PITTSBURG, Kans. – The Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas will use a UnitedHealthcare Frontier Rural Health Care grant to expand a pilot telemedicine program into a fully functioning system.
CHCSEK will use the $48,000 in grant funds to purchase additional telemedicine setups for its clinics and to expand its network of specialty providers.
“The technology of this telemedicine program is amazing and has let us do what we do better and faster,” said Jason Wesco, executive vice president of CHCSEK.
CHCSEK’s telemedicine program gives people in rural or underserved parts of the state access to specialty physicians like dermatologists. It uses webcams, monitors and platform software, as well as smartphones with attachments and connected health devices, to provide care to its patients, many of whom are uninsured.
CHCSEK implemented the specialty telemedicine program in July and so far has treated 40 to 50 patients, mostly for dermatology care, for a flat fee of $75 for uninsured patients.
Access to specialty care has consistently been identified as the top challenge of providers in the CHCSEK telemedicine program, said Wesco. Many patients don’t pursue a referral to a specialist because they either can’t afford it or because the specialist is too far away.
“Now we can help the patient stay focused on what they need to do, which is take care of their health,” he said.
CHCSEK hopes its telemedicine program can serve as a model to other similar organizations and eliminate barriers to access one challenge at a time, Wesco said.
“This is really a natural next extension of what we already do,” he said. “We hope it can be a catalyst for others to do it, too.”
The UnitedHealthcare Frontier Rural Health Care grant program was established earlier this year. Four grants totaling $186,000 were awarded last month to organizations across Kansas.