Telehealth for all UC

Posted by Eric Kessell, CHQI Consultant, UCOP. Consumers have become increasingly comfortable interacting with healthcare providers through electronic technology. “Telehealth” services, provided by phone, computer, mobile device, or other electronic methods, offer new ways to deliver care in alignment with patient preferences.

In response to burgeoning consumer demand and expectations, the UC Center for Health Quality and Innovation (CHQI) has convened a group of telehealth experts from across the UC medical centers and schools to develop a strategic plan to deliver systemwide telehealth services.

Physician-champion Larry Friedman, an internationally recognized expert in tele-medicine from UC San Diego, will lead the effort. “It is an honor to be working with great colleagues as we develop and innovate health care delivery using tele-health technology,” said Dr. Friedman. “This systemwide telehealth service will provide the perfect platform to collaboratively demonstrate the value of the UC Health System to the residents and employers of California.”

In the next year, CHQI plans to launch at least two separate telehealth clinical services for the UC health system. The group’s long-term goals include extending UC healthcare to out-of-network patients, employers and payers; providing more convenient ways for UC patients to receive care; and providing consultation across the UC medical centers – all at a lower cost. By 2020, UC Health hopes to have a systemwide telehealth program in place that addresses the health needs of underserved populations (e.g., MediCal), large employers, “capitated” patient groups, and special populations.

For example, Californians in rural or underserved areas could have video visits with specialists without having to make an arduous trip to a medical center. Primary care providers could make room for higher acuity patients in the clinic by providing the option of video appointments for less complex cases. Consumers would have more flexibility and choice to arrange for care on their own schedule. “UC telehealth services will give Californians more choice in care by providing greater and more convenient access to UC Health’s high-quality providers,” said Karyn DiGiorgio, CHQI executive director.

There are many challenges in creating a UC wide telehealth service. To that end, the group is developing the basic infrastructure essential for UC telehealth services, including cross-credentialing of physicians and establishing access to electronic medical records by recognized UC providers across all UC locations. Separate workgroups are tackling numerous challenges: billing and reimbursement, developing national and international services, “e-consultations” between providers, and tele-psychiatry.

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