopes to see the service in Rockford expand both beyond patients referred through DSCC, to include adults and into other areas of treatment, including audio-metric testing and a cochlear implants program.

A patient who had cochlear implant surgery in Chicago, for example, could have supportive and follow-up services closer to home at the Rockford clinic. “We already have the technology to program the implant remotely,” she said.

“I would like to see telemedicine expand to all our satellite campuses,” said Redleaf. “It’s a great program, just fantastic.”

For more information, please contact UIC-DSCC Rockford Regional Office at (815) 987-7571or toll-free at (800) 651-9319.