Expanding the Reach of Medical Care Through Telemedicine

A great article today about how technology expands the reach of medical care from the Delaware Online News Journal.  For Parkinson’s patients in Deleware, seeing a specialist typically means travelling to Philadelphia, Washington D.C. or Baltimore (up to a 12 hour round trip!)  However, with the growing effort to increase telemedicine adoption throughout the state, patients like Betty, the 65 year old woman interviewed in the article, are able to see doctors via videoconferencing from their homes.  Parkinsons patients are one population that stands to benefit greatly from the availability of telemedicine services, and there are countless more.  This article is a great example of the power of personal testimonials in efforts to increase the adoption of telemedicine services among patient and provider populations.  Read the full story here.

Teaching Kids About Telemedicine

Last week, gpTRAC partnered with the Center for Rural Health at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences to lead an informational training on telemedicine for middle school students interested in the health sciences. The training was part of a 3 day camp called “R-COOL Scrubs Academy,” where students from across North Dakota gather to participate in hands-on activities and engage in experiential learning with health professionals.  

This year, telemedicine was the theme for the Scrubs Academy Health IT session.  During each one hour session, students connected to gpTRAC via videoconferencing for an interactive lecture on telemedicine including a mock telemedicine consultation, trivia, and a design competition where students applied their new knowledge to innovating telemedicine and mhealth technologies. 

Here is a short video shot by the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center, who stopped by to capture some of the fun: 

gpTRAC offers similar trainings for a variety of programs and organizations. If you are interested in more information, contact us here or call us at 888-239-7092.

Questions about telemedicine? Let us know!

Here at gpTRAC it is our goal to be your primary resource for telehealth program development and implementation in the Great Plains region.

Over the last two years, this goal has led our blog contributors through a wide range of topics including: telemedicine legislation, applications, ATA standards and guidelines, technologies, rural health, health care reform, national conferences, and current events- just to name a few.

My name is Haley.  As a new member of the gpTRAC team, and now primary author of the gpTRAC blog, I hope to share with you topics you can use in the coming weeks and month.  Here is an idea of what you can expect:

We will continue to follow innovation.  What are the latest technologies and best practices?  Where is telemedicine headed?  How can you, as providers/clininicians/payors/employers/patients/legislators/schools/home health and long term care facilities, catch the wave and benefit from adopting telemedicine programs?

We’ll also look at current uses of telemedicine.  Who is using telemedicine in the Great Plains region?  Or elsewhere in the world for that matter.  And in what form?  How well are they working?

Lastly, keeping with the ancient wisdom of “you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you have been,” you can expect a few briefs on the history of telemedicine mixed in:  where did it come from?  Who were the early adopters?  What did early forms of telemedicine look like?  And most importantly, why does it matter to you?

I am excited about the future of telemedicine.  I see potential applications everywhere, and unrealized benefits for doctors and patients alike.  My goal is to make this your go-to source for information and advice on everything telehealth.  So if you have questions about telemedicine, ask us!  If there is a topic you would like to know more about, let us know!  If you have a story you want to share, go for it!  Post your thoughts and comments below, and we look forward to hearing from you!

Spotted in the News: Regional Tele-ICU at Minneapolis VA

Is it just me, or is there more news popping up every day about advantageous applications of telehealth?  This story, from the front page of the Star Tribune on Feb. 26 gives a look into the operations of the VA Midwest Health Care Network’s recently opened Tele-ICU regional “hub”.  Nicknamed the VA’s “eye in the sky,” the center serves as a control room from which trained critical care nurses and intensivists monitor patients in seven regional hospitals across the Midwest, including Minneapolis (MN), Fargo (ND), Omaha (NE), Iowa City (IA), Des Moines (IA), Fort Meade (SD), and Sioux Falls (SD).  Among the principal advantages noted by nurses and doctors from the center, the Tele-ICU hub allows an increased number of patients to be monitored at once, reduces the need to transfer frail patients to alternate locations, and gives smaller care systems 24/7 access expert advice for complex cases.
Click here to read the Star Tribune article:  “Remote ‘eye in the sky’ keeping tabs on VA hospital patients” or find more information through the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

Food, Fun and Dermatology Screenings

More than 240 attendees at this year’s Minnesota State Fair received free dermatology screenings thanks to the Great Plains Telehealth Resource and Assistance Center (gpTRAC) and the University of Minnesota.  The telehealth awareness booth was designed to educate fairgoers about telemedicine services while calling attention to the dangers of skin cancer and the importance of regular dermatology screenings to monitor for warning signs of the disease.

Nearly 20 percent of fairgoers screened were advised to seek further evaluation for skin cancer.  Seventeen were suspected of skin cancer and twenty-seven for suspected pre-cancer skin conditions.

“Many of these fairgoers hadn’t made it a priority to get screened for skin cancer until they came upon our booth.  I think this demonstrates that telehealth services can help increase access to specialty care, like dermatological screenings, to ultimately help reduce overall healthcare costs through earlier diagnosis, management and treatment of disease,” said Stuart Speedie, Ph.D., Principal Investigator and Director of gpTRAC.  “Clearly, we accomplished something very positive at the State Fair and hopefully helped prevent the advancement of a dangerous disease in several Minnesotans.”

Telehealth offers increased healthcare service delivery to medically-underserved communities by connecting patients to specialists via technology.  More convenient access to care minimizes patient travel time, reduces out-of-pocket costs and increases the likelihood that patients obtain care when they need it.

During a telemedicine consultation, which can be conducted in a growing number of clinics across the state, a patient is connected to a specialist who is in a separate location via video. A nurse is often on hand with the patient to conduct physical exam tasks as requested by the specialist. Cameras and other monitoring tools allow the specialist to see on screen exactly what the nurse is seeing in person. In addition to skin cancer screenings, telehealth can be used for mental health evaluations, orthopedic consults, management of chronic diseases and a wide range of other medical services.

“This event wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of dermatologists at the University of Minnesota who volunteered 140 hours of time to conduct free screenings during the fair.  With their help raising awareness of telehealth, we hope that access to telehealth services will continue to grow across the state of Minnesota,” added Speedie.

The gpTRAC is one of eleven federally designated telehealth resource centers in the nation supported by a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).  Serving Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Wisconsin, the gpTRAC strives to promote health care services that take advantage of modern telecommunications technologies.  For more information, visit accesstelehealth.org or gptrac.org.

Click here to see a video of the state fair telehealth visits.

First Press Release

NEWS RELEASE — September 28, 2009

University of Minnesota Awarded $1.1 Million for Regional Telehealth Assistance Center

The Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded a three year, $1.1 million grant to the University of Minnesota for the Great Plains Telehealth Resource and Assistance Center (GPTRAC).The GPTRAC will serve a six state area including Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. . Directed by Professor Stuart Speedie and located within the Institute for Health Informatics of the Academic Health Center, the GPTRAC strives to promote health care services that take advantage of modern telecommunications technologies such as interactive videoconferencing, the secure internet and home health monitoring. It has a special focus solving health care delivery problems for rural providers and their patients. It promotes solutions to problems of access to and quality of care using telehealth applications. The GPTRAC’s goals are to a) increase awareness of telehealth among health care practitioners and the public, b) educate health care professions and organizations in the uses of the telehealth and c) to provide technical assistance in the form of consultation services. It will provide this technical assistance to health care providers and organizations who are interested in either offering medical care services via telemedicine or in using those telehealth services provided by other organizations.

For further information please contact Zoi Hills, Project Manager at gptrac@umn.edu or 612-625-9938.