VOL. 133 | NO. 49 | Thursday, March 8, 2018
University Clinical Health Launching Telemedicine Network
By Andy Meek
Going to the doctor is going high-tech at two rural West Tennessee clinics in a few weeks, thanks to a project University Clinical Health plans to launch within the next 30 days.
UCH is a physician group and affiliated faculty practice plan of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Memphis. It encompasses about 130 physicians, covering 18 specialties, and all of its physicians are also faculty members with the College of Medicine.
UCH is always on the lookout, says executive director of business development Joe Misleh, for how it can expand patient access and care. Which is why the multispecialty physician group is planning to implement a telehealth network, which includes establishing a telemedicine network, over the next three to four weeks.
The plan is to launch a network of teleconference, video-based systems, essentially focused on personal computers and high-resolution cameras. They will be installed, to start with, in two of UCH’s clinics in West Tennessee – in McKenzie and in Tipton County.
“Those are both primary care sites, and we’re going to provide this videoconferencing network, with access to our specialists, to provide services to those two locations,” Misleh said. “Starting with our dermatologists and our rheumatologists, there’s just kind of a void – there’s a void in specialist services in those two places particularly and in a lot of the rural towns in West Tennessee and throughout the state.”
The network will initially provide access to Memphis-based specialists that include hematologists and behavioral health providers who will treat patients at those family medicine sites via videoconferencing software.
UCH’s electronic health system will allow for integration of the patient’s health record between sites and will allow for real-time updates from site-to-site via a fully integrated electronic health record.
Eventually, that will expand to include additional specialists from the UCH group. UCH also has plans to link up with other Tennessee-based health care organizations to provide telemedicine services across the state.
Misleh said the effort is going live within 30 days. The equipment is ready, it’s just a matter of finalizing details related to the software.
“This dovetails quite nicely with our mission of providing care to underserved markets and also our initiatives in population health management as well as rural medicine,” Misleh said. “It’s a good tie-in and an appropriate time to add this service to our previous range of services, and it opens up access for patients who otherwise wouldn’t have access to these types of physicians and specialists.”
Patients in the clinics with the new equipment will come in for their primary care needs, but instead of a specialist on-site, they’ll be treated remotely. Sitting in an exam room, there will be a mounted TV terminal that affords live interaction with a physician in Memphis. It’s an arrangement that may not work for every patient need, but Misleh said at a minimum it will save many of them from otherwise having to make a trip to Memphis to get checked out.
UCH is also in communication with the Tennessee Primary Care Association, a network of primary care clinics throughout the state. UCH is planning to provide certain services to that association’s network of clinics, according to Misleh.
Launching the telemedicine network comes on the heels of something of a growth spurt for UCH. Toward the end of 2017, the organization added more than a dozen new physicians, launched a rheumatology practice and acquired others. One of the latter was Podiatry Centers of Memphis, acquired to start providing care under the UCH banner.