Remember…it is about the patient!

A couple of weeks ago, I listened to a presentation on Minnesota Public Broadcasting (MPR) by Adam Darkins, MD, which again energized me about the work that we do supporting the growth and development of telehealth.

Dr. Darkins, VP for Medical Affairs and Enterprise Technology Develop at Medtronic, was presenting at a conference in Minneapolis focused on the use of technology in healthcare. Early on in his presentation he said something that made me sit up a bit straighter and listen just a bit more closely. It was something that I have heard many times from a former co-worker of mine (a registered nurse and telehealth champion): remember, it is about the patient.

Yes! That is who must stay at the absolute center of our focus as we discuss all things telehealth!

Telehealth, more simply healthcare, must focus on what is happening with the patient. When we consider the new opportunities in telehealth, we need to specifically identify what problem we are trying to solve, not just for the provider, the health system or the insurance company, but for the patient.

While convenience and access are both key components to the value of telehealth, it needs to be about more. It must also be about improvements – improvements in a patient’s overall health, improvement in the overall costs of providing that care, improvements in the health of the general public – in order for telehealth to truly make a difference.

Or maybe, as Dr. Darkins shared, it is about shifting the model of care to more fully benefit the patient. Maybe the patient’s primary care location really is considered their home, and they would “in-reach to the hospital” or clinic for supportive services and care when needed, rather than obtaining “outreach from the hospital” only after a major illness episode or the identification of a disease. His description of the current or traditional healthcare delivery model as being “very much from the industrial age”, where you brought people TO their care access point, is really not the way the rest of the world functions today. It is becoming more important to figure out ways to bring healthcare to the patient, in their everyday experiences. The right place for the provision of care could be almost anywhere, and the right time could be now.

Healthcare, supported by telehealth, needs to continue to focus on what is actually being done and why, remembering always…it is about the patient!

Listen to the entire presentation here:

gpTRAC Regional Telehealth Conference April 6-7, 2015

gpTRAC Regional Telehealth Conference April 6-7, 2015

Save the date! The 2015 Regional Telehealth Conference will be held April 6-7 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

gpTRAC is excited to again offer an opportunity for the region’s healthcare community to come together to network and learn more about making a difference through telehealth services. This 1.5 day forum offers the opportunity to learn from both regional and national experts as they share their stories and experiences in developing and implementing telehealth to meet the needs of their area.  Click on the FORUM tab above to access additional event details.

We look forward to seeing you in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Please call us at 888-239-7092 if you have any questions.


2015 Regional Telehealth Conference


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!

Telehealth Technology Assessment: Results

The National Telehealth Technology Assessment Resource Center (known as TTAC), recently conducted a national survey of telehealth.  The goal of the survey was to gather data on which telehealth platforms and technologies are being utilized in health care settings, and for what types of clinical applications.

gpTRAC used the results of the TTAC survey to compare technology utilization in the Great Plains region with the national results.  Interested in what we found?  You can find the full document of TTAC Survey Results prepared by gpTRAC here.

Still interested in reading more?  Click here for more information from TTAC on telehealth and telehealth technology.

Regional Telehealth Forum: Early Bird Deadline April 1!

April 1 marks the end of the early-bird registration rate.  Don’t miss out!  Go to the forum registration page on our website for details and forms.  We also offer a special student rate for those actively enrolled as full-time college students. 

We have put together a very exciting schedule!  Come learn from our keynote speakers Carl Taylor (Fraser Institute for Health Research) and Rob Sprang (Kentucky TeleCare) and other telehealth experts from around the region and nation. 

Hotel Registration:  The block of rooms are also available through April 1.  Rooms are $99 and are on a first come basis.   

Post-Forum Event:  Immediately following the conclusion of the Regional Forum, Polycom is hosting a Grant Writing Workshop.  This is a separate event.  There is no cost to attend, HOWEVER, registration is required as space is limited.  Please contact if you are interested in participating.

Telehealth Technology Survey

The National Telehealth Technology Assessment Resource Center (known as TTAC), is currently conducting a national survey of telehealth.  The goal of the survey is to gather data on which telehealth platforms and technologies are being utilized in health care settings, and for what types of clinical applications.  The survey is open from now until October 31, 2012. 
We strongly encourage anyone involved in telehealth to complete this survey! 

Click here to be taken staight to the TTAC short, seven-question Technology Survey.

or click here for more information from TTAC on telehealth technology.

Telehealth is Changing the Face of Healthcare

“In the old days- oh, about 10 years ago- few doctors used the Internet for anything but email and research. “App” was a word used mainly by technology buffs, as in “killer app.” And cellphones were useful but far from smart. Now digital technology- on phones and tablets, in electronic record keeping, and in a host of clinical innovations- is transforming medicine in virtually every way…” -New York Times, Science Times, 10/9/2012

On Tuesday, the New York Times published a special addition of their Science Times section entitled “The Digital Doctor,” highlighting the many ways doctors and patients are utilizing technology to improve the quality of healthcare.  Several of the articles are about telemedicine specifically.  For example, one article (“With Telemedicine as Bridge, No Hospital Is an Island”) describes how Nantucket’s main Hospital is utilizing teledermatology to save money ($29000/year) and see more dermatology patients (1100/year).

Telehealth is a game-changer in healthcare.  And in our opinion, the more publicity it gets, the better.  Telemedicine offers a smart solution for improving healthcare and wellness, while lowering the cost of care delivery. For both providers and patients, the list of benefits is impressive.  For more information on the benefits of telemedicine, visit the gpTRAC Delivery and Results of Care section here.

Telemedicine: In the Beginning

Telemedicine has come a long way in the last ten years.  In this video we reflect on what telemedicine was like “in the beginning” compared to where telemedicine is today.  This video was produced by the Great Plains Telehealth Resource and Assistance Center and submitted as part of the American Telemedicine Association 2012 video contest addressing the theme: “Expect Telemedicine.”

 “Although technology has changed, and will continue to change, what will always remain constant is that telemedicine works.  Expect telemedicine, because telemedicine works.” 

For information on integrating telemedicine into your organization, visit gpTRAC’s Get Started Guide here.

Demystifying Telemedicine

Since starting with gpTRAC I have taken to dropping references to telemedicine into everyday conversations with friends, family, peers, coworkers, even dates—just to see how people respond.  I am considering it a sort of ongoing investigation into the general public’s perception of telemedicine.  And so far what I have found is that people’s comfort with the subject is a mixed bag.  For example, at a recent Minneapolis Health 2.0 networking event, I met a doctor from Agile Medicine who told me he uses telemedicine every day, and launched right into examples: store and forward, videoconferencing with patients, etc.  However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, I had a fellow graduate student recently say to me “when I hear the word telemedicine the only thing I think of is teleportation, which makes me think it’s not real.” The comment made me laugh, but it also serves as an example of the sense of mystery many people associate with the topic.

So the question is this:  how can we, in the healthcare field, demystify, clarify, and normalize telemedicine for patients and providers in the Great Plains region (and hopefully beyond)?

My advice is to begin by always defining what we are talking about when we use the word telemedicine, and I would like to offer a few definitions and resources to help.

The first is the Oxford English Dictionary, as many people’s choice for definitive information on the English language.  According to the OED Telemedicine is defined as: “the remote medical diagnosis and treatment of patients by means or with the aid of telecommunications technology, e.g. by use of the telephone or videoconferencing for consultation, remote-controlled robotic assistance in specialist surgery, etc.; this field of medicine[1].” The word itself is a combination of the Greek root Tel- meaning afar, or far off, and medicine.  The American Telemedicine Association is another great place to find clear and concise information on telemedicine, as demonstrated by their even simpler definition: “[Telemedicine is] the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve patients’ health status.” On our Introduction page, gpTRAC offers a comprehensive list of current telemedicine practices that can add tangible examples to either of the definitions above (and you can always contact us here for specific questions, which our experts will gladly help you answer!).  Additionally, Access Telehealth has an excellent FAQ section that covers both telemedine and telehealth.  Or for the more visually inclined, and the South Central Telehealth Resource Center put together this video tutorial:

There is a lot of good information out there on telemedicine, but it seems to me like the bridge between that information and the people it could be most useful for is rickety at best.  However, I think we can change that, and in my own life am trying to start by making telemedicine a topic of daily conversation with the people around me.  Do you have other definitions and resources to suggest?  If so, post them below and let us know!

[1] Oxford English Dictionary
Photo credit:  EmpowHER,