AUGUST 19, 2016–(PORTLAND, Ore.) Imagine your doctor refers you to a specialist for a health concern. You’re already a bit anxious about your health and, as you live in a remote, rural area, now you need to figure out how to travel 200 miles to the specialist’s office. You may not be able to drive yourself and need to arrange transportation that would be expensive. Instead, picture this: you simply go back to your local doctor’s office to talk to the specialist via a telehealth visit using available technology. A new project in eastern Oregon and Washington funded by Cambia Health Foundation will transform how health care is delivered.
Telehealth is primed to improve access to a range of health services for people and their families in rural America. With funding from Cambia Health Foundation, Oregon Washington health Network and Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center are leading the expansion of telehealth in eastern Washington and Oregon. Currently in these rural areas, if a physician refers a patient to a specialist, the patient often must figure out how to travel hundreds of miles to the specialist’s office. This can be especially difficult for those with a chronic, long-term condition that requires frequent appointments. A case in point is Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center, which each month transports at least 50 patients 200 miles to Portland to see specialty providers that are not available in the region. For many, access to these services simply does not happen.
Toward the goal of making quality health care accessible to all, Cambia Health Foundation has granted $150,000 to the Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center in support of the Oregon Washington health Network. The Network represents communities and health systems coming together to improve access, quality, and efficiency of services. The Network currently is comprised of several hospitals, health centers, public health departments and clinics which serve the Oregon counties of Umatilla, Morrow, and Union, and the Washington state county of Walla Walla.
“This grant is going to help us reach the goal of delivering health care more quickly and consistently to over 400 patients a year by 2018,” said Tim Gilbert, Yellowhawk’s chief executive officer. “A majority are low-income or elderly individuals, and we estimate that virtual visits will prevent 70 percent of them from having to be transported to Portland, Oregon, or Walla Walla, Washington, for services. That’s a real and positive impact.”
Oregon Washington health Network represents a new approach to maximizing resources through the development of regional approaches in adopting telehealth. The Network was made possible through a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration and will be utilizing technology specifically designed to support a wide range of directly health services and collaboration among providers.
“We are honored to invest in this innovative, collaborative effort that has the potential to make health care easier for and accessible to so many people,” said Steve Lesky, Cambia Health Foundation program officer. “The entire region will benefit from this innovative approach and people coming together to make sure the health system is responsive to their needs and realities.”
About Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center
Governed by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation since 1996, Yellowhawk is more than a healthcare center. It is a non-profit organization that is passionately involved in improving the health of their community and preserving the cultural traditional that shapes their identity. Yellowhawk is building a culture of wellness that empowers people to make healthy lifestyle decisions. Learn more at http://yellowhawk.org/
About Oregon Washington Regional Telehealth Network
The Oregon Washington health Network (OWhN) was established in 2015 and currently consists of hospitals, county health departments, health centers, behavioral health providers and community education organizations. The network is joining forces to make sure a wide range of Telemedicine is effectively used to improve health while addressing the limited number of medical providers throughout the region. Learn more at http://owhn.org/
About Cambia Health Foundation
Based in Portland, Oregon, Cambia Health Foundation is the corporate foundation of Cambia Health Solutions, a total health solutions company dedicated to transforming the way people experience health care. Cambia Health Foundation is a 501(c)(3) grant-making organization that strategically invests and partners with organizations regionally and nationally to advance palliative care quality, access and understanding; improve the mental and behavioral health of underserved children; and transform health care to a more person-focused, equitable and economically sustainable system. Learn more at www.cambiahealthfoundation.org or follow us on Twitter.