NEW ORLEANS – Building a Telehealth Center of Excellence is a complex process, but it’s one that can lower costs for a health system and improve patient outcomes and quality of life, says Megan Duet, project manager for the Center for Telehealth at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
In the largely rural Mississippi, people in 53 of 82 counties have to travel more than 40 minutes to receive specialty care. Many won’t or can’t travel that far, so they’re not receiving the care they need, Duet says.
“If we can’t get health care in our own community, we’re just not going to do it,” Duet told the audience at the Home Health Technology Summit, hosted by Home Health Technology News, in New Orleans on Monday. “That’s where telehealth comes into play in the state of Mississippi.”
The Center for Telehealth at UMMC began 14 years ago as a service for diagnostic test preparation for adult and pediatric cardiology patients. Today, it provides live telemedicine services through audio and video interaction, store and forward and diagnostic test interpretation, and remote patient monitoring. Since 2003, it has served more than 500,000 patients.
The center’s remote patient monitoring program, which is available to eligible patients with chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, among others, is its biggest service. People enrolled in the program are equipped with an iPad and Bluetooth devices specific to their disease state, and receive daily health sessions, health coaching, personalized interventions, behavior modification and targeted education.
Because of its leadership, body of work and use of technology, the center has been recognized by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration as one of two Telehealth Centers of Excellence, the agency’s top award given only to programs at public academic medical centers. The designation will allow the center to measure outcomes and, hopefully, expand its services to patients with other conditions.