Thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Penn State College of Nursing is launching a pilot program to improve the identification and treatment of sexual assault cases through rural telemedicine. Later this year, four rural health sites will be linked to the Pennsylvania Sexual Assault Forensic Examination and Telehealth (SAFE-T) Center on the Penn State campus; through this program, nurses in the rural regions will be able to train to become forensic Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) or connect with a SANE immediately via telemedicine when a sexual assault victim comes to the facility.
Rural communities generally have low access to high-quality care for sexual assault; the project aims to remedy this by providing easily accessible, updated training and immediate assistance when a sexual assault victim arrives at a health center. In this way, the program hopes to provide improved access and quality of care for victims while increasing prosecution success.
Similar telemedicine systems have already been used successfully in identifying child neglect or abuse at health systems, courts, and schools across the nation. For instance, at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, trained specialists lend their expertise to rural clinicians via telemedicine, reducing unnecessary monetary and emotional costs to children and families.