How providers use telemedicine to expand care delivery

For people who live in rural areas, getting needed access to healthcare can be a hassle, but facilities across the U.S. and Canada are using telemedicine to solve that problem.

In the Canadian province of Manitoba, Trever Strome is using the technology to reduce unnecessary emergency room visits.

An assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Manitoba, Strome tells Healthcare Informatics he is looking at how emergency departments can use telemedicine to obtain specialist consultations during night and weekend hours.

Using telemedicine at night could be one of the most useful ways to employ the technology, according to authors of a study published in March. 

For St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings, Montana, the technology is helping pediatric patients receive better care, Doris Barta, director of telehealth services in the Partners in Health Telemedicine Network at the hospital, tells Healthcare Informatics. Because there are only 17 licensed pediatricians in the state, St. Vincent escalated its tele-emergency care, she says.

"We have the only 24/7 staffed pediatric intensive care unit in the state," Barta says. "We believe that sharing this expertise has reduced the number of transfers of pediatric emergency department patients to tertiary hospitals."

Nancy Vorhees, chairwoman of the Billings-based Northwest Regional Telehealth Resource Center and chief operating officer of Inland Northwest Health Partners, tells Healthcare Informatics that she sees increasing changes in telehealth down the road--especially with federal reforms focusing on better patient care at lower costs.

"In many cases, telehealth is ideal for follow-up visits and many types of consultations," she says.

In addition to providing better care to patients in underserved areas, telemedicine also may save U.S. employers billions of dollars, according to analysis by Towers Watson, a global professional service company.

However, adoption of the technology still lags. Almost 60 percent of doctors said they were not considering using telehealth technologies, according to a Physicians Practice 2014 Technology Survey.

To learn more:
- read the Healthcare Informatics article