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Akdar Shrine Temple Breaks New Ground with Telemedicine Technology

Four-Way Partnership Means Better Care, at No Cost for Akdar Shriners or Their Young Patients


Photo: Debbie Martin, with OSU Telemedicine, assists a patient at the Will Rogers Telemedicine Suite

TULSA, Okla. – One of Tulsa’s oldest fraternal philanthropies is on the leading edge of medical technology’s most talked-about new innovation.

The Akdar Shrine Temple this week opened the doors on its new Will Rogers Telemedicine Suite, making Tulsa’s Akdar Shrine the first Shriners organization out of 191 in North America to host the new “long distance” technology. Telemedicine works like a real-time videoconference, connecting patients to doctors in distant cities for follow-up consultations and examinations, reducing the need for exhausting travel. This technology is especially beneficial to the young patients Akdar Shrine serves – children under age 18 with severe orthopedic problems, burn injuries and other serious medical needs.

The telemedicine suite is made possible by a joint partnership of Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, Tulsa, and Tulsa Regional Medical Center. The three organizations collaborated to provide equipment, technicians and operations – at no cost to the Akdar Shriners or their patients.

“Until now, our patients had to take day-long drives to a Shriners Hospital for children in Galveston, Texas; Shreveport, La or St. Louis, Mo, for physician consultation and follow-up visits,” said Akdar Potentate Tom Henshaw. “The addition of the telemedicine suite allows our young patients and their families to spend more time recovering in the comfort of their home rather than worrying about the time and expense of travel.

“Our Oklahoma Shrine sponsored children won’t have to endure as many exhausting trips to distant hospitals, thanks to OU College of Medicine, OSU Telemedicine and Tulsa Regional Medical Center. Any monies saved by this technology will allow us to help more Oklahoma children. This is indeed a much-needed addition to our program, and we will be forever grateful,” Henshaw said.

Telemedicine equipment uses sophisticated real-time audio and video communications, allowing physicians to consult or examine patients from a remote location. Both the physician and the patient see each other on screen in real-time, making the examination accurate for the doctor and more comfortable for the patient. Additional cameras provide high resolution close-ups, allowing the physician to see details of the affliction or injury. A high-speed Internet connection allows the technician to share additional supporting materials such as patient records, charts or X-rays.

Because Tulsa’s Akdar is the first Shrine nationally to have telemedicine equipment in-house, many Shrine Temples and Officers will be monitoring their progress closely to better learn how to initiate similar programs in their locations.

OSU Telemedicine donated and installed all the new equipment. The University of Oklahoma will provide X-ray’s and medical assistance at their clinic located across the street from the Shrine. They will also provide trained medical personnel to assist during exams using the telemedicine clinic. Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine and Tulsa Regional Medical Center will provide technicians and medical students to operate the equipment and communicate with physicians conducting the remote examination.

The tele-examination room, located inside Akdar Shrine at 28th and South Sheridan, will be dedicated the “ Will Rogers Telemedicine Clinic” after Akdar’s most famous Shriner.

“Will Rogers has been called Oklahoma’s favorite son and we like to call him our favorite Shriner because he passionately promoted our pledge to help children in need,” said Henshaw.

Tulsa’s Akdar Shrine is a 92-year-old philanthropic fraternity with 2,200 members. They serve 1,020 active patients, many of whom will benefit from the new technology. Internationally, approximately 525,000 members belong to Shrine Temples throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Republic of Panama.

Shriners are best known for their Shriners Hospitals for Children that provide care, at no cost, to patients with severe orthopedic and burn injuries. They are often seen participating in colorful parades and wearing distinctive red fez hats.