Growth of Telepsych

Telepsychiatry companies or telemental health companies are popping all over.  It is, by far, the fastest growing telemedicine business today.  Even if a telemedicine company offers several services via telemedicine e.g. Specialists On Call, telemental health is usually included in the services provided.

There are a variety of business models and services that have evolved in this area.  For example:  some of these companies have developed their own technologies or applications which are tailored to specifically to mental health services; some offer electronic tools to help providers diagnose and monitor a variety of mental health issues; some provide training on now to develop a thriving telemental health practice; some offer clinical, business and marketing resources to support the work of mental health professionals; and some develop online therapy applications and network development.

A sampling of these service business show that services are accessed from a variety of locations:

  • Colleges and Universities
  • Community mental health clinics
  • Correctional facilities
  • Critical Access Hospitals
  • EAP’s and Wellness Centers
  • Emergency departments
  • Federallly Qualifies Health Centers (FQHCs)
  • Individual homes
  • Long term care facilities
  • Military
  • Native American Health Care Systems
  • Primary care offices
  • Shelters
  • Urgent Care Centers
  • Work sites


Conditions typically treated include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression and Bipolar disorders
  • Medication management
  • Obsessive-compulsive
  • Panic and agoraphobia
  • Psychotherapy
  • PTSD
  • Relationship problems
  • Self esteem; self image/eating disorders
  • Substance and alcohol addiction


“Stuck in the waiting room”

Highlights of this article recently published on the Economist:

The idea of telemedicine has a lengthy history. Radio News, an American magazine, devoted its cover to a patient at home consulting a doctor in his surgery via a television link as long ago as 1924. When NASA began monitoring astronauts in space in the 1960s, fantasy became reality. It has been touted as health care’s future ever since. But, still, most health care happens face to face.  Now, enthusiasts think the wait is almost over.  Governments have been too slow to embrace an approach that could improve coverage and outcomes and save money. But they are under big pressure for ageing populations and a surge in chronic diseases.

At an industry conference in Rome on October 7-9, it was discussed to redesign laws and payment systems and find ways to keep patient data secure and private. In America, each state license doctors and the jurisdiction depends on the patient’s location, not the doctor’s. The situation in the European Union is simpler: countries may not pass laws that would stop doctors practicing telemedicine, and doctors need only be licensed in one country to practice in all. In America only 21 states mandate that telemedicine be compensated at the same rate as face-to-face care. At the federal level, the Veterans Administration has embraced telemedicine whereas Medicare, largely ignores it. But private employers and insurers are increasingly paying for telemedicine.

Some small countries are forerunners.  Israel’s health-care system is fully digitized;  all doctors use electronic medical records and patients have access to their data; doctors can write repeat prescriptions and refer patients to specialists over the internet.  China is spending billions on health-care reform, with a focus on telemedicine.

But keen interest is no guarantee of success in any country. Telemedicine may even increase costs if it is added to old routines rather than replacing them.  Some doctors have been reluctant to embrace telemedicine fearing it may lessen their authority by making it easier for patients to see advice elsewhere.  So countries where provision is currently limited or non-existent may be quickest to move.


gpTRAC publishes article ” “Teledermatology: Using collaborative technologies to enhance public health awareness”

Several years ago, back in the late 1990’s, the University of Minnesota started demonstrating telemedicine inside their building at the Minnesota State Fair, which runs every year, for 12 days,  in the month of August.  When we, gpTRAC, became part of the University in 2009, we continued this annual event, of demonstrating telemedicine at the fair. These demonstrations included primarily teledermatology, however a couple years pulmonorary fuction testing and stroke screenings were also part of this event. Over the years, many fairgoers either experienced telemedicine, by either participating as a patient/fairgoer, observing a telemedicine session or simply got educated about the merits of telehealth in general.  For some of them, actually, this is what got them started with telemedicine! Thousands of fairgoers were seeing during these telemedicine sessions and although most of them were diagnosed with suspected benign skin conditions, a few of them were observed with suspected skin cancers, including melanoma. A few testimonials from the fairgoers that experienced this is worth of sharing, like the woman who was seeing for something on her chest, which although didn’t bother her,  it was something she wanted to get an opinion, to return a week later in the telemedicine booth, at the fair, thanking our team members for “saving her life”.  Testimonials like this kept this project going, although some of the challenges to run the project made it difficult at times.

This event has become one of the MN State Fair’s traditions.  We have enjoyed the moments where fairgoers didn’t know what we asked them to experience, the moment when a young teenager, while watching, said “Wow, this is the future”, the moment when older folks saw this as “their answer” to see a doctor, and many more.

Earlier this year, our team decided to write a paper on this popular event.  The paper is titled”.  We are very proud to share with you, our readers, that our paper was accepted by IEEE Xplore for publication. You can find the abstract and the PDF version by clicking on this link:

gpTRAC would like to take this opportunity and express our gratitude to the University of Minnesota Professors of Dermatology, the University of Minnesota Clinical Dermatologists, the University of Minnesota Department of Dermatology; the University of Minnesota dermatology residents: the many telemedicine booth volunteers; the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center Office of Communications State Fair Coordinators and Video Guidance, the vendor who has provided the technology each year since the inception of the project

State Fair 2007

State Fair 2009

State Fair 2014


Telehealth and gpTRAC at the Minnesota State Fair!

Once again, gpTRAC will be demonstrating telehealth at the 2014 Minnesota State Fair.  As in years past, several dermatology specialists will be volunteering and providing screenings via telehealth technologies.  Come check it out!  You’ll find us in the University of Minnesota building.

gpTRAC will be available at several times throughout the fair.  These are all one-hour sessions:

  • Friday, August 22, at 1:00 pm
  • Saturday, August 23, at 10:00 am
  • Tuesday, August 26, at 2:00 pm
  • Wednesday, August 27, at Noon
  • Thursday, August 28, at Noon and 2:00 pm
  • Friday, August 29, at 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm

Telehealth Educational Opportunity – August 6, 2014

Come and join us for a telemedicine educational event, August 6, in St. Paul, Minnesota.  The event is co-sponsored by the Twin Cities Medical Society (TCMS) and gpTRAC.  If you want to learn from Bryan Burke, MD, a pediatrician with one of the more successful telemedicine programs in the country (University of Arkansas) and network with others who also have an interest in the field of telemedicine, this is an event for you.  Click on the image for further details and to find out how to register.  Also, feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

We hope to see you there!

Farm Credit Organizations Support Rural Telemedicine in Western Minnesota

– Author:  Zoi Hills

Four farm credit organizations have joined to support  a telemedicine initiative at RC Hospital in rural Olivia, MN, located over 100 miles away from the Twin Cities.  The four organizations that contributed to the project include:  AgStar Financial Services, AgriBank, CoBank, and United FCS.  The Farm Credit grant will enable cardiologists at Abbott Northwestern Hospital to remotely treat patients at the RC Hospital using telemedicine technologies.  The main purpose of this grant is to cover the costs of telemedicine equipment, including bedside ultrasound, as well as training for RC Hospital’s local staff.  The grant was supplemented by additional funding from the Abbott Northwestern Hospital Foundation.

Initially, the cardiology telehealth program will be able to serve six patients each week.  Patients and medical staff will be able to see and talk with each other via telemedicine technologies.  In Olivia, a hospital staff member will perform ultrasound tests on patients, and real-time images will help cardiologists in Minneapolis diagnose or rule out heart issues.

The program is expected to launch sometime this summer.  With more than 20 telehealth sites in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Allina Health currently provides telehealth services such as stroke assessment and treatment, mental health assessments and referrals, psychiatric counseling and cancer genetic counseling.  Additional telehealth services are planned over the next two years.

ND Scrubs Academy & gpTRAC

For the third year in a row, gpTRAC was invited to be a part of the North Dakota R-COOL-Health Scrubs Academy.  The Academy took place June 9-12 on campus at the University of North Dakota.  Students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, from all over the state of North Dakota, came together to learn about a wide variety of health-related career options.  For this year’s event, gpTRAC was able to present to the group of 46 students from the University of Minnesota’s School of Nursing simulation lab, located at Weaver-Densford Hall (WDH) on the main campus in Minneapolis.  The lab is equipped with some of the latest technologies used in telehealth today.

During the four sessions, Zoi Hills (gpTRAC) provided an overview of what telehealth is, a bit of the history, a summary of the current status, and some future predictions.  She also shared the role gpTRAC plays, asked some trivia questions, and then demonstrated some of the telemedicine technology available in the lab.  The highlight of the event was when the students were asked to draw (in 3 minutes…using no computers!) their ideas or imaginations about a “futuristic” product that could used in telehealth.  The students were invited to share their drawings and explain what the new idea was and how it would be used.  Some of these ideas were truly amazing.  I think we have some future healthcare/telemedicine inventors in North Dakota!

Observations from the 2014 ATA Annual Meeting

This year’s ATA Annual meeting was held in May.  With the vendor floor growing every year, it can be a bit overwhelming, but exciting at the same time.  It is a tremendous opportunity to reconnect with telehealth program leaders from around the country to learn about their latest efforts, challenges, and successes.

Over the years I have attended many of these events and have come away with AT LEAST one interesting bit of information.  This year’s “nugget” was very simple:  Telehealth is still growing.

I found it very interesting that, of the folks I visited with at the Telehealth Resource Centers booth, it was about an even split between those who were looking to add to the telehealth services they currently provide, and those who were trying to get their first telehealth-related activities up and running.  Many were from the gpTRAC region…reminding me that the reason gpTRAC exists in the first place is still valid.

As I see it, one of the main purposes for the Great Plains Telehealth Resource & Assistance Center is the “assistance” part of our name.  We are here to be a sounding board to talk through service ideas, to brainstorm organizational needs, help identify potential partners, provide general guidance, information and more.

I hope that we can serve you and help move your services forward!  Looking forward to hear from you!

Next Week’s Telehealth Forum – Find Out More!

The 2014 gpTRAC Regional Telehealth Forum will be held next week, April 3 & 4, at the Embassy Suites-Airport in Minneapolis.  We have a great line-up of presentations, including two nationally-known keynote speakers (Dr. Kvedar and Dr. Poropatich) and numerous regional presenters.  For more program details, go to the Forum tab.  OR, click here for the 2014 Forum Program.

Convergence of Telemedicine and mHealth — Benefits & Challenges

We are very excited to share that Ron Poropatich, MD will be delivering the Keynote Presentation on April 4th at the gpTRAC Regional Telehealth Forum.  He will continue to focus on one of our main topics for this year’s event —  the coming together of telemedicine and mHealth.  It will be interesting to hear his perspective!

Dr. Poropatich has extensive experience with the use of telemedicine in the military.  He has recently retired from the US Army after serving more than 30 years as a Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine physician.  His last assignment was at the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC) at Fort Detrick, MD, serving as the Deputy Director of the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC).  He currently serves as the Executive Director for the Center for Military Medicine Research, Health Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh.  He also serves as an Associate Editor for the Telemedicine and e-Health Journal.