Global Telehealth Initiative Launched

March 31, 2014
Marie Daghlian

A new initiative is focusing on increasing access to healthcare through innovative use of technology including telemedicine and health information exchange to deliver care.

This article published with permission from The Burrill Report.

A group of telehealth industry veterans have launched a new initiative with a mission to deliver access to healthcare worldwide. The TeleHealth International Partnership (TIP) is led by Jay Saunders, considered the father of telemedicine, and Bernard Harris, an astronaut physician, both of whom are affiliated with the American Telemedicine Association. The initiative was orchestrated by Paula Guy, chief executive officer of Global Partnership for TeleHealth.

“It has been my vision to bring together a team of this caliber that the industry has yet to see,” Guy says. “The time has finally come for ‘the father of telemedicine,’ an astronaut physician, and a very gifted geneticist to work with us to lead the company in changing lives all over the world.”

TIP is focusing on increasing access to healthcare through innovative use of technology including telemedicine and health information exchange to deliver care wherever the patient may be. The e-clinical-enabled platforms TIP has adopted have a wide range of customization, interoperability, and portability.

“It’s not about the technology any longer,” says Jeff Kesler, chief operating officer of TIP. “Telehealth is the application of technology and comprehensive services that make a program successful. We are about building healthier communities.”

Using the latest technologies, TIP has developed a care continuum that is different from current care offerings. Its network includes hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, schools, correctional facilities, emergency departments, trauma centers, stroke centers, primary care physicians, child advocacy groups, and continuing education on all levels. The network currently encompasses more than 300 patient locations and more than 200 specialists and healthcare providers representing 40-plus specialties.

“We have seen clinical utilization climb exponentially,” Guy says. “While in January 2006, we had a mere 8 encounters, we had over 70,000 encounters in 2012, and doubled to over 130,000 encounters in 2013.”

The acceptance of telemedicine is growing rapidly. The confluence of improved communications, information technology, and medical devices along with doctor shortages and payment reforms in health systems is leading to one of the biggest changes taking place in healthcare delivery through the proliferation of digital health, or telehealth.

Digital health includes all instances of care delivery—diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring—done remotely through computers, video, and other technology. It could be something as simple as a healthcare provider sending text message alerts to come in for a check-up to conducting a complicated clinical intervention at a rural clinic via video with the specialist at another location that could be thousands of miles away.

Surveys have found that while still dependent on in-person medical treatments, when consumers are given a choice between virtual access to care and human contact, three-quarters of patients would choose virtual access to care and are comfortable with the use of technology for the clinician interaction.

Digital health has become an important component in the continuum of care under the new payment reform models in which providers benefit from improved outcomes rather than the quantity of services they provide. The ability to remotely monitor patients with chronic conditions, which tend to be some of the most expensive to address, can keep them at home rather than in the hospital and has been shown to significantly reduce readmission rates for these patients.

TIP has affiliations with the Global Partnership for TeleHealth, the Georgia Partnership for TeleHealth, the Alabama Partnership for TeleHealth, and the Florida Partnership for TeleHealth. The companies also support telehealth services in eight other states. TIP is transforming healthcare delivery globally with partnerships in Guatemala, Zambia, China, Haiti, and the US British Virgin Islands.

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