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Addressing America’s Opioid Crisis: Can Telemedicine Help?

August 2, 2016 Kerry Best Healthcare 1549

Addressing America’s Opioid Crisis: Can Telemedicine Help?

With the rate of opioid overdoses increasing 200% from 2000 to 2014, the opioid epidemic in America is one of the most serious issues plaguing the country in recent years. According to federal officials, an astounding 78 people die on average in America each day from opioid overdoses. Some believe rural America has been hit the hardest for a number of reasons. Rural areas such as the Appalachian region of the United States suffer from high rates of unemployment and poverty. Rural areas also tend to rely disproportionately on economies consisting mostly of jobs involving manual labor, such as agriculture and coal-mining – all physically intense jobs that cause chronic pain. These factors combined with the more liberal opioid prescribing practices that began in the 1990s have created the perfect storm for opioid abuse in Appalachia and other rural areas.

Officials at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) believe that telemedicine may be an answer in curing this epidemic, providing patients with access to the treatment they need, saving lives, and millions of dollars. In previous posts, we have talked about the many benefits telemental healthcare brings to those who do not have access to the care they need. With mental disorders often co-occurring with drug addiction, the benefits for both go hand-in-hand.

According to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, “addiction treatment is often out of reach for many in rural America,” and “expanding access to telemedicine is an important step towards making sure rural communities have the tools they need to fight the opioid epidemic,” Vilsack said. “USDA is committed to provide the critical resources rural areas need to reduce the staggering increase in opioid overdose deaths that is driving up health care costs and devastating communities.”

In June, Vilsack announced five Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant awards to help provide treatment for the growing opioid epidemic in rural central Appalachia. The DLT award includes nearly $1.4 million for five projects in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia to help these areas address the epidemic.

Included in the award is a $377,121 grant going to The Baptist Health Foundation Corbin, Inc. that will help connect clinical specialists to ten school-based health centers and two primary care sites. This project will provide mental, behavioral and psychiatric care services in high poverty Strike Force areas and Kentucky’s southeastern Promise Zone. The Strike Force and Promise Zone initiatives are part of the Obama Administration and USDA’s efforts to invest in areas of persistent economic hardship.

In Tennessee, USDA awarded a grant of $67,572 to the Carey Counseling Center to expand and improve six rural counseling centers with mental, behavioral and psychiatric care services and substance treatment services.

The results? Continue following us in this series of blog posts as we discover how providers are using telemedicine to increase access to care for those most in need of drug addiction treatment.

Telehealth Breakthroughs: The road to full acceptance

August 11, 2016 Kerry Best Healthcare 1813

Telehealth Breakthroughs: The road to full acceptance

The idea of providing healthcare to patients via video, or telemedicine, may have seemed far-fetched a number of years ago. But today, it’s on its way to being considered just another delivery mechanism. Much like the idea of a mobile clinic, telemedicine is quickly becoming a no-brainer as an incredibly efficient means of accessing quality healthcare.

We recently heard from our friends at Yorktel in their industry insights into telehealth adoption about the barriers that have kept telehealth from fully taking off. We learned that many of the obstacles in adoption revolve around legislation and the lack of reimbursement availability for providers. Even with obstacles preventing full adoption, we continue to see life-changing stories about how telemedicine gives the disabled, veterans, and children around the world access to healthcare they may not otherwise have.

According to Forbes magazine, recent changes in legislation are proving to be more favorable than before for telemedicine, even in states that have long held onto dated regulations. In the state of Arkansas, previous legislation required an initial in-person encounter to establish a valid physician-patient relationship. Just recently, however, the Arkansas Medical Board passed new rules allowing for the creation of a relationship through telemedicine, meaning that a doctor can establish a valid relationship with a patient without the need for an in-person exam first. In the state of Texas, a number of obstacles diminished when a regulatory board shot down new restrictions to distance counseling – a huge win for telehealth in the state of Texas.

A few months ago, a law was passed in the state of Arizona requiring private health plans to pay for telemedicine services across the whole state rather than only services received in rural areas of the state. According to The National Law Review, there is still room for improvement in Arizona, as coverage is limited to a set of telemedicine services rather than everything one would receive at an in-person setting.

Just last month, the governor of Hawaii, David Ige, signed a bill into law expanding coverage for telehealth. Senate Bill 2395 requires the state’s Medicaid managed care and fee-for-service programs cover services provided through telehealth, stating that these programs “shall not deny coverage for any service provided through telehealth that would be covered if the service were provided through in-person consultation between a patient and a health care provider.�?

Telehealth is without a doubt becoming synonymous with healthcare, and maybe in the near future, the delivery method won’t even be a factor.

If you are looking to start or expand your outreach via telemedicine or video, the Polycom Grant Assistance Program may be able to help. Complete a Grant Assessment Request today to engage the team of experts to find out.

Baptist Health wins USDA Grant to Fund Telemedicine in Appalachia

August 18, 2016 Kerry Best Healthcare 589

Baptist Health wins USDA Grant to Fund Telemedicine in Appalachia

Just this past June, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced five Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant awards to help provide treatment for the growing opioid epidemic in rural central Appalachia. The DLT award includes nearly $1.4 million for five projects in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia to help these areas address the epidemic.

Included in the award is a $377,121 grant going to The Baptist Health Foundation Corbin, Inc. that will help connect clinical specialists to 10 school-based health centers and two primary care sites. Baptist Health found its way to the grant award through the Polycom Grant Assistance Program. We had a chance to speak with Chris Holcomb, Executive Director of Behavioral Health at Baptist Health and Anthony Powers, Vice President of Patient Care at the organization to talk about the grants process and what they plan on doing with this highly sought after award. Here’s what they had to say:

PSV: Can you talk a little bit about the challenges you were facing that drove you to apply for the USDA grant and develop your program?

CH: One of the biggest barriers for individuals residing in a rural area is the distance to see a specialist. Economic hardships for families should not prevent them from receiving quality care. Our commitment is to improve the lives of individuals in our communities so we decided that creating various telemedicine access points would help to reduce that problem. Another challenge has been the sustained recruitment of medical providers in our rural area. By offering telemedicine as a component of our treatment model, we can cast a larger net to recruit providers without having them commute to our hub location.

PSV: How did you get started with the grants process? And what was your experience with the Polycom Grant Assistance Team?

AP: From a quality and care transitions standpoint, we realized a gap in our medical-based services and felt that telemedicine could help fill that void. I reached out to various professionals nationwide and learned of the potential grant opportunities. We formed a great relationship with the Polycom Grant Assistance Team and they have been absolutely amazing. They are a dedicated group with amazing subject matter experts. They helped us to navigate through the grant process while coordinating every meeting. They are truly remarkable and I can’t emphasize that enough.

PSV: Can you tell us at a high level what your plans are for your telemedicine/treatment program at Baptist Health?

CH: The ultimate goal is to give our customers another option in their medical care instead of the traditional face-to-face appointment. Our hope is to start with a telemedicine program within the behavioral health specialty and expand services to other professional disciplines. Some of our goals include: reducing wait times for appointments, decreasing consumer costs via travel, and developing a statewide system of providers to meet the needs of our customers.

PSV: How do you see your telemedicine program helping address the opioid crisis in Kentucky and Tennessee?

CH: The opioid epidemic has been widespread in central Appalachia for roughly two decades and overdose deaths continue to steadily rise. Our goal is to provide more access points for care and consultation. Individuals battling substance use disorders typically don’t understand where or how to seek treatment. We plan to utilize telemedicine to help patients determine the appropriate level of care so they can begin their journey to recovery.

PSV: Are there any tips or advice you could give others interested in pursuing a grant for collaboration technology?

CH: The Polycom Grant Assistance Team is very knowledgeable and I would recommend them for anyone considering a technology grant. Be sure to involve as many community stakeholders as you can, even outside your agency, because collaborative relationships can help secure the resources needed for the greater goal of improving community health.

Children in Crisis: Addressing the Gaps in Mental Healthcare

August 25, 2016 Kerry Best Healthcare 980

Children in Crisis: Addressing the Gaps in Mental Healthcare

It may be difficult to truly grasp the significance of emotional, behavioral and developmental disorders in our nation’s children and adolescents and the massive shortage in psychiatric care available for them. If you look at the numbers, even at the lowest estimations, the state of Texas alone, for example, has 1 Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist (CAP) for every 16,000 children and adolescents with at least one disturbance. Add the fact that there’s 1 CAP for every 4000 with a significant impairment, and it’s easy to see the magnitude of the shortage.

A recent article in Time magazine, highlights the crisis and the fact that telemental health is one significant element in the solution. One adolescent patient in rural Kentucky, for example, was able to receive care from a doctor over 250 miles away – instead of waiting months for an appointment locally. “It helped me put a jumbled-up mess into perspective,” she says. “The therapy put everything everywhere I needed it to be in my life. I’m getting active, I talk to more people, I’m making more friends.”

Of course, increases in funding for clinics and the number of psychiatric beds available and loan-forgiveness programs that encourage child psychiatry as a profession are badly needed, but telehealth has the most potential for enormous impact and to expedite closing the gaps in care.

Recently, U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, a Republican from Pennsylvania and a child psychologist himself, introduced the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which included funding for collaborative telemental health programs. “We need three times as many psychiatrists as we have,” says Dr. Gregory Fritz, Rhode Island-based child and adolescent psychiatrist and president of the AACAP.

Telemental healthcare is nothing new and gaining traction across the country in various forms – from treating patients with drug addiction to Alzheimer’s, the field of telehealth has recently experienced some exciting breakthroughs in both adoption and legislation, making it a more favorable delivery mechanism than ever before. Reaching at-risk populations, such as veterans, rural teens and entire states through statewide networks, telemental health is proving to be the answer – the South Carolina Department of Mental Health is just one example.

One bright spot, too, is the number of grant funding opportunities that exist to help providers create or expand telehealth programs. The US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture are two prominent agencies offering programs and services to address gaps in care, especially for rural communities. These grants are funding the telehealth programs that will help providers across the country reach the most vulnerable patients to provide care at the time when they most need it.

Already considering a technology grant, but need help navigating the complex grant application process? The Polycom Grants Assistance Team (PGAP) experts can help identify funding opportunities, help determine eligibility and provide support from writing and submitting to post award support. To engage them, complete a grant assessment request today.