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Telehealth is Growing Exponentially – PSN Rheumatology Site Goes Live

Becker’s Hospital Review recently reported a study of 29 billion private healthcare claims showed provider-to-patient telehealth use increased 1393% between 2014 and 2018. (Fair Health, 2018).

There are many creative ways in which telehealth is being used to improve access to healthcare services and information. Here are a few examples:

  •  A New York nursing school developed a telehealth training program for nurses located in rural areas
  • A West Virginia Hospital has launched a telehealth program for diabetic patients
  • A North Dakota organization has launched therapy telehealth services for child abuse victims
  • A North Carolina healthcare system allows patients to sign into its electronic healthcare record and engage in a telehealth encounter with selected primary care and specialty care providers
  • A Pennsylvania medical center has a telehealth connection with 13 smaller hospitals seeking to improve care for patients with infectious diseases
  • An Indiana hospital offers virtual care visits to local elementary school students for treatment of various conditions including colds and eye issues

These telehealth programs serve as examples of the myriad ways in which technology can be used to improve the health and well-being of a community.

We are pleased to announce the recent implementation of a PSN rheumatology telehealth clinic. The client is a small, rural Kansas hospital. The circumstances surrounding it are part of the beauty of the story. A highly respected, well liked and productive rheumatologist is forced to leave due to relocation  to another state with her spouse. Rather than close the clinic or go through the lengthy process of finding her replacement, the hospital will continue to provide rheumatology services through a telehealth connection with the doctor. The patients will get the care they need from a physician they know and trust.

Although rural folks often prefer face to face encounters with their practitioners, telehealth is a valid solution to access to care issues in rural areas. Mr. Gordon Alloway is the PSN expert on telehealth. He is a former President of the Kansas Telehealth Network. If you have any telehealth questions, he can be contacted at

Telehealth Delivers Benefits for Rural Women

Telehealth is a modern-day solution to health problems both old and new. Though it presents benefits to a variety of patients, rural patients likely experience the richest benefits. As Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) notes, it can sometimes be difficult to determine whether an area is urban or rural.1 In fact, the term “rural” is not even defined by the Census Bureau—it is considered to encompass “all population, housing, and territory not included within an urban area.” Essentially, according to this definition, whatever is not urban is considered rural. There are two types of urban areas identified by the Census Bureau: 1) Urbanized Areas (UAs) of 50,000 or more people and 2) Urban Clusters (UCs) of at least 2,500 and less than 50,000 people.1Generally, rural areas are characterized by low population and lack of access to critical resources such as medical care.

Rural individuals face many health disparities compared to urban individuals. Poverty and poor access to healthcare contribute greatly to these disparities. Overall, rural communities are in poorer health than others. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rural Americans are at higher risk of death from five leading causes: heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke.3 In addition, rural areas have higher rates of preterm births and infant mortality.

Telehealth has helped combat these rural disparities through the following four modalities:

  • Live video, which uses audiovisual telecommunications technology;
  • Store-and-forward, which involves transmission of health information such as x-rays and other images through a secure electronic communications system to a healthcare provider;
  • Remote patient monitoring, which involves electronic transmission of health data from a patient in one location to a provider in another location; and
  • Mobile health (mHealth), which includes healthcare and education supported by mobile devices such as tablets and cell phones.
  • Although there are some barriers to successfully implementing telehealth, it is generally regarded as a convenient and cost-effective way to provide subspecialty healthcare that is not available locally. This is true in obstetrics and gynecology. In obstetrics, telehealth can be used for both low-risk and high-risk pregnancies, and in gynecology, it is used for both routine and specialty examinations.

Telehealth benefits and considerations

Healthcare in America is becoming too expensive for companies, individuals, and taxpayers. Technology offers the potential to offer increased access to care at a better value. In utilizing telehealth, the overall healthcare system benefits from lower costs, less travel, improved health outcomes, and reduced emergency room utilization.9 Although there are numerous benefits to telehealth, there are also many things to consider when beginning or expanding a telehealth program or clinic, including for obstetrics and/or gynecology (see box below).


Gordon Alloway Joins PSN as Telemedicine Consultant

Gordon AllowayGordan Alloway, healthcare delivery expert, has recently joined PSN as a telehealth and telemedicine adviser. Gordon has served as the Project Director for the Heartland Telehealth Resource Center, one of 14 federally-funded Telehealth Resource Centers across the U.S. coordinating assistance provided in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

He has also served as a staff member at the University of Kansas Medical Center, a research associate and project manager for the KU Center for Telemedicine and Telehealth in Kansas City, KS and has managed multiple grant-funded projects.

“Telemedicine” is most commonly used to refer to two-way, interactive video conferences that allow patients to “see” their doctor without being in the same room. This helps increase access to medical care, especially for patients living in rural areas.

As with many other technologies, additional devices can be attached to the videoconferencing system to enhance the patient experience. Some of these devices include a digital stethoscope or a dermatology camera that can record a patient’s vitals or health information so that a doctor can assess from a distance.

However, telemedicine is not limited to video conferencing. Remote patient monitoring, store-and- forward and mHealth are other common types of telemedicine.

Through PSN, Alloway will be providing both healthcare providers and facilities with education and assistance to get up to speed on the rules, regulations and technology information that is needed to start or expand telemedicine programs.

PSN’s goal is to show how to make these programs sustainable and assist with providing hands-on training designed to help a practice, clinic or organization provide the best care for patients via telemedicine.

According to Alloway, integrating telemedicine into the everyday workflow is essential to assuring that the technology will be used to the fullest.

“We’ve seen cases where a facility invests the time and start-up costs in the technology, but then the people who are trained on it move on to other jobs and after that it collects dust,” Alloway shared. That’s why it’s important to create a work plan and get everyone using the technology as part of the culture. Using telemedicine should become as routine as making patient referrals.

Mr. Alloway earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Journalism from the University of Kansas and possesses considerable experience as a long-time marketing executive and health care entrepreneur. He resides in Overland Park, KS.

$2 Billion Telehealth Market

$2 Billion Telehealth Market

The business of treating patients via telehealth in the U.S. will dramatically increase to nearly $2 billion in revenue within five years due to a confluence of events in the health care industry from doctor shortages to provider payment changes under the Affordable Care Act.

A new report from information and analytics firm IHS IHS +0% says revenue expansion of the teleheath space — which allows doctors and other providers to monitor patients remotely via various devices, computers and related digital technology – will grow to $1.9 billion in 2018 in the U.S. from $240 million this year.

The trend toward telehealth will be driven by employers, private insurers and the Affordable Care Act, which makes doctors and hospitals more accountable by moving medical care providers away from fee-for-service medicine where they are paid based on volume of services to reimbursement based on the value of care they provide. This trend often uses doctors as a quarterback of sorts in concert with nurses and other allied health professionals to keep patients out of the hospital where care is more expensive.

“The majority of these patients are diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases, pulmonary diseases and diabetes and most of them are enrolled in post-discharge services of an average of 30-90 days,” said Roeen Roashan, IHS analyst for consumer medical devices and digital health.

This will increase the patient volume toward these services to more than 3.2 million patients in 2018 from less than 250,000 this year. Meanwhile, the value of the U.S. telehealth market will reach $1.9 billion in 2018 compared to about $230 million today, IHS’ Roashan said. That’s a cumulative annual growth rate of more than 56 percent.


Companies that stand to benefit from this market include: Genetral Electric (GE), Intel INTC +0.04% (INTC), Honeywell (HON), McKesson MCK +0.78% (MCK) and Medtronic MDT +0.18% (MDT).

“Telehealth has been limited in its growth potential in the past due to low reimbursement, lack of physician support, and poor cases of implementation,” Roashan said. “However, we are witnessing changes in the regulatory environment that will increase reimbursement and also more physicians are supporting the idea behind telehealth. In doing so, there are many examples of best practice implementations.”

Health insurance companies as well as state Medicaid insurance programs for the poor and the federal Medicare health insurance program for the elderly are contracting with doctors and hospitals, bundling payments and reimbursing them in ways that encourage quality care and a push for better outcomes through entities like accountable care organizations (ACOs).

If the ACO — which contracts through provider groups with the insurer — reduces costs while improving quality, the providers keep some of the savings. That is different than payment today that encourages excessive treatment by paying by procedure.

“Telehealth is about increasing the quality of healthcare, in an efficient way,” Roashan said. “Telehealth is proven to decrease readmission rates significantly, while increasing the patient’s perception of quality by keeping the patient at home.”

SOURCE: Forbes