Telemedicine Saves Almost $4K Per Diabetic Annually

People are always looking for these fast facts. This is a good one. Broadband World News reports…

Telehealth can save rural diabetes patients almost $4,000 per year, according to a pilot program sponsored by broadband infrastructure finance firm CoBank.

The Federal Communications Commission’s proposal to cap Universal Service Funds (USF) prompted a flurry of comments from organizations ranging from operators to libraries, schools to healthcare providers. It also generated input from CoBank, which works with a number of smaller and regional operators looking to finance infrastructure deployments.

Here are some of the specifics…

“The first pilot concludes that rural patients with Type 2 diabetes can reduce federal healthcare costs by up to $3,855 per patient, per year using telehealth,” Tyree said in the letter.

Mayo Clinic working with Google to refine medical searches

Mayo Clinic reports…

To help give their users the best health information possible, Google now provides relevant medical facts upfront. For example, a search for arthritis will show, beside the resulting links, a few basic facts about arthritis and a definition. To ensure quality and accuracy, all of the gathered facts were confirmed by medical doctors from around the United States, which were then vetted by expert clinicians at Mayo Clinic.

The goal of this new feature is to provide medical information in a digestible way and to get basic answers quickly. Using Mayo Clinic as a primary source, Google provides information about symptoms and treatments, whether or not it’s critical, or contagious, what ages it typically affects, and more.

“We worked with a team of medical doctors, led by our own Dr. Kapil Parakh, to carefully compile, curate and review this information,” says Prem Ramaswami, Google product manager. “All of the gathered facts represent real-life clinical knowledge from these doctors and high-quality medical sources across the Web, and the information has been checked by medical doctors at Google and Mayo Clinic for accuracy.”

Aside from being super happy that Google is working with a Minnesota company, I have some mixed feelings on this partnership. Google is the go-to source for bar bets, lost lyrics, stock updates – everything. Most of us are aware that Google sells ads and many of us know Google uses algorithms that “personalize” your search results. For example if I search for [restaurants] and I’m in Minneapolis I get restaurants in Minneapolis. So results can be skewed and you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet – yet again, Google is the go-to.

Partnering with Mayo to lift up their results gives Mayo a lot of power. And mostly I think finding our what the Mayo says about heart disease is probably better than seeing 5 ads and then whatever websites have the best search engine optimization. BUT what if they went with someone other than Mayo? Or what if they decide to do this for other categories and I don’t agree with their chosen expert? How does this fit in with search engine manipulation effect?

This is when I miss sitting at a Reference Desk. I miss giving mini-info literacy lessons to each patron. You need to know the author, bias, date of every source. I think this strikes me because when I taught information literacy classes I often said – Google is great for quick facts but if you’ve just been diagnosed with something you might want to dig deeper.

Online emotional wellness course available to MN high school students – for credit!

TIPP News Daily reports…

Two Minnesota education organizations are combining forces in an effort to battle the student mental health crisis by offering an innovative online course with embedded daily coaching. Minnesota Virtual Schools has contracted with EmpowerU LLC to offer this credit-bearing social-emotional wellness course to any Minnesota high school student as part of their regular school day – for no additional fee.

The course, EmpowerU, creates a time and place each day for students to learn vital resilience skills and strategies that will help them improve their mental health.

  • The telehealth-meets-online course was developed by a team of therapists for adolescents with social-emotional obstacles, such as anxiety, depression and negative self-esteem.
  • The course is delivered via daily 30-minute lessons that are customized to each student’s unique needs by licensed instructors that give daily feedback via the 1:1 portal.
  • Each of the six units integrates neuroscience, cognitive behavioral therapy, and strengths-based strategies that engage students as active participants in the course.
  • Students make significant progress toward their goals through healthy habit change, helping them feel less anxious and improve emotional well-being.

I have three teenage daughters. I think this is so smart. (Maybe they could offer help for the parents too!) Here’s more info on registering…

Any Minnesota high school student that has an open period in their school day can enroll in EmpowerU at no additional cost for a semester credit through Minnesota Virtual.

Click here to enroll or call Lorelei Lorentz, Coordinator of Part-Time Students Minnesota Virtual Schools at 612-524-5213 with questions:

For more information click here:

Telephone check ins at Mayo help cancer patients – reduces hospital says

AMA reports on improved remote monitoring/caring for cancer patients – not online, but my phone. Clearly that doesn’t require broadband but I think speaks to the role of technology for connection in healthcare today.

A six-month telerehabilitation program yielded improvements in advance-stage cancer patients’ pain and function. The gains in these areas reduced hospital lengths of stay and the need for post-acute care, demonstrating the effectiveness of easily scalable, high-impact technology interventions.


The JAMA Oncology study included 516 patients with stage IIIC or IV cancer, moderate functional impairment and a life expectancy of more than six months who were randomly assigned into one of three groups.

Group one was a control group. Patients in this group reported, either by telephone or web-based surveys, pain intensity, and whether pain interfered with enjoyment of life or general activity.

Patients in group two did the same, but also received telephone calls from fitness care managers who provided individualized instruction in a pedometer-based walking program and resistance exercises. In addition, these patients also visited physician therapists for further adaptions of their conditioning and analgesic regimens.

Group three participants had the same program as group two with the addition of pharmacological pain management led by a nurse pain care manager.

While hospital admissions were basically the same among the three groups, the lengths of stay varied greatly, with group two having hospitalizations that were about four days shorter (3.5) than the control group (7.4) on average. The group three patients did not see as much benefit, with an average stay length of five days.

MN Oncology and BCBS team up for better cancer care

Fierce Healthcare reports…

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is teaming up with Minnesota Oncology on a five-year value-based agreement for cancer care.

The collaboration will begin Sept. 1, and the payer and provider will share risk for the overall cost of cancer for members treated at Minnesota Oncology, the companies announced. As part of the deal, Minnesota Oncology has agreed to a set of evidence-based principles to guide care, so Blue Cross will waive prior authorization for certain treatments that are often overutilized.

Telehealth plays a role in the process…

Blue Cross members treated at Minnesota Oncology clinics will also receive more coordinated approach to care. Amezcua said that the model will free oncologists to provide additional services such as telehealth, as they’re not being paid based on a claims form checklist.

Minnesota Oncology also offers patients access to nonclinical supports such as nutrition, behavioral health and genetic counseling. It also provides remote monitoring, advanced care planning and palliative care for patients who need those services.

“Cancer patients face a big challenge, and we remain committed to providing comprehensive care including state-of-the-art therapies, precision medicine, genetic testing, palliative care and access to clinical trials,” John Schwerkoskie, M.D., president of Minnesota Oncology, said in a statement.

Telehealth great option for kids in college

The Hometown News Source recently posted a letter from a Maple Grove parent happy with CVS’s telehealth option for her kids…

As a first-time empty nester, I am thrilled — and relieved — that “telehealth” options continue to expand for my son and daughter who are away from home at college.

CVS Health recently announced that Minnesota is one of eight states where a video visit is now available. Patients can connect via mobile device or computer with a health care provider 24/7. This option is ideal for young people accustomed to doing everything online, and for whom transportation and time can be limiting factors.

Telehealth and regular face-to-face visits bring orthopedic care from the Twin Cities to Nebraska kids

I love these stories when broadband just makes someone’s life better. The Omaha World Herald reports…

Jennifer Olsen has been traveling back and forth between Lincoln and Minneapolis regularly since her daughter, Maylena, was 8 months old.

At first, they made about two trips a year. The number peaked at 16 in the last half of 2013 when Maylena had the first of three procedures to lengthen a leg that’s shorter than the other. Last year, they made the drive 13 times and this year three — so far.

But Jennifer Olsen is hoping a new collaboration between Boys Town National Research Hospital and Shriners Healthcare for Children-Twin Cities will cut their drive time for some routine visits from seven hours to an hour.

The two organizations announced Thursday in a room packed with fez-wearing Shriners — and a clown — that orthopedic specialists from the Minneapolis hospital will travel to Omaha to hold regular face-to-face clinics at Boys Town, beginning in September.

Boys Town also will serve as the first telehealth site in the Minneapolis hospital’s service territory, which covers six states and parts of Canada.

The aim is to provide greater access to orthopedic care for existing and new patients in Nebraska and surrounding states. Maylena Olsen, now 15, is among more than 500 patients who already travel regularly from Nebraska to be seen at the Minneapolis hospital. She has a rare genetic condition that causes skeletal malformations and other problems.

Mother and daughter participated in a demonstration of the telehealth technology last week from Minneapolis before getting on the road back to Lincoln.