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.

Minnesota DHS: Telemedicine and Chemical Health

The Minnesota Department of Human Services is exploring how telemedicine can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of interventions, treatment, and recovery related to Alcohol and Drug Abuse.  Why?  According to DHS research, of all the people who seek treatment for chemical health issues in the US, only 10% actually receive it.  Additionally, rural populations experience the most barriers to substance abuse treatment programs and recovery options.  Telemedicine technology could help ameliorate these problems by extending the reach of chemical health counselors employed in areas like the Twin Cities, to underserved and geographically isolated populations in rural Minnesota, where counselors are harder to find.  However, currently insurers do not resimburse for chemical health services delivered at a distance.  DHS has a task force (the Sustance Use Disorder Model of Care Workgroup on Telemedicine) compiling information on the subject.  The group recently released their first collective report:  Telemedicine/Telehealth Workgroup Issue Analysis.  For more information, visit the DHS website.

Funding Opportunity: Community Transformation Grants

An important message from the Health Resources and Services Administration on a funding opportunity for community programs targeting rural health disparities:

The 2012 funding opportunity announcement is now available for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Community Transformation Grants (CTG)  – Small Communities Program.  CTG funds support local and state government agencies as well as community-based organizations in the implementation, evaluation, and dissemination of evidence-based community health activities in order to reduce chronic disease rates, prevent the development of secondary conditions, address health disparities, and develop a stronger evidence-base of effective prevention programming.

The CTG Small Communities Program funding opportunity specifically targets communities  with populations of up to 500,000 people to increase opportunities to prevent chronic diseases and promote health. CTG has the potential to address activities directed at rural health disparities.  No less than 20 percent of grant funds will be directed to rural and frontier areas.

For further information and frequently asked questions about this funding opportunity, please visit the CDC Community Transformation Grant Program website:

Funding Opportunity Announcement:;jsessionid=RgW1PFPFQshPqDGLW5sBW8ZQTmTpXQwjMLllqTy7zJdwfc1QLpXP!-1021879135?oppId=173114&mode=VIEW

Need help writing your grant?  gpTRAC is here to help!  You can email us here, or call for one-on-one advice at 888-239-7092.  For information on Financial Resources and Opportunities click here or visit our Information Library for a complete list of helpful tools and resources.

Questions about telemedicine? Let us know!

Here at gpTRAC it is our goal to be your primary resource for telehealth program development and implementation in the Great Plains region.

Over the last two years, this goal has led our blog contributors through a wide range of topics including: telemedicine legislation, applications, ATA standards and guidelines, technologies, rural health, health care reform, national conferences, and current events- just to name a few.

My name is Haley.  As a new member of the gpTRAC team, and now primary author of the gpTRAC blog, I hope to share with you topics you can use in the coming weeks and month.  Here is an idea of what you can expect:

We will continue to follow innovation.  What are the latest technologies and best practices?  Where is telemedicine headed?  How can you, as providers/clininicians/payors/employers/patients/legislators/schools/home health and long term care facilities, catch the wave and benefit from adopting telemedicine programs?

We’ll also look at current uses of telemedicine.  Who is using telemedicine in the Great Plains region?  Or elsewhere in the world for that matter.  And in what form?  How well are they working?

Lastly, keeping with the ancient wisdom of “you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you have been,” you can expect a few briefs on the history of telemedicine mixed in:  where did it come from?  Who were the early adopters?  What did early forms of telemedicine look like?  And most importantly, why does it matter to you?

I am excited about the future of telemedicine.  I see potential applications everywhere, and unrealized benefits for doctors and patients alike.  My goal is to make this your go-to source for information and advice on everything telehealth.  So if you have questions about telemedicine, ask us!  If there is a topic you would like to know more about, let us know!  If you have a story you want to share, go for it!  Post your thoughts and comments below, and we look forward to hearing from you!

Rural Health invades DC

Today the 23rd Annual Rural Health Policy Institute kicked off today in Washington, DC. We heard an overview from Secretary Sebelius and from HRSA Administrator Mary Wakefield. (Who NRHA President, Lance Keilers, described as rural health’s BFF!)

The speaker from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation, Dr. Nancy Nielsen, shared a connection from the President’s State of the Union speech… “Technology makes some jobs more efficient…and other jobs obsolete.” It directly referrenced manufacturing…but can easily apply to healthcare as well. It will be important for us all to prepare for the personnel needs and changes that HIT brings.

Another concern she raised was that medical expenses are the/a main cause of personal bankruptcy. We need to continue to provide care in a more cost-effective manner. It is my thought that telemedicine/telehealth plays a very important role in accomplishing this goal. She shared that, on average, the income for a family of four increased $23,000 over the past decade…and that all but $85 of that increase has gone to pay for healthcare. This was a startling statistic!

If Dr. Nielsen is an indication of the quality of speakers at this meeting, it will certainly be an interesting few days!

Using Telehealth to Improve Time Management

Here is an article published recently in the December HealthLeaders magazine.  It highlights the role that telemedicine services can play in better managing physicians’ time, the use of telemedicine in an ACO, the role telemedicine can play in the overall strategic direction for the organization, and other benefits.  It will be exciting to see how this project grows as they expand it out of the pilot phase.

Food, Fun and Dermatology Screenings

More than 240 attendees at this year’s Minnesota State Fair received free dermatology screenings thanks to the Great Plains Telehealth Resource and Assistance Center (gpTRAC) and the University of Minnesota.  The telehealth awareness booth was designed to educate fairgoers about telemedicine services while calling attention to the dangers of skin cancer and the importance of regular dermatology screenings to monitor for warning signs of the disease.

Nearly 20 percent of fairgoers screened were advised to seek further evaluation for skin cancer.  Seventeen were suspected of skin cancer and twenty-seven for suspected pre-cancer skin conditions.

“Many of these fairgoers hadn’t made it a priority to get screened for skin cancer until they came upon our booth.  I think this demonstrates that telehealth services can help increase access to specialty care, like dermatological screenings, to ultimately help reduce overall healthcare costs through earlier diagnosis, management and treatment of disease,” said Stuart Speedie, Ph.D., Principal Investigator and Director of gpTRAC.  “Clearly, we accomplished something very positive at the State Fair and hopefully helped prevent the advancement of a dangerous disease in several Minnesotans.”

Telehealth offers increased healthcare service delivery to medically-underserved communities by connecting patients to specialists via technology.  More convenient access to care minimizes patient travel time, reduces out-of-pocket costs and increases the likelihood that patients obtain care when they need it.

During a telemedicine consultation, which can be conducted in a growing number of clinics across the state, a patient is connected to a specialist who is in a separate location via video. A nurse is often on hand with the patient to conduct physical exam tasks as requested by the specialist. Cameras and other monitoring tools allow the specialist to see on screen exactly what the nurse is seeing in person. In addition to skin cancer screenings, telehealth can be used for mental health evaluations, orthopedic consults, management of chronic diseases and a wide range of other medical services.

“This event wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of dermatologists at the University of Minnesota who volunteered 140 hours of time to conduct free screenings during the fair.  With their help raising awareness of telehealth, we hope that access to telehealth services will continue to grow across the state of Minnesota,” added Speedie.

The gpTRAC is one of eleven federally designated telehealth resource centers in the nation supported by a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).  Serving Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Wisconsin, the gpTRAC strives to promote health care services that take advantage of modern telecommunications technologies.  For more information, visit or

Click here to see a video of the state fair telehealth visits.