Use of telehealth technology in Northwest Colorado continues to expand
Steamboat Springs — Evolving telehealth technology continues to rise in popularity and change the way many people receive their health care, including in Northwest Colorado.
Telehealth services, which involve a health care provider and patient communicating through a video screen, while sitting in separate medical offices, are used on a daily basis at Mind Springs Health, which has offices around the region, including in Steamboat Springs and Craig.
The technology is particularly helpful in the field of psychiatry, as there is a lack of psychiatric professionals locally and statewide.
“We’re starting to use it more and more,” said Gina Toothaker, program director for Mind Springs’ Steamboat Springs office.
Having telehealth available means that if a psychiatrist is available in another office before there’s an opening in Steamboat Springs, a patient can receive needed care sooner.
“We try to get someone seen as soon as we can,” Toothaker said. “It’s really valuable.”
Psychiatrists based in Steamboat Springs regularly see patients in other counties for appointments, as do clinicians, who provide clinical therapy to patients.
A new law passed by the Colorado legislature in 2015 is likely to continue expanding telehealth services statewide. The law guarantees that providers helping patients in counties with any size population receive equal reimbursements for their services and removes other barriers for providers seeking to use telehealth and receiving appropriate reimbursements.
Colorado was one of 32 states in 2015 wrestling with legislation to reform or expand the use of telehealth — an industry that numerous market research firms predict will grow to be worth billions of dollars over the next five years.
Toothaker said at Mind Springs, the technology is also used for appointments with clinical therapists. Often insurance companies require a clinician have certain qualifications or credentials so being able to connect a patient with the right clinician regardless of location is valuable.
The technology also comes in handy for medical professionals who specialize in helping veterans, including those living in Routt and Moffat counties and the surrounding areas.
The Major William Adams Veterans Telehealth Clinic opened in Craig in 2007 and continues to expand a range of available telehealth services for regional veterans.
“The convenience is the whole thing,” said Kathy Havrilla, a nurse who works for the clinic. “We see patients from Routt County, up around Baggs, Wyoming, from Meeker, Rangely, and even down in Kremmling.”
Veterans can receive primary care, mental health, pain management, audiology, nutritional advice and more — services they would need to travel to Veterans Affairs in Grand Junction to receive in person.
“We stay busy and we keep adding new things,” Havrilla said.
Toothaker said telehealth has been in place at Mind Springs Health for several years, but the experience has improved significantly as technology advances.
Large television monitors have been replaced with smaller computers and now laptops to use for the appointments.
“Like every other piece of technology, this has evolved,” Toothaker said. “The future is probably looking like we can see clients from their homes.”
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