Barriers in Delivering Health Care, Expanding Telemedicine Highlighted at Annual Rural Pennsylvania Legislative Briefing
May 02, 2019
At an event yesterday hosted by Pennsylvania state Representative Kathy Rapp (R-65), state Senator Michele Brooks (R-50), and Lisa Davis, director, Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, Dr. Frederick Bloom, president, Guthrie Medical Group, presented testimony before a number of legislators and staff. Dr. Bloom highlighted the significant barriers to access to care brought about by the lack of connectivity to broadband Internet.
The Guthrie Clinic has embraced technology and telemedicine on many fronts, by creating GurthrieNow, Guthrie Telemedicine Programs, and eGuthrie. GuthrieNow, the clinic’s “first direct to consumer telemedicine video visit program links a patient directly to a provider for low-acuity, walk-in type of visits,” Dr. Bloom explained.
This technology has proven both convenient and irreplaceable, with most of its audience a combination of busy parents and those located far away. Since its launch during 2016, the GuthrieNow app has conducted over 2,000 video visits, where “eight percent would have resulted in emergency room visits, 30 percent in urgent care visits, and 17 percent in physician office visits.”
These findings are what pushes many like Dr. Bloom to advocate so strongly for greater and more stable access to broadband services and the expansion of initiatives like telemedicine, especially in communities where it is critical to have an option for timely and cost-effective care within reach.
As part of Guthrie’s telemedicine program, Dr. Bloom highlighted their tele-stroke and tele-rheumatology programs, and expressed excitement over the intended launch of their tele-psychiatry program during July. Significant gains in accessibility have also been made, as Guthrie will be offering “specialty visits in specially-constructed telemedicine exam rooms in 13 locations that historically could not offer these services due to physician shortages and the rural nature of the populations,” by the end of June.
The convenience telemedicine provides all patients is clear: patients are able to access the results of recent visits, view their recommended health program, see recent test results, make appointments, voice concerns, access their full medical records, print child immunization reports, request prescriptions, and complete pre-visit surveys. Telemedicine initiatives like these bolster efforts to maintain daily health and wellbeing, but these programs can only be successful when communities have stable access to the Internet.
HAP continues to support expanding access to broadband and telemedicine services, and continues to advocate alongside Pennsylvania’s hospital community for telemedicine as a tool for providers and consumers, encouraging Pennsylvania’s insurance community to include telemedicine in coverage options to help increase access to and use of telemedicine services.
For more information, please contact Tim Ohrum, HAP’s vice president, grassroots advocacy, or or Stephanie Watkins, HAP’s vice president, state legislative advocacy.