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The opening of Alaska’s first telemedicine clinic in a shopping mall earlier this week is being touted as a venue to increase accessibility to medical care in the downtown district.

Capstone Express with its two exam rooms, laboratory and retail space located on the first floor of the 5th Avenue Mall is a first step for the professional dream held by its ownership to increase the availability of state-of-the-art medical care in Alaska.

“Our new paradigm of telemedicine integrates state-of-the-art medical services with high-tech communications and remote access to medical providers,” Dr. Wade Erickson, founder and co-owner of Capstone’s health services network, said. “The new telemedicine option affords tourists, mall employees, downtown workers and shoppers the benefit of fast, effective treatment in a location where there are limited medical service options.”

Erickson and the other staff members of the Capstone Express provided a telemedicine demonstration as part of Tuesday afternoon’s ribbon-cutting ceremony sponsored by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.

Telemedicine is the remote treatment and diagnosis of patients by connecting patients and medical providers in one location to medical experts in another location. Telemedicine has been used for years within the U.S. military ranks – particularly in the seagoing services. It holds great promise to connect rural Alaska with resources in Anchorage and Anchorage with resources located Outside.

For Tuesday’s demonstration, Erickson took on the role of “patient” as Lynnsay Scott, a certified medical assistant with Capstone, demonstrated the taking of the patient’s vital signs. Her work was recorded by computer at her location and sent online to Robert Mizen, a Capstone nurse practitioner, who monitored another computer screen nearby.

Usually more than a couple of feet separate the user inputting medical information and the receiver evaluating the information for diagnosis and treatment. But for Tuesday’s demonstration for media and other Anchorage-area business professionals and dignitaries on hand for the event, the in-office presentation gave onlookers the opportunity to experience the real-time dynamics of telemedicine.

As Scott used a specially-designed stethoscope, Erickson’s heart beat was broadcast within the Capstone Express clinic but also online to the computer being monitored by Mizen.

Under normal operations, workers at the express clinic in the mall will send information to Capstone’s clinic on Boniface when additional expertise is medically necessary.

“If it is determined that a patient needs a higher level of care, then they can go over to our Boniface office,” Erickson explained. “But if this is something that can be handled here and the patient is a downtown worker or even a tourist visiting, we just saved them another office visit and more time in getting to their diagnosis.”

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and Bruce Bustamente, president of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, were both on hand for the Tuesday afternoon ribbon-cutting ceremony. Both spoke before the giant scissors were handed to Erickson to snip the chamber’s classic red ribbon in half.

“This is a model that is on the cutting edge as far as getting innovative health care delivery to Anchorage and later all of Alaska,” Berkowitz said. “I am very proud of this.”

So is Dr. Brianna Cramner, whom recently left Medical Park Family Care to join Capstone.

“I love that someone working downtown who might not be feeling very well can just come on over here without having to make an appointment and have a variety of potential causes such as strep be evaluated,” Cramner said. “Patients can make this a quick and easy in-and-out and handle their health needs.”

Capstone Express accepts a variety of insurance plans including Medicaid, Medicare and Tricare. Erickson said its services are significantly less expensive than traditional emergency room charges and the clinic offers a competitive cash payment options, he added.

Capstone Clinic and its various locations – the express mall location, full service clinics on Boniface, its full service clinics in Eagle River and Wasilla, its urgent care clinic in Wasilla and its two medical spa locations also in Eagle River and Wasilla – recently became a division of The Medical Group of Alaska.

Capstone Express is open during mall hours. Reach the mall clinic via phone: (907) 929-1340. Its website is: capstone clinic.com.

Reach Amy Armstrong via email at: asocialbutterfly@gci.net.

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