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The Impact of Telehealth Within Michigan Communities

Bowling Green, Ky (January 5, 2021) - Since the start of the coronavirus, people have had to drastically change how they carry out everyday tasks. To stay healthy, we now wear a mask in public, social distance, work and take classes from home, and much more. Another major change is how we communicate with our physicians.

Before March of 2020, if someone felt sick they would make an appointment to see their doctor. But now to prevent spread of the coronavirus, healthcare facilities have switched to virtual visits known as telehealth. This is a big change that many patients are not familiar with and that some healthcare facilities are struggling to implement. 

In Michigan, one healthcare system teamed up with local libraries to help the general public learn how to use telehealth correctly. Munson Healthcare is northern Michigan’s largest and leading healthcare system. Their Digital Health team has been working with Elk Rapids District Library and Leland Township Public Library to promote the use of hotspots for telehealth visits during the pandemic. 

Munson Healthcare Office

“Telehealth has completely changed since the pandemic. The main thing that has allowed telehealth to expand is because of how important it is for covid,” said Chelsea Szafranski, System Director of Digital Health. “Telehealth is still very new, but education is a very important piece of making people comfortable with using it.”

To promote the use of telehealth, Munson has teamed up with libraries in the area to  provide them with secure networks and software for patients to use. 

“We have been working with Munson Healthcare's Digital Health Director to really promote the use of these hotspots for telehealth visits during the pandemic,” said Aaron Hill, Program Coordinator/IT Coordinator for the Elk Rapids District Library.

“Munson providers are able to offer secure software platforms for patients to meet with their providers remotely. We can provide the hardware necessary to connect to the internet to any of our patrons at no cost.”

Along with the help from Munson, the Elk Rapids District Library has made 15 Wi-Fi hotspots available to patrons to use at the library or at home. They can be checked out for a week at a time and offer unlimited and unfiltered data for the duration of the check-out period. They also have a telehealth hotspot that is available for a three-day checkout. 

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“The goal of this lending policy is to be sure that we consistently have hotspots available for general use or telehealth visits and have at least one device reserved specifically for telehealth.” said Hill.

The impact of these devices on the lives of patrons is immeasurable. These hotspots have helped parents and children on long road trips and help provide stable at-home internet access. And most importantly, they have been used as a free source of internet access by families who couldn't otherwise afford it.

The Leland Township Public Library has also been working with Munson Healthcare to promote telehealth to their community. 

“We are early on in the process of a proposed expansion of our library, and keeping telehealth in mind will be a big part of that,” said Mark Morton, Director of theLeland Township Public Library. “We have had several patrons use our facility for contacting health professionals recently because they had poor or no internet service at home, and Munson was a big part in promoting that opportunity.”

As the coronavirus continues to impact the country, telehealth will remain a crucial form of healthcare communication between patient and physician. If you are interested in working with Munson Healthcare to promote telehealth resources, go to the Munson website here.

If you are an organization or individual looking for additional telehealth resources, you can head to the Connected Nation Coronavirus Response and Resources page.

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About the Author: Lily McCoy is the Connected Nation 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. Lily has a bachelors in corporate and organizational communications from Western Kentucky University.