Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo receives telehealth award
Posted May 23, 2016
The rural southeastern desert of Imperial County has one of the highest diagnosed rates of diabetes in California. For people suffering from the condition, one key risk is the onset of blindness. Early detection is critical.
At the heart of this rural region is Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo (Clinicas), a nonprofit dedicated to providing direct access to affordable, comprehensive, quality primary and preventive health care for high-risk and underserved residents, all in a manner consistent with their dignity and identity.
Until recently, screening for blindness associated with diabetes required that patients be referred to an ophthalmologist for detection, and most patients were often seen after symptoms were noticeable, which makes treatment more challenging. For some, this also meant long travel and cost to find a specialist.
With support from Vesper Society, in the fall of 2015 Clinicas launched a new program in partnership with the University of California, Berkeley that uses telemedicine technology to provide access to health assessment, diagnosis, intervention, consultation, supervision and information across distance. Using a digital retinography system, a camera takes images that are sent to the specialists at the university, who in turn give a prognosis in 24 hours. Patients can have the vision screen test right there at Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo during their visit.
From an average of 20 retinal screens per month in early 2015, Clinicas is now averaging 120 screens per month by using two cameras that are rotated between six clinics. Because of increased utilization, Clinicas is working with California Health and Wellness and EyePacs to obtain a third retinal camera.
Key to the success of developing a thriving telehealth program is allocating sufficient dedicated staff resources to support the program. To this end, with support from Vesper Society, Clinicas hired a full-time telehealth manager in 2015. Site coordinators have also been appointed at three clinics in the area.
There are many benefits gained from using telehealth services in rural areas:
- Improves access to care
- Optimizes use of available resources
- Improves patient experience
- Improves health outcomes
- Reduces costs
- Increases efficiencies
- Retains resources locally
Recognizing the success of this program, Clinicas received the Excellence in Telehealth Sustainability Award for their retinal screening telehealth program from the California Telehealth Network at the 2016 Telehealth Summit held April 17-19 in San Diego, California. We applaud their success and are pleased to partner with an organization that so closely shares our belief that health and justice go hand in hand.