Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Expanding Health Technology

Patients with chronic illnesses often require close monitoring, although access to a doctor is not always available. Royal Philips Electronics have announced an agreement with Project HOPE, an international health education and humanitarian assistance organization to place telemonitoring devices in select homes in rural areas in New Mexico. This will help patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory ailments receive the proper treatment for their medical problems.

“Some residents in the state face a significant challenge in access to care due to a lack of healthcare professionals to meet the needs of the population,” said John P. Howe III, M.D., President and CEO of Project HOPE. He talked about the unique program in New Mexico during his keynote address at the American Telemedicine Association Conference held recently in San Antonio.

The Philips-HOPE partnership will provide training to local health workers who will assist in the installation of monitoring devices and teach patients how to use the technology. Training of local health workers will be provided through a traveling health unit operated by Project HOPE. When the HOPE mobile unit is in the patient’s community, the telemonitoring data will be used to help clinicians assess the patient’s condition and manage their care.

Some of the other telehealth programs in the state are due to expand. According to the New Mexico Human Services Department’s Strategic Plan for FY 2011, Goal 6.3 in the plan would expand healthcare access in rural and underserved areas through telehealth services. The plan is to assist the Telehealth Commission evaluate and integrate individual agency telehealth efforts, continue to participate in state-wide efforts such as “Envision New Mexico” that links pediatric sub specialists at the University of New Mexico with rural primary care providers, and to continue telehealth initiatives through the Human Services Department’s e-Prescribing pilot program.

State efforts are to continue to provide tele-behavioral health services throughout the state. Most of the telehealth based programs provide direct clinical services in child, adolescent, adult and addiction psychiatry. Also, there are other programs that provide training and consultations to primary care and behavioral health providers working in rural and isolated communities.

To help move forward with health IT, the state received $13 million from Recovery Act funding to expand the use of health IT in the state. The $7 million grant funding for that purpose will enable the HIE called the New Mexico Health Information Collaborative (NMHIC) to serve 2 million patients throughout the state. MedPlus and their Centergy Data Exchange Services will manage the exchange.

Funding for $6 million will be used to promote a health IT Regional Extension Center. The New Mexico HIT Regional Extension Center will be operated by LCF Research in cooperation with the NM Primary Care Association and the NM Medical Review Association.

In addition, the state’s Human Services Department recently announced that the state’s Medicaid incentive program will benefit hundreds of New Mexico’s healthcare providers and enable them to adopt and or utilize health IT. The Medicaid incentive payment program is 100 percent federally funded and is scheduled to be up and running by October 2010. The Human Services Department will provide an opportunity for healthcare providers to submit their input when the department submits its program plan to CMS for approval this summer.