What is Telehealth?
Telehealth is the remote delivery of healthcare services and clinical information using telecommunications technology and includes a wide array of clinical services using internet, wireless, satellite and telephone media.
"Telehealth is not a separate medical specialty. Products and services related to Telehealth are often part of a larger investment by health care institutions in either information technology or the delivery of clinical care... Patient consultations via video conferencing, transmission of still images, e-health including patient portals, remote monitoring of vital signs, continuing medical education, consumer-focused wireless applications and nursing call centers, among other applications, are all considered part of Telehealth and telehealth.” The American Telemedicine Association
Telehealth offers four fundamental benefits:
- Improved Access – For over 40 years, Telehealth has been used to bring healthcare services to patients in distant locations. Not only does Telehealth improve access to patients but it also allows physicians and health facilities to expand their reach, beyond their own offices. Given the provider shortages throughout the world--in both rural and urban areas--Telehealth has a unique capacity to increase service to millions of new patients.
- Cost Efficiencies – Reducing or containing the cost of healthcare is one of the most important reasons for funding and adopting telehealth technologies. Telehealth has been shown to reduce the cost of healthcare and increase efficiency through better management of chronic diseases, shared health professional staffing, reduced travel times, and fewer or shorter hospital stays.
- Improved Quality – Studies have consistently shown that the quality of healthcare services delivered via Telehealth are as good those given in traditional in-person consultations. In some specialties, particularly in mental health and ICU care, Telehealth delivers a superior product, with greater outcomes and patient satisfaction.
- Patient Demand – Consumers want Telehealth. The greatest impact of Telehealth is on the patient, their family and their community. Using Telehealth technologies reduces travel time and related stresses for the patient. Over the past 15 years, study after study has documented patient satisfaction and support for telemedical services. Such services offer patients the access to providers that might not be available otherwise, as well as medical services without the need to travel long distances.
About Telehealth at SIU
SIU Telehealth Services is a division of SIU Medicine that extends provider services to outlying communities in central and southern Illinois. This is what we refer to as traditional Telehealth in which the patient is located at an outlying rural partner organization with a trained tele-presenter to assist with vital signs, physical exam, and any other needs. The provider remains in their office space and connects via video and audio to the patient. This allows patients to remain in their community while receiving quality medical care by their provider.
During the Covid-19 Pandemic, SIU Telehealth Services transitioned our program to meet the needs of our providers and patients. In the midst of temporary legislative changes, a new system was created that allowed our patients to be seen while remaining safe in their home during the shelter-in-place order while adhering to social distancing standards. Patients were connected to their providers through a HIPAA compliant platform called WebEx that provided audio and video connection between patient and provider. With assistance from Information Technology and Clinical Informatics, a system was set in place to ensure smooth scheduling and work flows to meet the health needs of the community.
The following services are available to Telehealth-enabled patient sites. Sites will require a trained tele-presenter available for virtual visits and in some instances, will require an advanced level practitioner trained to do certain on-site services, to prevent patients from having to travel for care. In most services, patients' insurance coverage is billed by SIU providers or services are patient self-pay. Tele-presenters must be a lisenced healthcare professional to meet eligibility requirements for Medicaid billing.
Current Services Available through Distant Site or Traditional Telehealth:
- Endocrinology (diabetes managment)
- Pulmonary Medicine
- Maternal-Fetal Medicine
- Oncology – Clinical Psychology Supportive Care
- Pediatric Neonatology
- Pediatric & Pediatric Specialties
Laura Hepp Kessel, Director of Telehealth Services
Laura began leading the telehealth efforts at SIU Medicine in 2019 after having spent the previous five years providing outreach services for SIU Medicine in western Illinois. Prior to joining SIU, Laura worked in state government and as a community organizer. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Social Work degree from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a Master in Social Work degree from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.
Becky Wilson, Deputy Director of Telehealth Services
Becky came to Telehealth Services in January of 2020 in the role of Deputy Director. She has been with SIU for 14 years as a Healthcare Assistant in Cardiothoracic Surgery, Trauma Program Manager, and most recently as a Healthcare Administrator in Internal Medicine. She has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master’s in Public Health.
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