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Telemedicine and Telehealth - Wildlife Center - Case Study

The Wildlife Center of Virginia

The Wildlife Center of Virginia is a non-profit teaching and research hospital for wildlife medicine located in Waynesboro, Virginia.  Throughout its 25-year history, the Center has pursued the same mission, “Teaching the World to Care About and Care For Wildlife and the Environment” . For the Wildlife Center, “teaching the world” is a literal statement.

Not only does the Wildlife Center of Virginia receive veterinary students from every veterinary school in the United States and Canada, but from thirty other countries around the world.  The Center’s active programs reach hundreds of professionals each year, and, directly or indirectly, help tens of thousands of wild animals, including some of the planet’s most endangered species.

With a relatively small staff of only 20 professionals, and a modest budget of just over one million dollars annually, the Center must find ways to maximize its effectiveness and efficiency, and make the best use of time and financial resources.  The use of broadband technologies has provided the answer.

Video teleconferencing was instituted in 2003 with the installation of Tandberg teleconferencing equipment and T-1 connectivity.  From the beginning, teleconferencing was used to conduct weekly seminars linking the board-certified professional staff, postdoctoral residents and interns, and veterinary undergraduates from the Wildlife Center of Virginia and the Department of Zoological Medicine of the University of Tennessee’s School of Veterinary Medicine.   Through this program, scores of students and professionals have been able to share case histories, experiences, information and expertise, in a live interactive format.

Soon, the successful model with the University of Tennessee was extended to international relationships.  The Wildlife Center now conducts regular classes and seminars with the Wildlife Medicine Program of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City.   In 2005, WCV President Ed Clark and former Director of Veterinary Services Patricia Bright used teleconferencing to present the keynote address at the 22nd Annual Conference on Wildlife Medicine hosted by the Veterinary Faculty of UNAM.  Coordinated with the AV staff of the university, the presenters’ images were projected on to a large screen before the 200+ participants, and return image cameras were situated to give the impression that speakers could see questioners from the screen, actually enabling eye contact.

Since that time, the Center has used teleconferencing to interview prospective employees in other parts of the country, conduct briefings for federal agencies, and provide educational presentations to a variety of audiences.  The use of broadband communication at the Wildlife Center now includes a complete VoIP telephone system, the use of soft-phone technology, instant text and voice messaging, and the use of digital imagery for long-distance diagnostics and consultations.  Next steps will include remote imaging and monitoring for surveillance and evaluation of patients at the Center and beyond.