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November 2015 
HTRC's monthly telehealth bulletin

Heartland Telehealth Resource Center is here to meet your telehealth needs. We are a government-sponsored organization serving Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, with a wide range of services, and many of them are free. Email us at or call us at 877-643-HTRC.

address needs of rural users with vendors at mHealth Summit

The annual mHealth Summit regularly features mind-blowing health technologies, bringing together vendors, clinicians and administrators from across the country. But as Telehealth Resource Centers (TRCs), we frequently work with rural organizations with lower-tech and lower-cost telehealth needs. At the November 8-11 Summit, HTRC's Janine Gracy and other regional TRC representatives met with vendors who wanted to learn more about rural health needs. 
TRC booth at mHealth Summit

"Vendors are eager to better understand how they can help provide workable telehealth solutions for rural facilities," said Gracy. "This was a great way to engage them in conversation with experts from the Telehealth Resource Centers."

During the meeting, TRC experts explained that bandwidth is a lingering problem in rural areas, so technologies using lower bandwidth are still in high demand. In addition to broadband issues, TRC experts emphasized how rural facilities' budgets are modest but still need to cover a breadth of services and programs. "Their budgets may not be able to absorb large systems or add-ons so we really wanted to help vendors think about ways to provide lower-cost solutions," said Gracy.  

Seventeen vendors attended the meeting and the TRCs plan to follow up with those vendors in the coming weeks to continue the dialogue to search for ways to help rural facilities. 


December 3

Learn the basics of telehealth credentialing at this free webinar hosted by Missouri Telehealth Network. Credentialing may spark fear and anxiety in the minds of some hospital administrators, but fear not! Learn the steps to ensure success and register today.

January 28
Jefferson City, Mo.

Save the date for the 2nd annual Missouri Telehealth Summit hosted by Missouri Telehealth Network! The summit is free, but registration is required. This event will foster understanding and awareness of telehealth, create collaborative relationships and provide pathways to partnership. 


Mercy taking telehealth to the limit

This month Mercy opened the first freestanding telemedicine center that will exclusively see patients remotely. With a staff of 330, the new $54 million complex houses specialists who can monitor and diagnose patients, as well as mid-level providers who will use state-of-the-art technologies to care for a growing number of patients.
Though based in St. Louis, Mo., many Mercy patients live in rural, out-state areas. Mercy sees the virtual center as an opportunity to improve care, particularly for those patients.
"There aren't enough doctors and most are not well distributed, they're around urban areas. And 60 percent of [Mercy's] patients are in rural areas. They don't have the specialists they need. Telemedicine is one of the ways we can bring care to those communities, " said Dr. Tom Hale, Executive Medical Director of Mercy Virtual Care Center in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio.
The center will offer a number of telehealth services including "virtual hospitalists" who can make hospital rounds at rural hospitals via robot, and telestroke, which can support rural hospitals that cannot afford a neurologist on staff. Additionally, the site will house a number of home monitoring programs, including a pilot program to test whether a daily virtual visit from an internist can help reduce readmissions. 

Want a sneak peak inside the virtual center? Check out the SLIDE SHOW!

Kansas pediatric conference

HTRC recently exhibited at the Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics annual conference to provide resources for and better understand the needs of pediatricians. 

According to HTRC director Janine Gracy, one of the biggest barriers to pediatric practices' implementation of telehealth is that they are simply very, very busy. 

"We have received inquiries from a number of pediatric groups and talked to a few here at the conference who are very excited about offering telehealth for their patients and parents," said Gracy. "But pediatricians are super busy with little time for research! HTRC is working to design solutions for busy practices so that we can help with the heavy lifting."

For more information about HTRC's eSTART Assessment and assistance with implementation, call us at 877-643-HTRC. 
Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) considers changes that could affect funding for telehealth

The Oklahoma Universal Services Fund provides, among other things, partial funding to health care facilities to cover the cost of a broadband line used for telemedicineEligible facilities include both urban and rural hospitals, federally qualified health centers, community mental health centers, public health departments, tribal facilities and corrections. However the OCC is considering reducing their coverage - a change that  could have a big impact on some facilities. The Telehealth Alliance of Oklahoma (TAO) responded to a call for public comment and presented preliminary survey data to the OCC to communicate the impact these changes might have. Two of the facilities who have responded to the survey so far said that the changes could drastically impact their facility and possibly lead to closure. 

TAO is still collecting surveys and wants your help to provide hard data for the OCC. If you represent an Oklahoma health care facility, please take the time to fill out this one-minute survey!

Oklahoma payer adds telehealth coverage

Another Oklahoma payer recently announced the addition of telehealth coverage for specific services, effective Jan. 1, 2016. HealthChoice, Oklahoma's insurer for state employees and the Department of Corrections, added codes that will allow some provider visits via videoconference. Additionally, HealthChoice added codes that reimburse for telephone evaluations, but these codes apply only to existing patients. 

HTRC presents at APHA

HTRC recently attended the American Public Health Association's Annual Conference to present findings from research interviews conducted with rural hospital and federally qualified health center leaders. Through the research, HTRC was able to dive deep and explore the true opportunities and barriers to telehealth adoption in rural and underserved areas. 

"These hospitals are really feeling the pressure," said HTRC's Natalie Hampton, lead researcher in the project. "They're struggling with a number of issues like providing specialty services and recruiting and retaining staff. But some are starting to see telehealth as a real opportunity. It's a way to provide more services and increase staff satisfaction."

A report of the findings will be shared in the next few months.
How helpful is the TRC Listserv? Survey says...

While new technology and software apps seem to launch every day, more traditional technologies, like listservs, can get a bad rap. Omer Malik, an MU Health Management and Informatics student and former Missouri Telehealth Network intern, recently examined this issue for the national Telehealth Resource Center (TRC) listserv and shared findings during a University of Missouri conference.
The TRC listserv is used by the HTRC and other TRCs to communicate, pose questions and share telehealth resources from their region. Malik wanted to better understand the how the listserv facilitates TRC collaboration, as well as whether users thought the listserv itself was useful and efficient.
From the survey, Malik found that 77.4 percent of respondents believed the listserv beneficial. When asked how they use the list, 82 percent said that they use the listserv to "learn about new and developing issues in telehealth." Moreover, some participants noted that the technology still offered immediate feedback on questions posed. One participant shared that the list serv "provides rapid access to the opinions and experience of other members and [to the] specific information they have that I need."
Malik concluded from his research that the listserv promotes an "an avenue for learning and education," especially for a field like telehealth where expert insight is both frequently needed and highly valued. Potential suggestions for efficiency improvements included more organization of older posts and search features.
Having the right technology for telehealth only goes so far. Finding the right doctor to provide services in another. Fortunately, the Arizona Telemedicine Program and the Southwest Telehealth Resource Center maintain a database of telehealth providers nationwide that can be searched by state and provider type. A great resource! 

Check your inbox in December for our monthly telehealth bulletin! Telehealth Beat is published the third Friday of the month. Got a story idea? Let us know! 
Heartland Telehealth Resource Center | | 
 4330 Shawnee Mission Parkway   Fairway, KS 66205