Public health meets telehealth

For the second year, National Telehealth Resource Centers, which includes HTRC, exhibited at the American Public Health Association Conference – this year in Atlanta. HTRC Project Director Janine Gracy reflected on the use of telehealth in the public health realm.

“Public health professionals are very creative problem solvers and we are here to put our heads together,” said Gracy. “With decreased budgets of local public health agencies there is a growing need to innovate. Telehealth can save money on travel and improve efficiency.”

To illustrate the linkages between public health and telehealth, we’ve listed the 10 essential services of public health below and provided examples or calls to action for each.

Monitor health status to identify community health problems.Telehealth-based antibiotic stewardship programs have been used to monitor the effects of prescribing practices to prevent spread of infectious disease.
Diagnose and investigate health problems and health hazards in the community.Telehealth has been used to diagnose and treat Ebola cases, while protecting clinicians.
Inform, educate, and empower people about health issues.CDC-recognized Diabetes Prevention Programs have been delivered remotely via telehealth.
Mobilize community partnerships to identify and solve health problems.The Children's Advocacy Centers of Oklahoma's KidSafe project used telehealth to provide quality exams for sexual abuse victims and provide trainings to better preserve evidence for law enforcement.
Develop policies and plans that support individual and community health efforts.One promising example is the Trump Administration's declaration on the opioid crisis, which could make it easier for opioid addiction medications to be prescribed via telehealth.
Enforce laws and regulations that protect health and ensure safety.
Increasing adherence to regulations can be aided through training, such as an online food-safety training course.
Link people to needed personal health services and assure the provision of health care when otherwise unavailable.The Saline County Health Department in Kansas is among the local public health departments now using telehealth for case management.
Assure a competent public health and personal health care workforce.A recent HTRC article highlighted the use of telesupervision in helping rural mental health professionals earn their credentials.
Evaluate effectiveness, accessibility, and quality of personal and population-based health services.The Project ECHO model emphasizes program evaluation and is increasingly used among groups like community health workers.
Research for new insights and innovative solutions to health problems.Public health professionals are known for their resourcefulness and we are excited to see what new uses for telehealth they identify in the coming years.


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