COLUMBIA, Mo. — University of Missouri Health System will hold a special event from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6, in the main lobby of University Hospital to celebrate Telehealth Awareness Month and to raise awareness for the Missouri Telehealth Network as a delivery system for providing healthcare to rural, underserved Missourians.
The event is open to the public and will include a demonstration of telehealth equipment, physician speakers – who will explain how the system provides specialty care in underserved areas, and a patient’s perspective via videoconferencing technology.
According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Service approximately one-third of the state’s population resides in rural communities, where the financial and human resources needed to address health care issues and disparities are often limited. In addition, 40 percent of rural Missouri counties do not have a hospital.
The Missouri Telehealth Network provides high-quality specialty care in participating rural communities through the use of digital telecommunications technology.
“It's exciting to be part of a great program that applies advancements in technology to leading-edge medical treatments,” said Karen Edison, M.D., chair of the Department of Dermatology at University of Missouri Health Care and medical director of the Missouri Telehealth Network. “A good example of this is our telehealth expansion into the Bootheel, which has a large minority population with poorer health outcomes. And we’ve been able to make a difference across the state.”
Telehealth bridges the distance between patient and physician by allowing patients to remain in their communities while being seen by a healthcare provider at a distant site. Use of the technology enables those living in rural communities or areas that are underserved to have access to health care. An additional benefit is that use of the technology also reduces travel time and travel expenses, and decreases missed work for the patient.
Utilizing videoconferencing equipment, a patient experiences a live, real-time interaction with a specialist, almost as if they are in the same room. The physician is able to evaluate the patient through medical history, current symptoms, the use of electronic diagnostic equipment and visualization equipment such as high-definition cameras.
Telehealth also includes non-clinical services. Many telehealth sites can be connected at one time for collaborative purposes such as medical education, administrative meetings, language interpretation services and training sessions. Again, the use of telehealth reduces travel time and expenses.
“Telehealth does not create new or different health care services,” said Edison. “Instead, it provides a new way of delivering existing services while spanning distance.”
The Missouri Telehealth Network began in 1994 as one of the nation's first public-private partnerships in telehealth. Today, the program has198 sites with multiple units in 48 Missouri counties. The Missouri Telehealth Network is funded by the state of Missouri, the University of Missouri, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the Missouri Department of Social Services.