How this Kansas medical center is using telehealth to improve patient outcomes

Various hospitals, health systems and health-focused technology companies are turning their focus to preventative care. Some health system leaders describe this as keeping patients out of a hospital while consistently providing quality care.

Telehealth is a key resource. In rural areas, hospitals and health systems are adopting telehealth solutions to expand their reaches to communities that don't have routine access to care.

Scott Focke, the clinical administrator at Citizens Medical Center in Colby, Kan., has adopted telehealth at his facility. In turn, he has seen an increase in timely communication and better outcomes for patients.

Below, Mr. Focke shares his thoughts on the growth and importance of telehealth.

Editor's note: Responses have been edited for clarity and length.

Question: How has telehealth benefited your practice or facility?

Scott Focke: Through our telehealth programming, we have expanded access to patients with mental and behavioral health issues. We had very limited access to psychiatry and patients had long waits and/or travel distances to see a provider. Through our telehealth relationship with a psychiatrist, we now have a more integrated approach to caring for patients, as the psychiatrist has access to the family practice medical record and the psychiatrist notes go directly into the patient's electronic health record at the clinic. This has increased more timely communication and better outcomes for patients.

Q: For patients or physicians skeptical about adopting telehealth services, what would you tell them?

SF: Obviously, telehealth does not work for every situation, but for increased access to needed services it can be a helpful tool. Patients are reporting positive interactions back to our physicians and we have seen those who were initially skeptical become proponents of the service. When patients report a positive experience and physicians see positive outcomes, the skepticism quickly erodes.

Q: What is on the horizon for telehealth users and providers? Latest innovation?

SF: We see more technology coming that will help us monitor patients remotely or allow us to do quick check-ins with patients in their homes. Once reimbursement catches up, we see less office visits and increased direct-to-consumer e-visits in patients’ homes. We also see more continuous monitoring of acute situations and chronic disease patients.

More articles on telehealth:
8 recent hospital, telehealth vendor partnerships
MUSC Health, South Carolina hospital to expand primary, specialty telehealth services
Telehealth: A proactive, value-based solution to the US physician shortage

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