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The Pacific Basin Telehealth Resource Center Presented at the Rural Communities Building Healthcare

The Pacific Basin Telehealth Resource Center presented at the Rural Communities Building Healthcare Teams conference.

Dr. Joseph Humphry, Co-Principal Investigator, PBTRC, gave a presentation entitled “Telehealth 2011” at the Rural Communities Building Healthcare Teams Conference sponsored by the Hawaiʻi State Rural Health Association at Kahalui, Maui on April 5, 2011.

Dr. Humphry stated that the potential uses of telehealth in rural areas are often discussed, but rarely implemented. He noted that telehealth does not just happen, but requires a well crafted implementation plan and committed providers and patients.

Telehealth is the care of patients by providers who are geographically separated from the patient. Historically, telehealth was initially viewed as network based video teleconferencing (VTC). The field has moved beyond these early efforts to include store-and-forward technologies, and more recently, remote monitoring.

The question addressed in this slide presentation is why rural providers are not more engaged in the use of telehealth. The first slides rapidly review all of the technology initiatives often with government incentives or mandates, confronting rural providers. There are unprecedented demands for health care providers to use technology to improve care and/or efficiency. The rural providers frequently lack time or knowledge to effectively deal with all these demands. Attempting to expand telehealth services in this environment can be overwhelming.

The future of telehealth is to bring quality and efficiency to the patient centered medical home (PCMH) and the accountable care organizations (ACO). The expanded use of telehealth will likely require a change in the reimbursement system. Telehealth is health information dependent and complements EHR functionality and extends the use of meaningful use.

The take home message is that planning for telehealth should start now. Even if there are no immediate plans for telehealth activities, health information systems upgrades need to have the capability to support telehealth applications. There are distinct advantages to planning appropriate system designs in the beginning, rather than retrofitting applications in the future.

The Pacific Basin Telehealth Resource Center is available to discuss the future of telehealth and what is needed today to allow improved care tomorrow.