Van Buren County Hospital: A First in Iowa

Physician with patient in ER setting
            Tim Blair, MD, medical director of the Emergency Department at VBCH, readies a computer link up for patient care with colleagues at UI Hospitals and Clinics.


In early 2017, Van Buren County Hospital (VBCH) partnered with UI Hospitals and Clinics to place the Virtual Hospital® within its walls.

The UI Virtual Hospitalist Service provides VBCH access to hospitalists via a secure telemedicine connection between the hospitals, helping local providers enhance patient care and keep patients in their home community.

“It’s always good to talk to another provider. Two heads are definitely better than one,” says Tim Blair, MD, medical director of the Emergency Department at VBCH. “The service allows us to collaborate via telemedicine on the care of our patients and effectively treat conditions we don’t see often.

“Ultimately, VBCH can keep more medically complex patients in our local community, patients who might otherwise transfer to the University of Iowa,” he adds.

With their VBCH provider at their side, inpatients at VBCH use secure video conferencing to communicate with the UI hospitalist daily.

“I can talk with patients and providers in Van Buren County Hospital the same way I would if they were face-to-face with me here in Iowa City,” says Ethan Kuperman, MD, hospitalist at UI Hospitals and Clinics and medical director of the UI Virtual Hospitalist Service. “The secure video conferencing allows us to establish the patient-to-provider relationship even though the patient is located more than 90 minutes away from where I am.”

When a patient transfer is necessary, the process ensures the patient experiences a smooth transition of care from VBCH to UI Hospitals and Clinics.

“When a patient does need to transfer, the process is seamless,” Blair says. “The patient sees the UI hospitalist in person who they saw on the tablet. Plus, it is a comfort to the patient to know someone else is out there taking care of them.”

Melissa Rains of Salem, Iowa, experienced this firsthand when she was admitted to VBCH and used the UI Health Care Virtual Hospitalist Service.

“The doctors worked together as a team to provide the care that I needed,” said Rains. “One thing I loved was the hospitalist had been following my case from the very beginning. I didn’t have to explain everything again when I transferred to Iowa City because Dr. Kuperman already knew the whole story.”

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