Plessen Healthcare Pioneers Telemedicine in the Territory

Pictured Standing (L-R): Andrew Hayes (USDA Rural Development), Kimme Bryce (USDA Rural Development), Aminah Saleem (Patient), Dr. Jan Tawakol (Plessen Healthcare), Angela East (Plessen Healthcare); Seated: Dena Romero (Plessen Healthcare)

An 18-month project has come to fruition at Plessen Healthcare where patients are now being seen weekly by a remote rheumatology specialist located at Beth Israel Lahey Health in Boston, Mass.

Plessen Healthcare is now seeing patients at their medical center on the Orange Grove campus by appointment on Tuesdays in a dedicated examination room outfitted with equipment and technology that makes it possible for patients on St. Croix to receive specialized medical care by doctors at locations across the globe. Rheumatologist Dr. Malgorzata Dawiskiba began seeing patients at the end of December 2019 via Telemedicine at Plessen.

Dawiskiba is board certified and licensed in both internal medicine and rheumatology and maintains an active rheumatologic practice in Massachusetts. She was raised on St. Croix and is a 1997 graduate of Good Hope Country Day School. Dawiskiba earned her medical degree from Tufts School of Medicine in Boston in 2008.

Assisting her in the examination room on St. Croix is medical assistant Dena Romero, who was enrolled by Plessen Healthcare to attend Thomas Jefferson University in Pennsylvania to receive training and certification as a telehealth facilitator.

Plessen’s first telemedicine patient, Aminah Saleem, expressed her enthusiasm for the program that allowed her to receive a specialized rheumatology diagnosis and treatment program in just a few visits without having to leave the territory and incur travel expenses and lost time at work.

“One of the great things is that there is always a medical assistant in the room with you. So, you have that personal touch that is really needed while having the doctor on the screen who actually does the whole examination. I felt that I had a lot of attention, and it was a really good experience,” said Saleem.

Spearheaded by Dr. Jan Tawakol’s vision and his passion for providing the best, modern healthcare options for the community, Plessen Healthcare LLC invested in and funded the initial research and development phase of the telemedicine project while identifying the unique geographical challenges of providing telemedicine services to patients on St. Croix.

Plessen has also developed a fully functional health information exchange. The exchange allows providers to access patient laboratory results, both current and historic.

“With a functioning health information exchange as well as a telemedicine program, we are now current with the medical innovations and advancements, and are able to provide our community with the state-of-the-art healthcare they deserve.” said Tawakol, one of the founders of Plessen Healthcare and a clinical team member of the USVI Government Telehealth Task Force.

The technology and equipment that has made telemedicine possible was funded by a grant from USDA Rural Development. The Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program helps rural communities use the unique capabilities of telecommunications to connect to each other and to the world, overcoming the effects of remoteness and low population density.

Plessen Healthcare currently has two examination rooms outfitted for telemedicine in Orange Grove and is currently working on an additional two at a soon-to-be-announced location. Future telemedicine plans include expanding the roster of doctors specializing in other areas of medicine.

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