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Health Care for a High-Tech World: The Potential for Telehealth in Colorado

Momentum is building across Colorado around telehealth, with new funding opportunities and new systems poised to take hold.

A research brief released today by the Colorado Health Institute, Health Care for a High-Tech World: The Potential for Telehealth in Colorado,” delves into the role that telehealth can play in meeting the changing health care needs of Colorado residents.

CHI’s analysis finds that telehealth programs are keeping tabs on patients at home following a hospital stay and quickly linking patients and providers with specialists to diagnose and treat critical health issues.

For example, Centura Health at Home’s telehealth program monitors patients with chronic conditions in their homes, with nurses and medical staff checking the numbers regularly for any red flags. Health ONE’s CO-DOC Telemedicine Network links more than 35 remote locations across the state, many in rural communities, to neurology specialists for urgent consultations.

But payment issues, regulatory hurdles and ongoing questions about costs are limiting the adoption and expansion of telehealth.    

Evidence shows that telehealth can improve access to high-quality care that is convenient for both providers and patients, according to the paper. But it can be costly. While telehealth can reduce hospital readmissions and emergency department use, research is mixed on its ability to lower health care costs overall.

Many providers and health systems in Colorado are building and expanding telehealth programs, providing the local innovation to help understand how to use telehealth effectively and efficiently. And funding opportunities may be on the horizon. Colorado is developing an eConsult system to support Medicaid primary care provider connections with specialists. And Colorado’s State Innovation Model (SIM) proposal calls for expanded use of telehealth tools and connecting more providers to secure broadband.  

Telehealth technology is arriving at a time when many communities – especially in rural Colorado – are struggling with chronic shortages of health care providers. While telehealth will not be a magic solution to the provider shortage, with policy and regulatory improvements it can be an important tool to address the problem.