Several hospitals and technology companies have come together to start the Illinois Telehealth Initiative.
- One of the major challenges in the healthcare realm is the growing gap between the number of people covered by some form of health insurance and the number of doctors that are available to see and treat them. This gap has grown since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. At the time, former US Surgeon General Dr. Everett Koop predicted that by 2025, there would be a projected physician shortage of 130,000.
One of the biggest ways that the industry can ease the burden brought on by this growing gap is through the use of telehealth technology. This happens three different ways. First it allows physicians to take advantage of unused time. If a patient were to cancel an appointment at the last minute, a physician can take appointments through telehealth.
Second, it provides patients in rural areas with access to specialists. Through the use of telehealth, patients and rural hospitals can access specialists that would otherwise be unobtainable. This increases the quality of care that can be provided in rural locations.
Finally, it opens up the available pool of physicians that patients can access. This also stretches beyond the rural/urban split to include the rest of the world. This means international physicians can be called upon to help US patients, thus decreasing the gap.
To help support the growing use of telemedicine, some organizations are coming together to push the use of the technology. Last week, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois announced the launch of the Illinois Telehealth Initiative. It aims to improve the quality of healthcare by expanding geographic availability and reducing healthcare costs.
The new initiative is being backed by the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council (MCHC).
“Each year, hospitals across this region treat an increasing number of patients in need of psychiatric evaluation, and most institutions, due to budgetary restrictions or location, do not have 24/7 access to psychiatric support,” Michael Wahl, MD, Medical Director, MCHC, said in the press release. “For institutions in such a situation, MCHC is proud to offer the Midwest Telepsychiatry Consortium, a groundbreaking solution to help providers increase access to psychiatric care, enhance the quality and efficiency of ED treatment regimens, and significantly reduce boarding times for behavioral health patients in distress.”
Several other healthcare organizations are also onboard through MATTER, a Chicago hub for healthcare innovation. It will form a committee to actively demonstrate telehealth service effectiveness. The organization is still looking for addition partners to support the Illinois Telehealth Initiative with either financial contributions or participation.