How is telemedicine being used in Indiana and who is it benefitting and serving?
What does telemedicine do for Hoosiers and how is it used throughout the state? Some members of our audience were curious.
Jordan Hill is an assistant research scientist with Indiana University’s School of Public Health. She said telemedicine is not new – for example, IU Health’s portal allowed patients to message with their doctors and refill prescriptions.
Indiana expanded telehealth services at the beginning of 2017 to allow doctors to prescribe non-controlled addiction treatment medicines remotely.
Hill said the COVID-19 pandemic pushed telemedicine further and developed more features.
“There are ways to transmit and do remote monitoring,” she said. “So if you want blood pressure, heart rate, remote sort of heart rate analysis, that can be delivered.”
She said other uses for telemedicine may include remote doctor visits, telerehabilitation and therapy or mental health services.
Hill said telemedicine can be especially helpful for those in rural areas.
“There's different telemedicine for more rural hospitals to consult with larger health systems if they don't have an expert in a certain area,” she said. “So that sort of telemedicine – not at a patient's home, but at a different health care facility.”
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She said this can help patients in these areas by allowing them access to these services without traveling too far – these services also increase access to health services for those who may struggle to access traditional care.
“There may be other people who don't have reliable transportation – so that increases the accessibility for them,” she said. “[There are] people who may be homebound for whatever reason, so maybe they have a disability, maybe they have caregiving commitments, or they're at work – things like that.”
She said telemedicine is also helpful for health care systems.
“It’s also really beneficial for – not only from a patient perspective, but from a staff perspective as well,” she said. “So you can hire people in different areas of the country.”
Hill said she is facilitating several studies regarding remote delivery of services for informal caregivers for those with Alzheimer’s disease. She said this is an example of the kind of services telemedicine can help facilitate and provide.
“It's based on a model that was created and is very successful at Eskenazi Health, but people who don't live [near] Eskenazi, we're trying to remotely give them access to this type of program, through an app and through technology,” Hill said. “So we're able to recruit people who live in rural areas of Indiana.”
She said the telehealth umbrella will likely continue to expand with the expansion of many remote services.
Despite these improvements and the expansion of telemedicine, challenges still exist– including poor internet connections and lack of universal access to technology.