Remember…it is about the patient!

A couple of weeks ago, I listened to a presentation on Minnesota Public Broadcasting (MPR) by Adam Darkins, MD, which again energized me about the work that we do supporting the growth and development of telehealth.

Dr. Darkins, VP for Medical Affairs and Enterprise Technology Develop at Medtronic, was presenting at a conference in Minneapolis focused on the use of technology in healthcare. Early on in his presentation he said something that made me sit up a bit straighter and listen just a bit more closely. It was something that I have heard many times from a former co-worker of mine (a registered nurse and telehealth champion): remember, it is about the patient.

Yes! That is who must stay at the absolute center of our focus as we discuss all things telehealth!

Telehealth, more simply healthcare, must focus on what is happening with the patient. When we consider the new opportunities in telehealth, we need to specifically identify what problem we are trying to solve, not just for the provider, the health system or the insurance company, but for the patient.

While convenience and access are both key components to the value of telehealth, it needs to be about more. It must also be about improvements – improvements in a patient’s overall health, improvement in the overall costs of providing that care, improvements in the health of the general public – in order for telehealth to truly make a difference.

Or maybe, as Dr. Darkins shared, it is about shifting the model of care to more fully benefit the patient. Maybe the patient’s primary care location really is considered their home, and they would “in-reach to the hospital” or clinic for supportive services and care when needed, rather than obtaining “outreach from the hospital” only after a major illness episode or the identification of a disease. His description of the current or traditional healthcare delivery model as being “very much from the industrial age”, where you brought people TO their care access point, is really not the way the rest of the world functions today. It is becoming more important to figure out ways to bring healthcare to the patient, in their everyday experiences. The right place for the provision of care could be almost anywhere, and the right time could be now.

Healthcare, supported by telehealth, needs to continue to focus on what is actually being done and why, remembering always…it is about the patient!

Listen to the entire presentation here:

Regional Telehealth Legislative Update

So far, 2015 has proven to be a busy year for telehealth-related discussions in state legislatures around our region.  Several bills relating to various aspects of the utilization of telehealth methodologies have been introduced and are moving their way through the legislative process.  Here is a brief summary of current activity:

Interstate Medical License Compact – This compact would allow an expedited process for physicians interested in obtaining licenses in multiple states.  So far, this has been introduced in:

  • South Dakota (SB63 – passed both houses and awaiting Governor’s signature)
  • Minnesota (HF321/SF253 – have been referred to their respective committees)
  • Iowa (various bills – HSB20, SF273, SSB1019)
  • Nebraska (LB258)
Telehealth Parity – The idea of reimbursing equally for services whether they were delivered in-person or by telehealth technologies is also being discussed.  So far, two states have introduced a version of telehealth parity.
  • Minnesota (SF981, SF1150, & HF1246 – in various stages)
  • North Dakota (HB1038 – introduces the concept of parity initially under the public employees medical benefits coverage)
Supporting Mental Health Services – Bills are also being considered which would allow for telehealth to be used more extensively in the care of those needing mental health services.  These include:
  • Minnesota (HF850, SF825 – referred to their respective committees)
Click here to access the full list of telehealth bills being discussed across our region.


Grant Opportunity

The State of Minnesota recently announced a Request for Proposal for Live Well at Home Grants.   We  know Live Well at Home to be one of the few grants that welcomes proposals that include  technology to develop and /or provide services for older Minnesotans to live in the community.

You need to act quickly!   Pre-registration for the responders conference (to be held Feb. 19th) closes on Feb. 16th and applications are due on March 27th.   For further information see:


gpTRAC Regional Telehealth Conference April 6-7, 2015

gpTRAC Regional Telehealth Conference April 6-7, 2015

Save the date! The 2015 Regional Telehealth Conference will be held April 6-7 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

gpTRAC is excited to again offer an opportunity for the region’s healthcare community to come together to network and learn more about making a difference through telehealth services. This 1.5 day forum offers the opportunity to learn from both regional and national experts as they share their stories and experiences in developing and implementing telehealth to meet the needs of their area.  Click on the FORUM tab above to access additional event details.

We look forward to seeing you in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Please call us at 888-239-7092 if you have any questions.


2015 Regional Telehealth Conference


Growth of Telepsych

Telepsychiatry companies or telemental health companies are popping all over.  It is, by far, the fastest growing telemedicine business today.  Even if a telemedicine company offers several services via telemedicine e.g. Specialists On Call, telemental health is usually included in the services provided.

There are a variety of business models and services that have evolved in this area.  For example:  some of these companies have developed their own technologies or applications which are tailored to specifically to mental health services; some offer electronic tools to help providers diagnose and monitor a variety of mental health issues; some provide training on now to develop a thriving telemental health practice; some offer clinical, business and marketing resources to support the work of mental health professionals; and some develop online therapy applications and network development.

A sampling of these service business show that services are accessed from a variety of locations:

  • Colleges and Universities
  • Community mental health clinics
  • Correctional facilities
  • Critical Access Hospitals
  • EAP’s and Wellness Centers
  • Emergency departments
  • Federallly Qualifies Health Centers (FQHCs)
  • Individual homes
  • Long term care facilities
  • Military
  • Native American Health Care Systems
  • Primary care offices
  • Shelters
  • Urgent Care Centers
  • Work sites


Conditions typically treated include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression and Bipolar disorders
  • Medication management
  • Obsessive-compulsive
  • Panic and agoraphobia
  • Psychotherapy
  • PTSD
  • Relationship problems
  • Self esteem; self image/eating disorders
  • Substance and alcohol addiction


“Stuck in the waiting room”

Highlights of this article recently published on the Economist:

The idea of telemedicine has a lengthy history. Radio News, an American magazine, devoted its cover to a patient at home consulting a doctor in his surgery via a television link as long ago as 1924. When NASA began monitoring astronauts in space in the 1960s, fantasy became reality. It has been touted as health care’s future ever since. But, still, most health care happens face to face.  Now, enthusiasts think the wait is almost over.  Governments have been too slow to embrace an approach that could improve coverage and outcomes and save money. But they are under big pressure for ageing populations and a surge in chronic diseases.

At an industry conference in Rome on October 7-9, it was discussed to redesign laws and payment systems and find ways to keep patient data secure and private. In America, each state license doctors and the jurisdiction depends on the patient’s location, not the doctor’s. The situation in the European Union is simpler: countries may not pass laws that would stop doctors practicing telemedicine, and doctors need only be licensed in one country to practice in all. In America only 21 states mandate that telemedicine be compensated at the same rate as face-to-face care. At the federal level, the Veterans Administration has embraced telemedicine whereas Medicare, largely ignores it. But private employers and insurers are increasingly paying for telemedicine.

Some small countries are forerunners.  Israel’s health-care system is fully digitized;  all doctors use electronic medical records and patients have access to their data; doctors can write repeat prescriptions and refer patients to specialists over the internet.  China is spending billions on health-care reform, with a focus on telemedicine.

But keen interest is no guarantee of success in any country. Telemedicine may even increase costs if it is added to old routines rather than replacing them.  Some doctors have been reluctant to embrace telemedicine fearing it may lessen their authority by making it easier for patients to see advice elsewhere.  So countries where provision is currently limited or non-existent may be quickest to move.


gpTRAC publishes article ” “Teledermatology: Using collaborative technologies to enhance public health awareness”

Several years ago, back in the late 1990’s, the University of Minnesota started demonstrating telemedicine inside their building at the Minnesota State Fair, which runs every year, for 12 days,  in the month of August.  When we, gpTRAC, became part of the University in 2009, we continued this annual event, of demonstrating telemedicine at the fair. These demonstrations included primarily teledermatology, however a couple years pulmonorary fuction testing and stroke screenings were also part of this event. Over the years, many fairgoers either experienced telemedicine, by either participating as a patient/fairgoer, observing a telemedicine session or simply got educated about the merits of telehealth in general.  For some of them, actually, this is what got them started with telemedicine! Thousands of fairgoers were seeing during these telemedicine sessions and although most of them were diagnosed with suspected benign skin conditions, a few of them were observed with suspected skin cancers, including melanoma. A few testimonials from the fairgoers that experienced this is worth of sharing, like the woman who was seeing for something on her chest, which although didn’t bother her,  it was something she wanted to get an opinion, to return a week later in the telemedicine booth, at the fair, thanking our team members for “saving her life”.  Testimonials like this kept this project going, although some of the challenges to run the project made it difficult at times.

This event has become one of the MN State Fair’s traditions.  We have enjoyed the moments where fairgoers didn’t know what we asked them to experience, the moment when a young teenager, while watching, said “Wow, this is the future”, the moment when older folks saw this as “their answer” to see a doctor, and many more.

Earlier this year, our team decided to write a paper on this popular event.  The paper is titled”.  We are very proud to share with you, our readers, that our paper was accepted by IEEE Xplore for publication. You can find the abstract and the PDF version by clicking on this link:

gpTRAC would like to take this opportunity and express our gratitude to the University of Minnesota Professors of Dermatology, the University of Minnesota Clinical Dermatologists, the University of Minnesota Department of Dermatology; the University of Minnesota dermatology residents: the many telemedicine booth volunteers; the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center Office of Communications State Fair Coordinators and Video Guidance, the vendor who has provided the technology each year since the inception of the project

State Fair 2007

State Fair 2009

State Fair 2014


Telehealth and gpTRAC at the Minnesota State Fair!

Once again, gpTRAC will be demonstrating telehealth at the 2014 Minnesota State Fair.  As in years past, several dermatology specialists will be volunteering and providing screenings via telehealth technologies.  Come check it out!  You’ll find us in the University of Minnesota building.

gpTRAC will be available at several times throughout the fair.  These are all one-hour sessions:

  • Friday, August 22, at 1:00 pm
  • Saturday, August 23, at 10:00 am
  • Tuesday, August 26, at 2:00 pm
  • Wednesday, August 27, at Noon
  • Thursday, August 28, at Noon and 2:00 pm
  • Friday, August 29, at 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm

Telehealth Educational Opportunity – August 6, 2014

Come and join us for a telemedicine educational event, August 6, in St. Paul, Minnesota.  The event is co-sponsored by the Twin Cities Medical Society (TCMS) and gpTRAC.  If you want to learn from Bryan Burke, MD, a pediatrician with one of the more successful telemedicine programs in the country (University of Arkansas) and network with others who also have an interest in the field of telemedicine, this is an event for you.  Click on the image for further details and to find out how to register.  Also, feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

We hope to see you there!

Farm Credit Organizations Support Rural Telemedicine in Western Minnesota

– Author:  Zoi Hills

Four farm credit organizations have joined to support  a telemedicine initiative at RC Hospital in rural Olivia, MN, located over 100 miles away from the Twin Cities.  The four organizations that contributed to the project include:  AgStar Financial Services, AgriBank, CoBank, and United FCS.  The Farm Credit grant will enable cardiologists at Abbott Northwestern Hospital to remotely treat patients at the RC Hospital using telemedicine technologies.  The main purpose of this grant is to cover the costs of telemedicine equipment, including bedside ultrasound, as well as training for RC Hospital’s local staff.  The grant was supplemented by additional funding from the Abbott Northwestern Hospital Foundation.

Initially, the cardiology telehealth program will be able to serve six patients each week.  Patients and medical staff will be able to see and talk with each other via telemedicine technologies.  In Olivia, a hospital staff member will perform ultrasound tests on patients, and real-time images will help cardiologists in Minneapolis diagnose or rule out heart issues.

The program is expected to launch sometime this summer.  With more than 20 telehealth sites in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Allina Health currently provides telehealth services such as stroke assessment and treatment, mental health assessments and referrals, psychiatric counseling and cancer genetic counseling.  Additional telehealth services are planned over the next two years.