We're Better Together: Telehealth Technologies, 6-2-2016

​Dear colleagues,

As Colorado's only academic medical center, we have established a remarkably vibrant community of health care educators, top clinicians and world-class researchers on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. We have succeeded with support from generous benefactors, visionary leaders, state and federal lawmakers, grateful patients and dedicated faculty and staff.

But here's the irony: Stories of how our colleagues make a significant impact on research, education and patients' well-being are so commonplace, we often take them for granted. We communicate within our individual schools, colleges and units, but it's the stories across the campus that demonstrate the magnitude of the collective impact of our efforts. With that in mind, I will be communicating with you periodically to share initiatives and achievements that show how we're better together.

One such endeavor is our use of technology to provide better clinical care, learning opportunities and community support. With telehealth technologies, we are making Colorado a healthier place by delivering health care in remote locations, providing trainings and increasing the clinical capacity of our off-campus partners, treating patients in their homes, and providing behavioral services remotely. 

ECHO Colorado is a prime example. It uses state-of-the-art telemedicine technology to provide support to primary care providers across the state, including rural areas. ECHO, which stands for Extension for Community Health Outcomes, offers every primary care clinician throughout Colorado the ability to collaboratively manage patients with top-ranked specialists-all right in their own communities. Governed by a community board with multi-disciplinary statewide representation, the program is supported through diverse funding sources including the Colorado Health Foundation which gave a $3.3 million grant to start the program. The program center, located at CU Anschutz, provides overall coordination of the statewide ECHO Colorado program. Under the direction of John "Fred" Thomas, PhD, ECHO connects health professionals statewide to topic experts, increasing their access to specialty care and expert knowledge, as well as improving the effectiveness of disease-prevention programs. In conjunction with the Colorado School of Public Health (ColoradoSPH), ECHO also provides multiple online trainingsfor public health professionals on a variety of topics,  including foodborne illness managementand injury prevention, hepatitis C, diabetes and endocrinology, mental health, obesity, nutrition and child abuse prevention.

In addition to his work with ECHO Colorado, Dr. Thomas has demonstrated success as director of telemedicine at Children's Hospital Colorado since 2012. With a team of health care , technology and business professionals, Children's has developed new telehealth clinical workflows, a ubiquitous telehealth platform, research efforts and clinical partnerships that have led to a dramatic growth in the number of services offered virtually. Through this platform, Children's conducted more than 1,500 telehealth visits in 2015 alone. About 20 child health specialties use telehealth to collaborate with rural physicians and other healthcare partners in the region to improve access to care and to reduce the costs of care for patients and their families. 

Telehealth applications extend throughout the campus:

  • UCHealth is using telehealth to deliver new and innovative care models through its TeleStroke program, burn unit, behavioral health and orthopedics, among others.
  • The CU Cancer Center will be offering online group consultation to help young adults with cancer address quality-of-life issues. 
  • The Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes is incorporating telemedicine into its treatment of rural patients. In collaboration with Children's, it is also conducting a major clinical study on the treatment of Type 1 diabetes using telehealth and working with young adults to assure that their transition into self-management as adults is seamless.  
  • The Department of Dermatology is conducting a study that compares the clinical effectiveness of psoriasis patients treated using telehealth versus traditional in-office care. 
  • The School of Dental Medicine is exploring how to create better health equity through remote education and treatment.

CU Anschutz has been a leader in telehealth since 2001, when Jay Shore, MD, associate professor of psychiatry, began providing behavioral health treatment through video conferencing for Native American veterans, under the mentorship of Spero Manson, PhD, distinguished professor of public health and psychiatry. Now, working through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health, the ColoradoSPH, and the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Depression Center, Dr. Shore has helped develop programs that use telemedicine to provide behavioral health care to veterans, tribes and communities throughout the Mountain West and Alaska. These programs provide trainings and supervision to off-campus partners and treat patients virtually in their homes.

Telehealth extends the expertise and quality care of CU Anschutz professionals to providers across the region and to our patients, wherever they are, and at every stage of care. Through the examples we've highlighted here, and many others, we are increasing access and efficiency, reducing costs and maintaining high levels of quality and patient satisfaction. The collaborations created within our departments, schools and hospitals are changing and saving lives in consistently more innovative ways. We are getting better together. 
Don Elliman
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