The National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health reports in the newsletter “The Branch” that there is an ongoing effort to promote and support telehealth projects in Alabama. The Alabama Office of Rural Health (AL SORH) has helped a Critical Access Hospital (CAH) attain funding for equipment to help facilitate telewound care locally for patients.
“Right now money is tight in the state”, said Debra Robbins, SORH Program Manager. “There are however very limited state funds but we still can help facilitate telehealth. To do this, the AL SORH will use some SHIP grant money left over from last year which is going to be used to reimburse Washington County Hospital, a CAH in a very rural part of the state. The SHIP grant paid for half of the cost of telemedicine equipment and the hospital paid the balance.”
She added, “Before many hospital patients and other patients coming into the hospital with wounds had to be transferred to a tertiary hospital 62 miles away to see a wound care specialist. The hospital by using wound care consultants to see patients via telehealth is hoping to save $80,000 a year, but even if the savings only prove to be $20,000 a year, it will still be worthwhile.”
AL SORH is trying to connect patients with other hospitals that can use telehealth equipment for other reasons besides wound care. Right now, efforts are being made to connect patients with a telepsychiatrist located in Mobile Alabama.
AL SORH routinely collaborates with the Alabama Partnership for Telehealth (APT) and is currently supporting an agreement between a large tertiary hospital and five rural hospitals for telestroke care. “Our relationship with the APT is one of collaboration, since it will help to alleviate physician shortages in rural areas,” said Robert Boyles, AL SORH Rural Program Coordinator and Recruiter.