Hundreds of health and policy experts attend annual conference

Randy Tobler, MD, FACOG, CEO of Scotland County Hospital, moderated the summit’s rural hospital CEO panel. Panelists included: John Bustle, MD, Bates County Memorial Hospital; Amy Ireland, Carroll County Memorial Hospital; Gary Jordan, Wright Memorial Hospital; and Kasey Lucas, Salem Memorial District Hospital. MU’s Missouri Telehealth Network organizes the annual conference to discuss changes in technologies, best practices and legislation at the federal and state level.

Advances in telecom-munications technology offer new ways to improve access to high-quality health care in rural areas, according to a panel of hospital leaders at the Missouri Telehealth Summit in Jefferson City. Scotland Hospital CEO Randy Tobler, MD, FACOG, led the Feb. 1 panel discussion organized by the University of Missouri’s telehealth network.

Since the Missouri Telehealth Network launched in 1994, rapid innovations in telehealth have allowed medical care and information to be delivered across greater distances to growing numbers of patients. For example, physicians with special training at urban hospitals use telehealth to assist physicians in rural areas with diagnosing and monitoring their patients, saving patients the cost and inconvenience of travel. Telehealth also addresses pressing public health needs, such as opioid addiction, by quickly assembling teams of experts to train health care providers in rural and underserved urban areas.

“Health care leaders like Dr. Randy Tobler are helping others understand how telehealth is improving the availability, quality and convenience of patient care across our state,” said Karen Edison, MD, medical director of the Missouri Telehealth Network and Chair and Philip C. Anderson Professor in Dermatology at the University of Missouri. “Rural health care experts like him have the special knowledge and experience we need to bring the benefits of telehealth to every underserved patient across Missouri.”

The Missouri Telehealth Summit’s keynote address on advances in technology was delivered by Yulun Wang, PhD, chair, founder and chief innovation officer of InTouch Health. Other experts and lawmakers discussed telehealth legislation at the federal and state level. Several state representatives expressed support for Missouri House Bill 1617, which addresses reimbursement for telehealth services.

Other discussions at the Missouri Telehealth Summit involved the MU School of Medicine’s Show-Me ECHO program. ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) uses videoconferencing to connect an interdisciplinary team of experts with primary care providers. They collaborate in case-based learning sessions to help primary care providers develop advanced skills and best practices, which in turn increases the availability and quality of patient care.