The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction initiated a pilot project using videoconferencing technology, also known as telemedicine, in March 1995, connecting the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, the Franklin Medical Center in Columbus, and The Ohio State University Medical Center. The project was undertaken to evaluate the use of two-way video technology for correctional healthcare. Initial project objectives included improved continuity of care, decreased transportation costs and improved communication.
The system uses video equipment that compresses the video image and then transmits the audio and video over T1 lines, best described as a high-speed communications circuit. The equipment is also connected to peripheral medical devices, such as stethoscopes, that enhance the ability of staff to provide medical evaluation and treatment. The system can be used to provide consultation between any two endpoints on the network.
Since its inception, the Telemedicine program has conducted approximately 19,000 consultations. Approximately 5000 such consults in 12 different medical specialties are now completed each year. Medical care is initiated at the local prison by the nurses and physicians onsite. Telemedicine is then used to present the inmate and his or her medical condition to the specialty physicians at The Ohio State University Medical Center for appropriate care. In addition to the medical services provided by the OSUMC, ODRC staff conduct psychiatric and dietary consultations from a Central Office video system located in the Office of Correctional Health Care. Thirty-two prisons participate in the Telemedicine program.
The Telemedicine network is part of a larger ODRC videoconferencing network that also includes the Division of Parole and Community Services' eight regional offices and 3 district offices. The prison school system known as the Ohio Central School System has 6 distance learning centers included on the network as well. Thus, the videoconferencing network is used to not only to provide improved access to specialty care, but also continuing education to health care, administrative, security, and other support staff, as well as legal hearings, parole board hearings, administrative meetings, and patient transfer meetings.