Advancing Telehealth in Oregon

The Oregon Broadband Advisory Council’s (OBAC) report presented to the State’s Legislative Committee on Information Management and Technology, describes how Oregon is viewed as a leader in telehealth. This is due to progressive programs used by healthcare service providers and supported by state-level public policies.

Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon reports that data in May 2018, showed that consumers on average saved $100 per visit when using telehealth rather than an in-person office visit, urgent care, or emergency room visits.

As for telehealth adoption, the vast majority of adults age 40 or older are comfortable with using telehealth services for themselves or an older family member, from a poll produced by the Associated Press-NORC at the University of Chicago Center for Public Affairs Research.

According to the report, telehealth policy in the State has evolved over the past 20 years. Stakeholders and state agencies have enacted legislation allowing for a variety of new telehealth delivery modalities.

For example, the Grande Ronde Hospital worked with the Oregon Medical Board to change their cross-state licensure protocol to allow the hospital to use out-of-state consultants to provide needed services. Also, the Telehealth Alliance of Oregon http://www.ortelhealth.org  collaborated with the State Medicaid Office to develop Oregon’s first protocols regarding Medicaid payment for telehealth services.

The Oregon ECHO Network https://www.oregonechonetwork.org is a statewide utility supporting the delivery of ECHO programming and services. The services include psychiatry, hepatitis C, clinical tobacco cessation, plus how to deal with pain and opioids. Programs under development include addiction, dementia, and geriatric care. The Network is housed at Oregon Health and Science University https://www.ohsu.edu/xd.

A Portland based non-profit, OCHIN http://www.ochin.org is one of the largest health information networks serving over 500 organizations and 10,000 clinicians in the U.S. OCHIN is the nation’s largest provider of the EPIC EHR system to Federally Qualified Health Centers. OCHIN also provides data aggregation, disaster recovery, billing, and consulting services

Since the latest legislative report was sent to OBAC, OCHIN has merged with the California Telehealth Network (CTN). Today, OCHIN and CTN help clinics and hospitals connect to high-speed medical grade broadband networks with subsidy funding from the FCC’s Healthcare Connect Fund (HCF) https://www.fda.gov. Also, Voxent and PTSO of Washington have been integrated into OCHIN.

In Oregon, OCHIN currently manages the HCF Program for over 250 member sites in the state.  Current funding for Oregon members exceeds $5.4 million annually. OCHIN also supports the broadband infrastructure needs of the most rural and remote healthcare provider facilities in the state.

Recently OCHIN was able to secure $1 million to support community health centers and school-based health centers in rural areas. In 2018, the FCC increased the annual program funding cap by more than $100 million in response to advocacy efforts and the popularity of the program.

OCHIN’s practice-based research network links EHR data from over 400 community health center clinics across multiple states. Priority areas include studying how health systems can better organize and reimburse to help patients, studying how social determinants of health can be an important factor impacting health, develop and modify EHR tools, and lastly, examine the effects of federal and state policies on healthcare access.

Go to https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/201711/Downloads/CommitteeMeetingDocument /152807 for the report submitted by the Oregon Broadband Advisory Council sent to the Joint Legislative Committee on Information Management and Technology for the Eightieth Legislative Assembly dated November 1, 2018.

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