The Hutchinson Leader ran a nice editorial yesterday on the Minnesota Telehealth Network. Karen Welle was good enough to talk to me about the Minnesota Telehealth Network right around Christmas of 2007. The editorial outlines much of the history that we discussed. In short – the network has made a huge difference to providing accessible healthcare to patients in rural areas.
Remote monitoring and consults makes life easier for the patients. It means no more driving to the cities, paying for gas, time off work, meals and sometimes hotels (for patient and caretaker). It helps keep healthcare dollars in local areas as local clinics facilitate remote appointments. The editorial adds that the MN Telehealth Network facilitates an average of more than 1,200 specialty appointments a year.
The Minnesota Telehealth Network is an area where Minnesota has excelled.
Unfortunately they are running into two barriers. First – they need reliable broadband access to expand the network. Listening to healthcare providers at the Task Force meetings has hammered that point on home to me. A blip in broadband service in an inconvenience to most of us – it can literally be live and death to the healthcare providers.
Second – and perhaps a more immediate concern, the Minnesota Telehealth Network is about to reach the end of its 3 year grant, which is set to expire on August 31, 2009. I asked folks at the MN Office of Rural Health & Primary Care about their chances. They said, “Hard to say. They’ve applied, but they’ve been funded more than once already. They’re focusing this application on telestroke. They’re just waiting.” (I had to look up telestroke – and it’s just what you think – telemedicine for stroke patients.)