Telehealth in Cambridge MN brings tech solutions to the neonatal ward

Isanti-Chisago Country Star reports…

Through a new virtual care partnership, physicians at Cambridge Medical Center now have enhanced 24/7 access to Children’s neonatal care specialists. Using audio/video technology, Cambridge Medical Center physicians can hold a virtual consultation with a neonatal clinician from Children’s Minnesota.

From there, clinicians from both systems collaborate on the care management of newborns requiring acute stabilization after birth and determine whether the baby needs to be transferred to another facility for further care.

When deemed appropriate, the Cambridge Medical Center physician places a call to Children’s Minnesota and requests a virtual consultation. Within minutes, a neonatal specialist from Children’s will connect via an audio/ video conference with the Cambridge Medical Center provider and care team. There is no extra cost to the patient’s family.

For Cambridge Medical Center physicians, the virtual care partnership is a way to better serve area families.

“This virtual care relationship between Children’s and Cambridge Medical Center provides an enhanced level of safety for newborn care at the hospital,” said Dawn Dingman, RN, manager of Cambridge Medical Center’s Family Birthing Center. “By allowing the Children’s neonatal specialists to actually see the baby, we’re confident that we’ll be able to keep and serve more families here, in their own community. We take excellent care of these babies and will send them to another facility for even more specialized care if necessary.”

Partnerships like these also support Children’s vision to be every family’s essential partner in raising healthier children.

It’s a great solution for areas with sufficient broadband to make it work.

Beyond telemedicine – there’s demand and some solutions for tele-caring

I just finished reading a report on how rural areas can be slower to adopt broadband because the population can be older, have less education and lower incomes. My grandpa used to say – first you gotta wanna – as in, you can learn anything but first you gotta wanna.

That framed my read of the next report by the Rural Health Information Hub on Informal Caregiving and Technology in Rural America. In short, the report talks about how using technology can make your life easier if you are a caregiver – especially if you are an unpaid caregiver with a full time job and maybe some kids. In other words, if you’re caring for a parent or other loved one.

They point out three ways that technology can help:

  • “An ‘Intelligent Family Care Assistant’ to help with day-to-day caregiving by helping to coordinate the family’s tasks in the context of the family’s other activities.”
  • “‘Wearable technologies’ — devices worn on or placed in the body, with sensors and/or human interfaces — to help monitor a person’s health and overall condition.”
  • “Technologies that provide better connections between family caregivers and health professionals, enabling them to work more effectively as a team in providing care.”

I suspect most readers will grasp the advantages of those tools without help. And if you want another great use of technology, you can look back on my article on Virtual Realty in Cannon Falls.)

There are several hiccups in the deployment. Lack of broadband is one – but imagine using these tele-caring applications to reach a demographic that was slow to get broadband before. We’re building demand.

Lack of skill is another. I’ve done digital literacy training for decades. Learning to use a computer for the first time when you’re older is hard. It’s an entirely next experience – it would be like me trying to use a sewing machine or oven! Also you don’t hear or see as well as certain ages and learning gets slower. BUT the incentive is high to stay in your own home to make life easier for you kids or other loved ones caring for you. We’re building demand and increasing local skills.

There are some policy constraints too. The report outlines the NACRHHS Recommendations on Supportive Services and Caregiving:

  1. “The Committee recommends the Secretary create a comprehensive resource on the aging and long-term services and supports available to older adults in rural areas.”
  2. “The Committee recommends the Secretary continue to expand flexibility in Medicare telehealth billing and provide a comprehensive resource of telehealth offerings in rural areas.”
  3. “The Committee recommends the Secretary ensure the promotion and encouragement of age-friendly concepts within rural health grant programs.”
  4. “The Committee recommends the Secretary explore the entry of Medicare Advantage Dual-Eligible Special Needs Plans into rural areas, identify potential barriers, and work with states to adopt policies that encourage or expand the reach of these plans to rural beneficiaries.”

There’s work to be done but tele-caring is a reward that most families would (or will eventually) appreciate. The report does a nice job with statistics and a few stories.


WellnessVR Holiday delivery to Cannon Falls

I’m super excited to share this story about Chuck Olsen and Visual bringing virtual reality to Cannon Falls memory care facilities…

More on the video from Visual

The city of Cannon Falls, Minnesota ordered #WellnessVR headsets for their Memory Care units in hope they’d arrive in time for the holidays. We got them setup and took a little road trip to give this story a happy ending. 🙂 Spending time on a Maui beach or feeding cows on a farm is just the thing to chase away the winter sads. They’re already using the headsets with family members and all are loving it. Thanks to the Blandin Foundation for providing the technology grant, and to Ann Treacy for inviting us to speak at the Blandin Broadband conference every year to connect with rural communities who can fund and benefit from innovative digital health technology like virtual reality.

VR is amazing to me and it seems like a fix for lots of mental health issues for people of all ages.

The 2020 Assistive Tech Challenge – deadline Feb 10

I love this idea – a competition to innovate solutions that improve the lives of people with disabilities. They report on the Destination Medical Center website

The Assistive Tech Challenge is a pitch competition presented by Destination Medical Center to facilitate greater independence for individuals with disabilities and the daily challenges they face. The Challenge is also intended to strengthen their ability to live more independently and help reduce the direct support workforce crisis confronting communities in the region and across the United States.

Participants in the Assistive Tech Challenge should develop a product or service related to:

  • Independent living

  • Access to employment

  • Support for care providers

  • Social skill development

  • Improved public infrastructure

And some of the details…

  • First Place in each category will receive $5,000. Second Place in each category will receive $2,500.
  • All first and second place teams will be eligible to participate in the Walleye Tank pitch competition in Minneapolis in May 2020.
  • Online Application Form will be available on January 6, 2020. Deadline for application is February 10, 2020.

Farm to farm telehealth – can it help curb rural suicide rates?

Pew Research recently posted about telehealth in rural areas, specifically farms, using Minnesota as an example…

On most days, therapist Becky Kopp-Dunham counsels farmers and other clients across 10 North Dakota towns from her home office on a crop and cattle farm in Morehead, Minnesota.

With a reliable internet connection and videoconferencing service, Kopp-Dunham can inform and treat patients in rural and remote places. …

She and her colleagues call it “farm-to-farm therapy,” but it’s widely known among medical providers as telehealth delivery of mental health services. It’s just one of the many approaches states are taking to address mental health among rural and agricultural populations, as the need rises against the backdrop of a struggling farm economy.

This year at least seven states, including Colorado, Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, Texas, Oregon and Wisconsin, considered bills to boost local mental health authorities. Several, including Minnesota, New York and Wisconsin, focus on agricultural communities. Some are related to strengthening farm finances, but also intended to support mental health and well-being. It’s unclear to what extent state efforts will fulfill the need.

Rural areas have a triple whammy, there are fewer providers, greater distance between patients and the suicide rate is higher…

Rural residents experience mental disorders and drug addiction just as much as their urban counterparts, and their need for mental health services is similar. But rural suicide rates are greater than urban ones, and the gap has grown steadily since 1999.

And yet, rural people have less access to treatment sources. There’s a stark lack of providers in rural counties given the vast territory and small populations. Most areas with a shortage of mental health providers are partially or entirely rural, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And since 2010, 119 rural hospitals have closed.

There have been federal efforts to increase access to healthcare…

In October, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the regional recipients of four grants totaling $1.9 million to provide stress assistance programs to people in agriculture.

The grantees will launch the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, which was authorized in the 2018 farm bill signed by Trump last December. The funding will support more rural mental health research, programming and trained staffing.

The farm bill also increased the annual budget for the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program, from $75 million to $82 million, through fiscal 2023. The program helps rural communities use telecommunications to address challenges related to isolation and low population density.

And state efforts…

Meanwhile, Minnesota increased its annual appropriation to the state Department of Agriculture from $113,000 to $250,000 to add a second therapist focused on farmers and other statewide mental health counseling to farm families and business operators through the state college system.

In April, the University of Minnesota Extension formed a task force to provide educational programs and resources related to stress and mental health. Emily Wilmes, who leads the group, knows farmers who have committed suicide.

“I received a call I’ll never forget, Sept. 12, 2018, from a dairy farmer, a close friend,” Wilmes said. “He informed me quickly in our conversation that another dairy farmer had died by suicide the day before. The pain in his voice was something I’ll never forget. It turns out that dairy farmer was the father of a college classmate.”

In recognition of the financial concerns that can affect mental health, Minnesota also created a program that awards grants to eligible dairy farmers to encourage participation in the federal Dairy Margin Coverage program, financial protection for dairy producers when the margin between feed costs and milk prices falls below a certain amount, said state Rep. Jeanne Poppe, a Democrat who sponsored the bill. The North Star State lost about 10% of its dairy operations last year.

Besides competing priorities in tight budgets, another challenge for legislators is to know how to address the economic needs of various levels and types of agriculture — and when to act, said Poppe, who represents southeastern Minnesota.

Aitkin County’s Riverwood Healthcare Center get telehealth help with Blandin Foundation support

Aitkin County Age reports on Blandin Foundation’s support of My Chart enhancements for Riverwood Healthcare Center…

Broadband grant money is a pass through that uses the county to help disburse money to worthy broadband projects.

One of the projects submitted ($50,000 was available this round) were WiFi hotspot at the Jacobson Community Center. There are no broadband, high speed internet spots in that part of the county.  It will be a satellite WiFi system.

My Chart enhancements for Riverwood Healthcare Center applied for funding to help with telehealth, telemedicine. My Chart will allow people to access their medical records from home.  Training for staff would increase the use of telehealth initiatives. An amount of $20,000 will be used for training in how to use the telehealth and My Chart infrastructure; $50,000 is available, but the projects total only $44,000.

Wagner thanked the Blandin Foundation for the broadband funding it has contributed over the past three years.

New device makes telehealth from home easier in MD, SD, ND and IA

West Central Tribune reports…

Sanford Health has launched a pocket-sized device that it hopes will revolutionize how it takes care of many of its patients.

The device, called TytoHome, works with a customer’s phone to connect live with both Sanford health care providers. A range of pieces of equipment attaches to it to check ears, heart, breathing and temperature, among other information, and send that information to the provider.

Sanford’s goal is to provide virtual exams, making it easy for patients to get checked without visiting a clinic or emergency room.

Sanford partnered with Israeli startup Tyto Care to offer the $299 devices exclusively to patients in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.