BERLIN — Coos County Family Health Services was recently awarded a $68,750 grant to buy telehealth-enabled smartphones to allow providers to remotely communicate with patients.
CCFHS Chief Executive Officer Ken Gordon said the funds would be used to purchase 125 devices and the service to go with the phone, which could be provided to patients to give them the ability to do video conference calls with their providers.
Gordon said the devices would also include some applications that patients could use for their health-care needs in general, such as an application to help patients manage their day-to-day health needs.
Gordon said CCFHS submitted the application for the funds about a year ago with the intent of reaching people who don’t have access to smartphones. He said the program is designed for those most in need. CCFHS is still working to develop criteria for who would receive phones and what process they would need to go through to get a phone.
He said the cost of an emergency room visit can be $1,500 at a minimum and that these devices could help patients speak with doctors without having to go to the emergency room.
He said in the grand scheme of health care, this is a win-win for both providers and patients.
In rural health care, where even travel times to a doctor can be expensive and time-consuming, the telehealth option gives patients an important cost-saving opportunity. The devices will not just be set up to allow patients to contact CCFHS, but also Androscoggin Valley Health and other providers. The idea, Gordon said, is to maximize the opportunities to connect patients with providers.
Gordon said the service plans attached to the phones will be controlled by CCFHS, but that the phones will be designed like any other smartphone, meaning that they can be used for phone calls and other legitimate purposes patients have outside of the need for medical services.
"This equipment will help our patients stay connected to their doctors and nurses, and avoid unnecessary visits to the emergency room,” Gordon said in a separate news release. “Telemedicine can remove barriers to care, reduce unnecessary spending and make life easier for our patients and their family caregivers.”