As telemedicine develops and gains traction in healthcare, the specialty of cardiovascular care, in particular, is benefiting tremendously. Telecardiology aims to streamline the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease through real-time and remote technology. Innovations in cardiac rehab, cancer care, and pediatric cardiology not only benefit patients but help physicians to work more efficiently.


Cardiac rehab is a medically supervised program created to help patients recover and improve the quality of life following a heart attack, heart failure, or other heart problems. Compliance with cardiac rehab dramatically impacts the recovery and outcomes, but often patients struggle with attending appointments due to living in a rural area or requiring physical assistance. Telemedicine is gaining recognition in the ability to raise the compliance rates of patients undergoing cardiac rehab significantly. By removing the barriers patients face in transportation to and from appointments, telemedicine gives patients the ability to attend and complete their rehab from any location.


Cancer treatment can cause the development of various cardiac complications. For cancer patients who are fighting the disease, having to see a cardiologist can be very difficult. Patient evaluations often don’t require the full resources of a hospital and can be done in local clinics. Telemedicine gives cardiologists the ability to conduct thorough exams remotely, while nurses and medical assistants perform screening and diagnostic tasks. Patients only have to go to their local clinic or regional hospital.


In the scope of pediatric cardiology, videoconferencing technology helps reduce disturbances in the busy schedules of families, who don’t need to miss much work or school to attend virtual appointments. Students can conference with their physicians at school on break, while parents can participate in the meetings from work. An added benefit of videoconferencing over a simple phone call is the ability of the physician to pick up on facial expressions that can help them understand where the patient or the parent is confused, and direct discussion as such.

Students living in rural areas in Bledsoe and surrounding counties are getting free medical care services thanks to telehealth, through the Chattanooga-based Erlanger Health System.


Telehealth (also known as telemedicine) uses electronic information and telecommunication technologies to offer long-distance clinical health care. Telemedicine centers on populations that have barriers to health care, including rural communities, poverty-stricken regions, or homebound people. Telemedicine is sustained by grants, funds, and other donations from organizations, such as the Lyndhurst Foundation and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Chattanooga.


According to the National Association of School Nurses website, telehealth can significantly reduce the outbreak of infectious diseases, help manage chronic health conditions, and improve school attendance among students. Besides, it can enhance the work productivity of teachers, support staff, and parents.


Erlanger finances this effort at no cost to the schools in the region schools. It uses students’ health insurance to cover the cost of virtual visits—if a student has a health cover. Hence, the grant funds only include virtual appointments of students who are not covered. Erlanger also helps such students and their families to enroll in TennCare.


In August 2019, the program was implemented in five schools after the Bledsoe County School Board’s vote. From August 2019, 75 children, as well as faculty and staff members, have accessed medical care through telehealth.


Symptoms that warrant telemedicine includes sore throat, fever, and congestion. When a student has these symptoms, the school calls their parents or guardians to ask if they should use the service or take the student to their regular provider. Notably, some conditions, such as head and physical injuries, cuts that need stitching, complicated infections, serious illness, and traumatic injuries, cannot be treated through the program.


Trained nurses in communication with Erlanger nurse practitioners conduct visits, which happen within 10 to 15 minutes. An Erlanger nurse practitioner watches through a webcam as the student’s parent joins in through the phone.


As a result, most students are treated faster than they used to be returning to school quicker. They do not have to miss school when the condition is non-contagious. Also, studies show that more than 50% of teachers treated through telehealth have been able to resume work immediately. As a result, this program has also helped schools save much money on substitute teachers.