The state purchased telemedicine carts from Avizia, and it utilizes Cisco Systems videoconferencing equipment, including SX10 and SX20 telepresence units. Care providers throughout the state can call a central help desk if they’re having issues with the technology, and the DPH also uses software from SolarWinds to monitor network performance.
“We monitor each and every location,” says Roger Bunch, an IT manager for the department’s telehealth network. “If a site goes down, I know about it, and we know to reach out to them.”
“It also takes a lot of time to train and work with our physicians and our specialists to help them understand how to use the platform,” Salgado says. “Once they begin utilizing the platform, they really enjoy it, but first we go onsite and do hands-on training.”
Alabama Builds Its Own Telehealth Solution
The Alabama Department of Public Health, which built out a statewide telehealth network along with partners including the University of Alabama’s University Medical Center, relies on federal grant money for much of its equipment. The state deployed its first telehealth cart in 2015, and now it has telehealth equipment at 53 county sites, says Michael Smith, director for the department’s office of telehealth.
Rather than purchasing prebuilt equipment, Smith’s department assembles its own custom carts using Cisco SX10 telepresence units, Bluetooth-enabled stethoscopes and other technologies. “Because of that internal expertise, we’ve been able to buy the components and put them together,” Smith says. “As a result, we’ve been able to deploy significantly more carts than we anticipated.”
Smith says that 62 out of Alabama’s 67 counties are classified as Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas, reflecting challenges in access to care throughout the state. And he says that 90 to 95 percent of patients express satisfaction with the state’s telehealth solutions. “With the advancements in telecommunications, we have an opportunity to seize a new day and provide greater services for people in our jurisdiction,” he says.