Lansing MI (October 9, 2019) – In today’s society, healthcare is not always accessible. Factors like insurance, distance from proper healthcare facilities, and time constraints can keep people from getting quality healthcare. But staff members from Connected Nation Michigan (CN Michigan), a local subsidiary of Connected Nation (CN), are working to change that by partnering with AARP and the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to research the impact of telehealth and how it can help individuals and families get the care they need.
According to the Health Resources Services Administration, telehealth is defined as “the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration.” In layman’s terms, telehealth is a digital form of medical care that connects physicians to their patients online.
The various forms of telehealth that providers are using include; live video conferencing, store-and-forward video conferencing, remote patient monitoring, and mobile health. Munson Healthcare, located in Traverse City, Michigan, is one of the few healthcare facilities in the state that utilize telehealth.
“At Munson Healthcare, each telehealth unit has an iPad and Bluetooth peripherals such as blood pressure cuff, scale, and pulse oximeter,” Lisa White, MHA, MSN, RN, Director of Munson Home Care. “Our most popular telehealth program is Home Car.; Home Care utilizes Vivify remote monitoring, which allows for patient engagement, education, and virtual visits.”
Across the country, healthcare groups like Munson are beginning to leverage or explore using telehealth. But as it’s used more around the county, issues with the new form of medical care are becoming more noticeable on both the patient and provider side.
“For patients, the major issues revolve around a lack of home broadband service that they can use for some telehealth applications. To have continual remote monitoring tools, patients need to have reliable internet service at all hours of the day and night,” said Chris McGovern, Director of Research Development, Connected Nation.
On the provider side, the most apparent problem is reimbursement. Many insurance companies, as well as Medicaid and Medicare, do not currently reimburse healthcare providers for time spent helping patients via telehealth tools. As a result, there is a disincentive for those healthcare providers to use those telehealth services versus seeing patients in person.
Even though telehealth may still have problems, it has benefits that can help people not only across the state of Michigan, but across the country, especially those who live in rural areas.
Effectiveness of Ambulatory Telemedicine Care in Older Adults
In a study conducted for Medscape.com, researchers evaluated the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness in providing telemedicine for older adults, 65 years or older (p.1737). The researchers used the Cochrane Collaboration’s Risk-of-Bias Tool and applied it to all articles about telemedicine.
After reviewing 1,173 articles, researchers found the United States was the county that conducted the most telehealth trials. After weeding out bias studies, the results suggested “telemedicine can improve health outcomes in older adults and that it could be used in this population.”
So telehealth and telemedicine not only impact those who live in rural areas, but also people of older age. With those two groups combined, that is a large amount of U.S. residents who could benefit from digital healthcare.
By implementing telehealth programs in more U.S. cities, it can help older residents get access to healthcare and even improve the economy. According to an article from Louisville Business First newspaper, a large portion of Lousiville’s population is over the age of 65. Ben Breier, president and CEO of Kindred Healthcare LLC, told Business First that “the population projections show that by 2035 that there will be more seniors aged 65 and older than there will be children, or people 18 years and younger in Louisville, Ky.”
By providing telehealth programs in places like Kentucky and Michigan, , it will not only help keep people healthy, but also accelerate the city’s economy by creating more programs and jobs for residents.
Research: The First Step to Expanding Telehealth
CN Michigan is working to close the Digital Divide in Michigan between patients and physicians by working closely with AARP and the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to identify solutions. CN Michigan is now conducting telephone surveys of residents in five counties across the state (Gladwin, Sanilac, Dickinson, Osceola, and Roscommon). Staff selected these counties because they represent a wide variation in terms of geography, demographics, and health systems that serve each area.
“The goal is to identify actionable steps that can be taken to expand telehealth offerings in rural parts of the state and share recommendations with policymakers who can take legislative steps to make telehealth tools available to everyone who wants to use them,” McGovern said.
In addition to the surveys, CN Michigan is interviewing healthcare providers and administrators who serve each of these counties to learn how they are currently using telehealth applications to serve their patients. They are also examining barriers that prevent providers from expanding their telehealth offerings.
Learn More About Telehealth Programs in Your Area
Find out if telehealth is the right form of healthcare for you. A great resource is the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers. This will take you to a map where you can click on your state and find a provider.
If you are a Michigan resident, check out the list of healthcare systems that CN Michigan is working with for its research.
Healthcare systems CN is working with:
- Dickson County Healthcare Systems (serving Dickinson Co.
- Mckenzie Healthcare (serving Sanilac Co.)
- McLaren Healthcare (serving Sanilac and Roscommon Cos.)
- MidMichigan Health (serving Gladwin Co.)
- Spectrum Health (serving Osceola Co.)
- Michigan Health Endowment Fund
- Batsis, J. A. (2019). Effectiveness of Ambulatory Telemedicine Care in Older Adults. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 67(8), 1737-1749
- Louisville Business First Magazine
- National Consortium of Telehealth Resources Centers
About the Author: Lily McCoy is Connected Nation’s Communications Social Media Specialist. She provides support to the Communications Department through social media outreach and writing. She also adds a source of creativity to the team with a background in personal relations and marketing. She is also a recent 2019 graduate of Western Kentucky University.
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