When Jennifer Keller was pregnant with her first child, she had complications that caused the baby to be born prematurely.
Now, six-months pregnant with her second child, Keller says she is very thankful for a new program at Takoma Regional Hospital that helps women with high-risk pregnancies receive specialized care right here in Greeneville.
Called STORC (Solutions To Obstetrics In Rural Communities), the telemedicine program provides supportive subspecialty consultative care at Takoma without pregnant patients having to drive to tertiary centers in larger cities. STORC technology is funded by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee Health Foundation through a grant with Regional Obstetric Consultants in Chattanooga.
“In the past, our patients with complicated and/or high-risk pregnancies had to drive some distance for maternal fetal subspecialty consultations,” Dr. Harry Nelson, an OB-GYN physician with the Women’s Center of Greeneville, said. “Now, with this new STORC program, they can stay in town, avoiding the time and expense of travel, while obtaining the same great consultative care.”
Keller agrees. “I see Dr. Jo Lynn Hawthorne every month, and I see the STORC specialists twice a month at Takoma,” she said. “They work together as a great team. It’s been a wonderful experience. The STORC program saves me a lot of time away from work. I only have to drive 10 minutes to see them, compared to driving to Knoxville.”
Rita Hillhouse, a registered nurse with STORC who cares for patients in the Greeneville center, describes the program this way: “We’re bringing our expertise to the Greeneville community, instead of having the patients come to us. It’s a matter of convenience for the patients, but it’s also a means to provide a higher level of specialized care.”
The STORC staff, based at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, comes to Greeneville twice a month. “We have four subspecialists in maternal fetal medicine who rotate here,” she explained. “We also have a genetic counselor onsite, as well as a registered nurse, an ultra-sonographer and a certified nursing assistant.”
At other times, the patients can access the same staff via specialized STORC equipment in Greeneville that provides real-time discussions between the local patient and the Knoxville staff. “Although I’m not physically in the room, we can still have face-to-face discussions in real time,” said Dr. Craig V. Towers with High Risk Obstetric Consultants, one of the STORC physicians who consults in Greeneville. “This program is the only one of its kind in Greene County. Women with high-risk pregnancies from all over the area come to Greeneville for this service. We don’t replace the patient’s OB-GYN, we just work closely with them to provide a high level of specialized care.”
Dr. Harry Nelson, Jennifer Keller and Dr. Karin Small