Feds Grant $15 Million for Telehealth Program

UNM telestroke

photo courtesy UNM Center for Telehealth

Georgia O’ Keefe’s stark New Mexico landscapes makes it easy to see why this largely rural state is the ideal place for telemedicine to take root. In fact, the University of New Mexico (UNM) has been the cradle of the very successful Project ECHO video telemedicine clinic model which was started to treat liver disease patients. Now, the UNM Health Sciences Center has been  awarded $15 million by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Health Care Innovations Award to build on its telehealth program for treating stroke and brain injury patients.

The UNM telehealth program, also known as Access to Critical Cerebral Emergency Support Services (ACCESS), currently includes a network of 11 hospitals. The grant money will be used to expand the network to 30 hospitals across the state.  Each hospital will have its emergency rooms equipped with HD cameras and video conferencing equipment provided by the Albuquerque-based tech firm Net Medical Xpress. This will allow those local hospitals to conduct remote face-to-face consultations with UNM neurologists and neurosurgeons. This telestroke program, spearheaded by UNM neurosurgery department chair Dr. Howard Yonas, not only expects to improves access to medical care in rural communities, it also aims to reduce unnecessary medical transport costs which can be as much as $30,000 for a patient.

This CMS grant for telehealth is just one of the many indicators of the growing interest in telehealth this year.  Private telehealth companies like Doctor on Demand and Teladoc recently raised $27 million and $50 million respectively in new funding. The HRSA also just announced awarding nearly $2.5 million in grants for telemedicine and tele-emergency programs that improve rural health care. The Mayo Clinic, too, is starting its own telehealth kiosk pilot. UNM’s own Project ECHO has been discussed in both Forbes and the New York Times with its video telemedicine model which is also being used for chronic care management and has been reproduced all over the world

With UNM having Project ECHO already under the belt, VSee expects to see great things coming out of UNM’s new ACCESS program as well.