In a matter of a few years, telemedicine has made it possible for OHSU stroke neurologists, pediatric and neonatal intensive care physicians, genetics specialists, psychiatrists and other medical experts to treat patients almost anywhere in the state without leaving Portland.
Indeed, the OHSU Telemedicine Network has expanded its offerings to the point that patients in a dozen communities have access to our services minutes after they arrive in their local emergency room.
Since May 2010 alone, our telemedicine specialists have performed 350 acute care consults, assisting local physicians with treatment and transfer decisions. This has ranged from reassuring the local team as to the appropriateness of their treatment plan to helping resuscitate patients. Not only has this saved lives, telemedicine has also spared 130 patients from traveling to Portland for medical care and saved more than $1.7 million in transport costs.
However, a 20th century regulatory system still hampers our ability to deliver 21st century care where it’s most urgently needed. Most onerous is the wide range of requirements needed for each physician providing telemedicine to be credentialed at each hospital where services are provided
Credentialing can mean each of our physicians and our credentialing team has to compile dozens of pages of documentation for every hospital where they provide telemedicine consultations. Because individual hospitals often have different requirements, new credentialing packets have to be created each time a new physician or specialty is added. Multiply this requirement by Oregon’s 58 hospitals and the bureaucratic challenge becomes staggering.
Despite movement at the federal level to modernize some of these restraints, it remains one of the greatest roadblocks to expanding access to care through telemedicine.
In an effort to simplify this process, we are working with hospitals, legislators and other stakeholders around the state to forge a consensus on standardized telemedicine credentialing that meets federal requirements and addresses local needs.
This will allow physicians to submit the same credentialing documentation to every hospital – saving time, money and achieving our goal of improving access to lifesaving care.
Miles Ellenby, M.D., is medical director of the OHSU Telemedicine Network, a pediatric intensivist at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and an associate professor of pediatrics in the OHSU School of Medicine.