Bemidji State U and Northwest Technical College increase tele-mental-health

I wanted to share this because I think the increase in tele-mental-health for everyone is so important but especially for kids figuring our college and living in a pandemic. Lakeland PBS reports…

Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College are partnering to expand mental health services available to students and have received $120,000 in funding from the Minnesota State Multi-campus Collaboration Grant program. The funding will support the hiring of a new case manager, as well as provide increased support for student psychiatric care and equipment needed for secure Telehealth services.

A 2018 health survey of Minnesota college students found that more than 40% of those surveyed reported mental health issues, and 55% indicated that mental health issues impacted their academic performance.

The program “Expanding Reach: Mental Health for All” will support initiatives that strengthen BSU and NTC’s ability to accommodate student needs amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.

Allina Health and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Commit to Landmark Value-Based Contract in Minnesota

SoutherMinn reports..

Following more than a year of collaboration and planning, Allina Health and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) today announced a six-year, value-based payment agreement between the two organizations, which collectively serve a significant percentage of Minnesotans. Allina Health performs more than 6 million patient visits per year, while approximately one in three residents in the state have coverage through Blue Cross. The agreement is designed to provide enhanced value for Blue Cross members while fostering even more high-quality care and healthy outcomes that Allina Health is well-known for across the state.

This is something the started before the pandemic, but COIVD escalated the need.

Impact on patient…

The rewards placed on additional preventive and coordinated care were designed to maximize the time available for building doctor-patient relationships, streamlining the care delivery experience and simplifying administrative requirements. Both organizations believe that such an emphasis is necessary to foster more proactive and preventive care, and catalyze work to reduce the unacceptably high rates of health disparities across our community.

Impact on health care facilities…

An increasingly popular alternative in health care contracts, value-based agreements can maintain the historic levels of revenue for a health care system, but with larger payment portions for optimal patient outcomes and quality of care. By de-emphasizing the reliance on  payments for each health care service delivered, providers can be protected from loss of revenue during periods of reduced volume – such as the recent pause on scheduled procedures during the pandemic – while still maintaining access to care for the broader community through long-term health initiatives.

Impact on telehealth…

The pandemic rapidly increased the adoption of telehealth, as in-person care options were curtailed for the safety of providers and patients. Part of succeeding in value-based models is the ability to provide care at the most appropriate time and place. Providers and patients are increasingly comfortable with expanded options for giving and receiving care, and this agreement will allow the expansion of these options to continue in a sustainable way.

Telehealth great for people with broadband – reimbursement a factor of cost or value?

Alexandria Echo Press reports on a recent survey of healthcare during the pandemic…

Minnesotans experienced adverse health outcomes due to delays in care, the use of telehealth has surged, the bottom lines of physician practices in Minnesota were hurt significantly during the first months of the COVD-19 pandemic, and doctors fear the next wave of the virus.

These are a few of the key findings of a recent study commissioned by the Minnesota Medical Association (MMA) on the impact of the pandemic on physician practices.

The study, “Minnesota Physicians Respond to COVID-19,” is based on responses to two surveys – one sent to Minnesota physicians (the 641 responses represent a +/- 4 percent margin of error at 95 percent confidence interval) and one sent to medical practice administrators (92 responses). Surveys were completed between June 16 and July 13, 2020.

They outline the impact of telehealth…

Not surprisingly, the use of technology increased dramatically during the pandemic, the study found. In 2019, practice administrators reported that approximately 3 percent of patient encounters were conducted via telehealth including e-visits, phone, and video visits. Since March 2020, that number has increased to 28 percent, an increase of 833 percent.

Eighty-four percent of physicians reported that patients were satisfied or very satisfied with telehealth visits. A similar proportion of physicians (83 percent) said telehealth is meeting the care needs of their patients. “Telehealth is a lot like doing house calls,” commented one respondent. “I am a guest in their home and the patient is much more comfortable. I hear the sounds of their life.”

Nearly three-quarters of physicians said they think it is important to retain telehealth as a care delivery method, but changes are needed for that to continue. Seventy-eight percent reported uncertainty around ongoing reimbursement by insurers as a barrier to broader telehealth adoption and use.

Another critical barrier to telehealth adoption is on the patient side – 73 percent of physician respondents noted that patient access to technology and patient access to broadband (60 percent) were moderate to significant barriers to broader telehealth use.

“We’re glad to see the expanded use of telehealth,” Stelter says. “However, not all patients can currently access it. Many Minnesotans don’t have access to broadband. Variation in technology platforms can also drive patient comfort and use. For telehealth to be truly helpful, everyone needs to have the ability to use it effectively. This is yet another example of the health care disparities that exist in Minnesota.”

The emphasis above is mine. They also discuss the financial situation for healthcare facilities, which is down. Some of that may be due to people accessing less care. But it may also be a reason to look at cost and reimbursement for telehealth. Maybe the start is to quit looking at cost and start looking at value! What is it worth to keep patients out of the healthcare facilities and hospitals? What is it worth to have a house call over driving to the nearest hospital? What is the cost versus value of having healthcare access in your community? We may need to change the equation?

Tele-Mental Health Portal helping reach folks in Region 9

Earlier this week Bernadine Joselyn, Mary Magnuson and I had a conversation with Kristian Braeken at Region 9 about their telehealth plans and programs (supported with Blandin Foundation funding). It’s interesting to hear about what they are doing and the impact they are having but a key point is how they are using this to ensure that they have a healthy workforce, which makes this as economic development issue as well as community development and health.  (Also worth nothing that the project started late in 2019.)

Region 9 serves the following counties: Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Sibley, Waseca and Wantonwan. They have created a portal that provides referrals and access to mental health services. Actually better than that – they didn’t create anything, they found a solution with Direct Assessments and Counseling. It’s been a great way to reach community members who can be geographically out of reach. And it’s been a great way to connect those people (and others) to providers and counselors who do not necessarily live in the area.

Being able to access counselors outside Region 9 has been a coup because there’s a shortage in the area. The push to move everything online (due to COVID) has opened up everyone’s interest in doing more things online. Zoom was a niche word a year ago; now everyone is doing it so there’s a growing comfort level.

Some regulations have been loosened making it easier to use accessible technology. And with the stress of a pandemic, job loss and change, students doing everything differently and with seniors experiencing more acute seclusion the need is greater. Also, Region 9 works with people who require court mandated assessments and services.

People have found that they like it. Within a month, the portal was operating to capacity. People with court mandated assessments appreciate the convenience. Many other experience the privacy of services from home. They found that before the online option people might drive a couple hours to get service or forego services altogether. And going online has opened the door to more diverse clients, especially immigrant groups.

By all accounts it’s been a success. It’s easy to see that much of this will continue to serve a purpose even after the stringent rules aroudn COVID are relaxed.

Barbers and beauty shops with broadband poise to offer telehealth services

Craig Settles is an original thinker. I recently saw him talk about a project to get barbers and beauticians involved in telehealth. Being honest I first thought of the Medieval Barber from SNL, and then I remembered how everyone – male and female, all walks and ways of the world – were so happy when the salons opened after quarantine. And I realized it was a pretty genius idea.

MHealth Intelligence wrote about his idea back in January…

 An innovative project in Ohio is using barbershops, hair salons and telehealth to screen people for hypertension.

Three Cleveland-area barbershops in urban neighborhoods are currently working with the Cleveland Clinc to screen patrons with mHealth-enabled blood pressure cuffs. Once the readings are taken and entered into a connected health platform developed by VSee, those patrons can then work with care providers to manage their blood pressure.

For some, the experience was life-saving.

“Ninety percent or more (of our) customers discover the first time they’re screen they have high blood pressure,” Waverley Willis, owner of the Urban Kutz barbershop, said in a story prepared by the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society. “Several customers’ blood pressure was so high they went straight to the ER, and a good number were well on their way to a stroke or a heart attack.”

The program is the brainchild of Craig Settles, a telehealth and broadband business planner, who wanted to find some way to improve care management for the African-American community – 40 percent of which are living with hypertension.

Craig is looking for some more cities to try this out. As he recently posted in a public discussion list..

I’ve got five cities ID’d for my barbershop/hair salon telehealth pilot program (Cleveland, Wilson County, NC, Chicago, Denver-area and possibly Topeka). I need five more, and I’m thinking some cities don’t have a broadband project lined up because they have to get the money spent by Christmas. This pilot addresses the time constraint.

I spoke with Craig and he’s interested in some rural areas too. If you’re interested, I encourage you get contact Craig for more info.

How does a smart community handle coronavirus? Ask Taiwan.

I just happened to hear an interview with Audrey Tang, the Taiwan government’s digital minister on Public radio about all of the ways Taiwan is using technology to curb coronavirus. Technology supports quarantining for people crossing a border into Taiwan…

Anyone returning to Taiwan has two choices. Either they go to a quarantine hotel for 14 days, in which case they’re physically barred from leaving; or, if they live in a place with their own bathroom and with no vulnerable group of people, they can also choose to digitally quarantine, placing their phone into the digital fence. In that case, the nearby cellphone tower will measure the signal strength, as they always do, and send out an SMS whenever the phone runs out of battery or breaks out of the 50-meter or so radius. So, the idea is that during those 14 days, we pay each person in quarantine about $33 a day as a stipend. But if they break out of the quarantine, then they pay us back a thousand times that. So, very few people break the quarantine.

Technology to provide mask inventory to the public…

There was a person named Howard Wu in Tainan city who developed a map so that people could see the nearby places and exactly how many masks there are in stock. So, we very quickly supplied them, every 30 seconds, the real-time mask levels of all the pharmacies, and later on convenience stores, so that people who queue in line can keep this system accountable.

And they make sure everyone has broadband

And the second thing is about equality. In Taiwan, broadband is a human right. Even on the tip of Taiwan, which is almost 4,000 meters high, people still have 10 megabits per second at just $16 per month. No additional cost, unlimited data. Otherwise, it’s my fault. And so, we will not systemically exclude people who don’t have broadband.

I know it’s not Minnesota, but I also know Taiwan (population 23+ million) has been in single digits for COVID cases since April 12 and Minnesota (population 5.6 million) had 730 cases on Aug 14 alone.

MPR asks: Will telemedicine be the new norm in Minnesota?

Angela Davis  (MPR News) hosted a whole show on telemedicine this week with three guests:

  • Joel Beiswenger is the president and CEO of Tri-County Health Care in Wadena, Minn.
  • Joshua Stein is a child adolescent psychiatrist and the clinical director of the Prairie Care’s Brooklyn Park medical office.
  • Annie Ideker is a family medicine physician at the HealthPartners Clinic in Arden Hills, Minn., and helped train more than 2,000 clinicians on telemedicine.

They start with a brief history of what has been happening in Minnesota (especially rural MN) in terms of telehealth. For those of us who have been involved with health and broadband – I will repeat the shout out that Joel Beiswenger gave to Maureen Ideker for her work in the field.

Telehealth is a balance of medicine, technology, practice and policy. So many things go into the mix. But especially in rural Minnesota, getting that to work out will save time and money for patients and often healthcare facilities as well.

Dr Joshua brings up the increased comfort level, especially for kids, in moving mental health issues online. Kids, this will surprise no parents, are pretty comfortable talking via technology. There are some exceptions but on the whole the kids are very comfortable.

Amazing to hear how quickly people could transition to telehealth during the pandemic. Turns out that for many visits, Dr Ideker points out, patients have been interested in continuting telehealth visits even after their healthcare facilitity has opened.

They report that 30 percent of office visits have shifted online post-quarantine; 70-80 percent of mental health visits remain online even after offices have opened.

You can listen to the whole show. There were some interesting topics

  • the impact of telehealth on people with limited English language skills.
  • The access is only as good as the broadband
  • Dealing with online-meeting overload
  • Needing to be alone for in-person meetings

Telehealth can curb STIs in MN

Red Lake Nation News reports…

Today, the Minnesota Department of Health announced that Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) rates continue to increase. Notably, the data shows a 23 percent increase in syphilis from 2018-19. Planned Parenthood has launched at-home STI testing kits to respond to this urgent public health need.

Combined with telehealth consultation, at-home STI testing kits allow patients to safely and conveniently test themselves from the privacy and safety of their home. After a patient consults with a provider via telehealth, the patient is mailed a testing kit, complete with directions for sample collection and return shipping supplies. Patients have 30 days to mail their sample to the testing lab. If there is a positive test, or if follow-up care is needed, patients are contacted by the Planned Parenthood care team for treatment options.

Telehealth consultations and follow-up, combined with at-home STI testing, can help mitigate the significant barriers to care posed by COVID-19 and help slow the anticipated growth of STIs through the pandemic and beyond.

Beyond the convenience factor here (so important during a pandemic) I think the potential for anonymity will encourage people to get tested. and treated and hopefully will curb the increases in cases.

OPPORTUNITY: MRHA Emerging Rural Health Leader Award nomiations open

From the Minnesota Rural Health Association

Each year at the MN Rural Health Conference MRHA Awards a deserving student the Emerging Rural Health Leader award. Unfortunately this year’s conference has been cancelled. However, the opportunity to acknowledge an up-and-coming rural health leader is not.

MRHA will be presenting this year’s award in conjunction with National Rural Health Day on November 19, 2020. Please consider nominating someone today.

Click here for the NOMINATION FORM

With the growing reliance of telehealth, it feels like this belongs in a broadband blog as well as any health resource out there. Deadline is Oct 23, 2020.

COVID exacerbates the gap between haves and have-nots – starting with healthcare facilities vs broadband providers

High Plains Journal reports on a recent webinar on rural telehealth…

A July 15 webinar on those issues was hosted by Kevin Oliver, lead relationship manager at CoBank, part of the Farm Credit System that supports key initiatives in both rural broadband and healthcare. Titled “COVID-19 Impacts On Rural Healthcare and Broadband,” it is the fourth in the “From the Farmgate” series of webinars sponsored by CoBank. The speakers were Rick Breuer, CEO of Community Memorial Hospital, located in a rural area of Minnesota just west of Duluth; and Catherine Moyer, CEO of Pioneer Communications, which provides connectivity services in western Kansas via coaxial cable, copper wire, fiber and wireless.

I was especially interested in the bottom line impact to the broadband providers versus the healthcare facilities (the tele vs the health)…

Oliver noted that the cost dynamic was different for health care facilities and communications. Health care facilities saw a simultaneous increase in costs and decreases in revenue. On the other hand, communications companies have added customers and grown more quickly than they might have otherwise. While some payments are in arrears, “most of those arrears will be collectible,” said Moyer—whether from customers, or by laws like the Critical Connections Act that reimburses communications companies. Moyer said Pioneer had “donated” about $500,000 worth of connection services that may or may not be reimbursed.

Breuer said he doesn’t expect revenues at the hospital to return to anything like their full levels for at least a year.  The hospital has managed to avoid layoffs or furloughs, “but we’re getting [through] by the skin of our teeth.” Whatever happens with COVID, he said, “telehealth will definitely be part of our future. Home and hospital connections are equally important, since telehealth often happens from home.”

Breuer noted that until recently, he had to drive his kids into town to access hot spots so they could do their homework. One hospital sectioned off part of its parking lot for customer parking to use its hot spot, whether for medical tele-visits or other reasons. He also noted the vulnerability of rural networks, with little or no redundancy. He said one gnawing squirrel recently took down connectivity for a 50-square-mile area.

His hospital could not have kept its doors open without help from 10 separate funding organizations, said Breuer—but that in turn created a lot of documentation paperwork. He said independent clinics have been the worst-hit by the COVID crisis, especially those that service mostly rural populations but that don’t technically qualify as rural health clinics for one reason or another. Breuer supports changing those designations to allow more clinics to be helped.

Moyer supports what she calls contribution reform. Bill surcharges are based on an outdated model of long-distance service, now that texting has taken the place of phone calls for many. Fortunately, “the COVID crisis has focused the attention of many in Congress. I’ve been talking about all these connectivity issues for 20 years,” she said. “The silver lining is a lot of other people are focused on this issue now too.”

For so many years, the providers have invested (often with public support) in the networks that have made millions for private industry without reaping the same benefit. (A couple years ago, I looked at the community ROI of public investment in rural broadband – the community sees the return much more quickly than the provider.) It will be interesting to see what happens with healthcare and telecom/broadband. Many broadband providers are being generous with free/low cost connection right now and hopefully that will be an investment in a future paying customer. While the hospitals are in a different situation – the article points out that “163 rural hospitals have closed and about 600 more are vulnerable, or a third of all rural hospitals in the United States.“

Telehealth hubs bridge the gap for patients without access to computers, broadband and/or skills to access online help

MinnPost reports…

When COVID-19 hit Minnesota this spring, most health care providers made the shift to telehealth as a way to safely see their patients without risk of spreading the virus. While this approach works for people who are well connected through smartphones, computers and tablets, Joncas said a large number of her clients at the St. Paul Opportunity Center (and its sister program in Minneapolis) live on the edge of the virtual world, making accessing health care via telehealth nearly impossible.

Online is convenient and a life saver for folks who are connected but it’s leaving many people falling farther behind, especially anyone experiencing poverty or homelessness…

“When we’d say, ‘I see you missed your appointment. Let’s get another appointment set up on your phone,’ it usually didn’t work,” she said. “Many of these guys didn’t have phones to begin with. Or, if they did have a phone, their payments were erratic so their service was off and on. Or they had limited data and didn’t want to use it up.”

And when you’re living arrangements are not ideal privacy can be an issue…

And clients who did have a working smartphone weren’t all that keen on giving telehealth a try, Joncas said. Shelter living is famous for its lack of privacy, so virtually visiting with a health care provider in spaces already occupied by other people felt unappealing.

Then M Health Fairview offered an option…

The email went on to explain that M Health Fairview had already set up telehealth hubs — or private rooms outfitted with high-definition computers where patients could safely have remote visits with mental- and chemical-health counselors — at M Health Fairview St. Joseph’s Hospital just a few blocks away. Would Catholic Charities be interested in setting up a similar hub at the Opportunity Center?

“From there it was pretty easy,” Joncas said. The St. Paul Opportunity Center actually had a number of private consultation rooms that usually are used by case managers during client meetings. The rooms were too small for two people to practice social distancing, so they’d been standing empty for months.

SO they set up space…

When M Health Fairview set up the first telehealth hubs at St. Joseph’s Hospital, the idea was to mimic the usual patient experience as much as possible. The two hub rooms are located near the hospital’s outpatient mental health and addiction clinic, where many patients were used to seeing their provider pre-pandemic.

Staff at the hospital helps walk patients through the virtual visits, showing them to the hub rooms, explaining how to use the equipment and connecting them with their doctors. Levine added that there are plans to expand hub services to other M Health Fairview clinics, where a “skeleton staff” outfitted in PPE would check in patients, and help get their appointment started. “For the most part the process is extremely simple,” he said. “Hopefully for most people it doesn’t feel too far off from an in-person visit.”

Scheduling a telehealth hub appointment should be as easy as scheduling an in-person appointment. “When people call in to schedule an appointment with a provider, our central intake team asks them questions about if they can use a phone or a computer for a video visit or if they have a private place to be able to talk,” Levine said. “If they aren’t able to do any of those they are offered to go to the telehub location.”

They are looking to grow the number of hubs…

Levine said that M Health Fairview is making tentative plans to expand the telehealth hubs to other locations close to communities that could benefit the most from using them.

“The hope would be that we could start putting some of the hubs in strategic locations for people who don’t have a safe place to talk or the equipment they need to handle a call. Because many people have limited transportation, these places will be in areas that they can get to easily with public transportation.”

It would be nice to see some of these in rural areas. I have seen computer kiosks or labs in mini-buses, laundromats, manufactured home communities, campgrounds and more. They need is at least as great in rural areas. There are starting points. It would be great to see!

US Senator Smith on helping the Duluth area, mentions broadband

The Duluth News Tribune posts a letter from Senator Tina Smith about her hopes and plans for the area…

At the beginning of 2020, I outlined in this newspaper how I would keep working with Duluth Mayor Emily Larson — and local business, educational, tribal, and health care leaders — to ensure the federal government is a strong partner in helping create jobs and opportunity across the region.

Nobody anticipated the difficult moment we now find ourselves in. Our nation has been rocked by an unprecedented pandemic that has shaken the foundations of our health and our economy. The coronavirus has upended families, stolen businesses and jobs, and tragically taken the lives of more than 140,000 Americans, including 1,500 of our fellow Minnesotans and more than a dozen people in St. Louis County.

Now, the Northland, like the rest of the nation and the world, is challenged to focus on helping our community respond to this public health and economic crisis.

Broadband makes the short list of tools that have helped…

I went to work and secured millions in grants to expand telehealth, including for mental health care, during the pandemic. Now I’m working so that innovations in telehealth can continue when this emergency is over. And I won’t stop until broadband technology is available to everyone, whether you live in Duluth or the most rural parts of the North Country.

Blue Cross Blue Shield extends their COVID-inspired telehealth coverage through end of 2020

Blue Cross Blue Shield reports…

As part of its ongoing effort to help prevent the spread and impact of COVID-19 and improve the long-term sustainability of health care in Minnesota, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) is extending eligibility for certain expanded benefits through the end of the year.

In March, Blue Cross temporarily expanded telehealth coverage to include many additional services that have traditionally been provided in a clinic setting. These changes were made in an effort to ensure members could receive care from their usual providers without the need for in-person visits. As a result of a sustained increase in usage of telehealth by Blue Cross members, all temporary telehealth coverage changes currently in effect will be extended through December 31, 2020. This includes coverage for behavioral health services, in addition to physical, speech and occupational therapy, and medication management. …

In an effort to help bring about more continuity and financial predictability for providers during the COVID-19 pandemic, all telehealth services for Blue Cross members will continue to be covered at the same reimbursement rate as in-person visits through the rest of 2020.

“We’re continuously monitoring and evaluating the cost and quality of telehealth services with a focus on making this a useful and sustainable transformation for our members,” Dr. Samitt added. “For certain services, virtual care isn’t a viable option. But for others, it has the potential to deliver equal or better quality at a lower cost, while improving patient experiences.”

Broadband Roundtable on Minnesota Rural Mental Health and Telehealth Notes

Today we talked about rural mental health and telehealth. My favorite takeaway is that increased use, social acceptance and funding for telehealth might be one of the few silver linings of the COVID19 pandemic. A big thanks to everyone who joined today the experts on the our call:

  • Mark Jones, MRHA Executive Director
  • Sue Aberholden, NAMI Minnesota Executive Director & MRHA Board member
  • Teri Fritsma, lead research scientist, MDH Health Workforce Planning and Analysis

We started with a great overview from Teri on who/how/where people are using telehealth in Minnesota. It has picked up considerably since the pandemic and people who can access it are finding that it’s been a great tool. (Many plan to continue use post-COVID19.)

Sue talked about the efficacy when the conditions are right. Telehealth is easier for many patients and their support people (parents, kids, spouses, employers) becuase it requires no travel. But there are challenges with limited broadband, minutes of smartphanes, privacay issues. I loved the story of the procuring headsets for teens to increase privacay at home. Anyone of an age, where maybe you were asked to the promo on the kitchen phone, knows the utter lack of privacay. I’m glad there are better solutions now.

Mark talked about policy changes that have happened and need to happen. Two biggies – reminburesemnt for distance appointments and abaility to use technology that was not previously allowed due to HIPPA. Removing those barriers really opened up opportunities.

We heard from Mary DeVany, gpTRAC. They have the ability to offer assistance!

Finally we learned abotu Mobile Mental Health Crisis Teams. They are in every county. It’s the group you’d want to call in a mental health emergency. And there are efforts to get them connected with 911 – so that they can help triage folks to the police or mental health experts.

Chat Transcript:

  • 00:35:25              Ann Treacy:        Here’s a link to NAMI MN for workplace – Sue may have something more specific
  • https://namimn.org/education-public-awareness/workplace/
  • 00:59:11              Mary DeVany, gpTRAC:  Just a bit of information…If you are looking for more information about telehealth, please know that the Great Plains Telehealth Resource & Assistance Center (gpTRAC.org) is available with resources and can assist with training and building awareness.  We are a federally-funded program out of Univ. of Minnesota.
  • 01:08:31              Natalie Matthewson:      Will we get the slides that Teri used for her presentation?

Going deep with telehealth application to get medical supplies Where they need to go

Broadband Breakfast reports on a recent Amazon Web Services webinar that highlights Minnesota…

Emily Ward, state planning director for emergency preparedness and response at the Minnesota Department of Health, detailed ways in which the healthcare sector leveraged and repurposed the city’s cloud services in response to the pandemic.

The department’s information technology sector developed two applications to assist in getting medical supplies to those in need, called POD PreCheck and POD Locator.

PODs, or point(s) of dispensing, are community locations at which state and local agencies dispense medical materials and medications to the public.

POD PreCheck allowed clients to prescreen their conditions electronically, which assisted the Minnesota Department of Health in delivering the best medication to consumers with speed and efficiency, reducing wait times.

POD Locator is a dynamic mapping application that shows the locations of PODs on a searchable map and provides any site-specific instructions.

“The scalability offered by the cloud was the most desirable feature,” said Ward. “This app will still work if more than 5 million users try to access it.”

“It is Important that it remains stable,” she added.