Telemedicine Pilot Programs Expand Access to Care

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Telemedicine programs utilized in the delivery of emergency psychiatric care and palliative care have expanded access to care in these specialties for patients in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties, thanks to a collaborative project of University of Maryland Shore Regional Health (UM SRH), University of Maryland Medical System, and University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM).

Telemedicine utilizes computer video and audio and related technologies that enable physicians and other care providers in one location to communicate with health professionals and patients in another.

Designed to overcome the limited availability of specialists in certain areas of  the five-county region served by UM SRH, the development of telemedicine applications to provide palliative care and emergency psychiatric care was supported by a $75,149 grant from the Maryland Health Care Commission and a 2:1 match from UM SRH.  Funds were used to purchase the needed technology and support the cost of a study to evaluate the effectiveness of the two programs.

That study indicated strong success for the use of telemedicine in both specialties. In emergency psychiatric care, wait times for patients needing assessment in Kent and Queen Anne’s county were reduced by nearly one-third. In palliative care, telemedicine facilitated a three-fold increase in the number of patients who were able to access and benefit from a palliative care consult and/or treatment.

“We are pleased to see that the use of the technology is widely accepted by physicians and patients,” says UM SRH Chief Medical Officer William Huffner, MD. “We are now in the process of refining and expanding telemedicine services in palliative care, emergency psychiatric care and other subspecialties.”

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