Request for Proposal (RFP)

The Indian Health Service (IHS) today issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to provide telehealth services at its seven hospitals and many health centers and other facilities throughout Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. IHS is seeking to expand telehealth services as a means of strengthening access to care at its facilities in all 19 Great Plains Area service units, which serve 130,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives.

IHS is seeking your help in distributing this RFP to interested parties.  Please feel free to share the following link with anybody inside or outside your organization who might have an interest in this opportunity.

American Telemedicine Association (ATA) Annual Conference

The American Telemedicine Association’s (ATA) Annual Conference & Trade Show is the world’s largest and most comprehensive meeting focused on telemedicine, digital, connected and mobile health.  This year ATA 2016 will take place May 14-17, 2016, at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

An estimated 6,000 attendees from traditional medicine, academic medical centers, technology and telecommunications companies, e-health, medical societies, government and others will attend.  The meeting will feature 75+ peer-reviewed sessions – as well as keynote presentations from leading individuals transforming the Telehealth industry – on how they’re overcoming barriers and advancing telemedicine through the professional, ethical and equitable improvement in health care delivery. In addition, over 300 healthcare technology product and service providers will be on display in the exhibit hall.

Early bird pricing is available until April 15th. Click here to learn more about ATA 2016 and to register for the event!


Proposed Federal Telehealth Law Could Save Medicare an Estimated $1.8 Billion

A bipartisan group of US Senators led by Brian Schatz (D-HI) has introduced legislation that would enable an expansion of telemedicine services covered by Medicare, and could result in substantial cost savings.

The bill’s other sponsors are Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Thad Cochran (R-MS), John Thune (R-SD), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Roger Wicker (R-MS).

The bill, the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act, contains three significant policy changes that would serve to increase use of telehealth technologies:

The bill would:

  • Establish a “bridge program” that allows doctors participating in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) to apply for demonstration waivers that would exempt them from restrictions Medicare imposes on the coverage of telehealth,
  • Cover telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM) for provider participants in Alternative Payment Models (such as Accountable Care Organizations-ACOs, Patient Centered Medical Homes-PCMHs, etc., and
  • Provide for coverage of RPM technologies for patients with chronic conditions to fee-for-service physicians and practitioners, whether or not they participate in Medicare quality and value improvement programs

Click here for more information


Telemedicine in Retail? It’s Already There!

Telemedicine has expanded from its traditional setting (hospital, clinic, doctor’s office) to a more “convenient” location for the patient – the supermarket. MercyCare Community Physicians recently launched its first retail telemedicine clinic at the Edgewood Hy-Vee grocery store in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The telemedicine clinic is similar to a regular office visit. After checking in, patients are taken to a private room where a registered nurse takes their health history and documents their vitals and symptoms in EPIC (Mercy’s Electronic Medical Record system). The nurse calls the provider using Cisco technology embedded in the AMD Global Telemedicine Clinical Assist system.   and The provider appears on a video feed which enables him/her to have a live interaction with the patient and give instructions and education to the patient. The nurse remains in the room for the duration of the exam and, at the direction of the provider, uses telemedicine diagnostic equipment (stethoscope, otoscope, general exam camera) and AGNES interactive software to assist the provider with the physical examination. Some of the typical acute conditions assessed and treated include, but are not limited to, sinus infections, ear infections, urinary tract infections, rashes, flu and more.

The telemedicine clinic operates Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Plans to extend these hours are coming in the near future.

This type of telemedicine demonstrates that  healthcare can be made available to patients anywhere they live, shop or work.  Patients now have the convenience of receiving immediate care in their local area without the process of making an appointment. Congratulations to MercyCare Community Physicians and Hy-Vee for using innovative ways to provide quality and affordable care to patients.


Telemedicine program at the MN State Fair..Don’t miss it!

Come and see us at the Minnesota State Fair and experience telemedicine “in action”. You will get “a taste” of what telemedicine is like, see some of the technologies used in telemedicine, and have the opportunity to get a free dermatology screening from a Minnesota dermatologist and a small prize. We have eight (8) scheduled sessions with seven dermatologists that have volunteered to do this. The sessions are listed below. This program takes place inside the University of Minnesota building, at the fair, which is located on Dan Patch Avenue, near Underwood street, and next to the Crossroads building.  We hope to see you at the fair.

Scheduled sessions:

Friday, August 28                      02:00-03:00 p.m.                    Dr. Cindy Smith
Friday, August 28                      03:00-04:00 p.m.                    Dr. Kia Lilly
Saturday, August 29                 10:00 a.m.-12:00 noon             Dr. Jennifer Lee
Sunday, August 30                   12:00 noon-01:00 p.m.             Dr. Spenser Holmes
Tuesday, September 1              01:00-02:00 p.m.                     Dr. Kimberly Bohjanen
Thursday, September 3            12:00 noon-01:00 p.m.              Dr. Cari Dakin
Friday, September 4                 11:00 a.m.-12:00 noon             Dr. Kia Lilly
Saturday, September 5            12:00 noon-01:00 p.m.              Dr. Maria Hordinsky



Regional Telehealth Legislative Update

So far, 2015 has proven to be a busy year for telehealth-related discussions in state legislatures around our region.  Several bills relating to various aspects of the utilization of telehealth methodologies have been introduced and are moving their way through the legislative process.  Here is a brief summary of current activity:

Interstate Medical License Compact – This compact would allow an expedited process for physicians interested in obtaining licenses in multiple states.  So far, this has been introduced in:

  • South Dakota (SB63 – passed both houses and awaiting Governor’s signature)
  • Minnesota (HF321/SF253 – have been referred to their respective committees)
  • Iowa (various bills – HSB20, SF273, SSB1019)
  • Nebraska (LB258)
Telehealth Parity – The idea of reimbursing equally for services whether they were delivered in-person or by telehealth technologies is also being discussed.  So far, two states have introduced a version of telehealth parity.
  • Minnesota (SF981, SF1150, & HF1246 – in various stages)
  • North Dakota (HB1038 – introduces the concept of parity initially under the public employees medical benefits coverage)
Supporting Mental Health Services – Bills are also being considered which would allow for telehealth to be used more extensively in the care of those needing mental health services.  These include:
  • Minnesota (HF850, SF825 – referred to their respective committees)
Click here to access the full list of telehealth bills being discussed across our region.


Grant Opportunity

The State of Minnesota recently announced a Request for Proposal for Live Well at Home Grants.   We  know Live Well at Home to be one of the few grants that welcomes proposals that include  technology to develop and /or provide services for older Minnesotans to live in the community.

You need to act quickly!   Pre-registration for the responders conference (to be held Feb. 19th) closes on Feb. 16th and applications are due on March 27th.   For further information see:


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