TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — For some Kansans, long drive times, physical disabilities or weakened immune systems can make a trip to the doctor’s office a struggle. Telehealth has changed that.
Telehealth gives patients the ability to see their doctors from the comfort of their home via video chat. This has made an impact on healthcare for some Kansans.
“The worst thing we do for people is make them travel hours and hours for their care,” said Dr. Susan Brian, Medical Director of Endocrinology at Stormont Vail, “We have patients that drive four or five hours to see us and some patients have to see us every three months.”
Dr. Brian says she regularly sees patients on her computer.
“A patient can be on their smartphone or tablet or computer and communicate health issues to a pharmacy, a physician or nursing staff,” Dr. Brian said.
She added that telehealth visits are just like any other visit to the doctor.
“There are even things you can add to that that they can use at home like a stethoscope or they can have their vital signs looked at,” she said.
But for some Kansans, a lack of internet access is preventing them from using telehealth services. Lawmakers on the Statewide Broadband Expansion Planning Task Force have made recommendations to the legislature that could provide high-speed internet access to Kansans across the state.
“In a perfect world, everyone in Kansas would have access to broadband,” said Senator Ty Masterson (R), Co-Chair of the task force.
Senator Masterson said he is confident that a bill will be introduced next year to make statewide broadband a reality, but he’s not sure how far it will go.
“To the extent that it gets completely through the process and lands on the Governor’s desk, that will obviously be determined in session,” he added.
Dr. Brian is hopeful more providers will adopt telehealth. She said it is a cost-saving option for many people who would otherwise be forced to travel to their appointment.
“They don’t have to take a day off of work and they don’t have to spend the gas to come,” said Dr. Brian.
It could also save the state some money by introducing telehealth appointments into the Kansas prison system.
“Right now, if a patient has to go from the prison they have to have two guards and the cost of the transportation to come two or three hours to an appointment,” said Dr. Brian. “That’s a huge cost for the state of Kansas. All that could be done over their computer right in the prison.”
Dr. Brian said funding and coverage for telehealth in Kansas is poor, despite having a large population that would benefit from the service. She is hoping that as demand increases, funding and provider coverage will also increase.
“It’s good service. You get good care and you don’t lose the doctor-patient relationship,” she said.