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NY State Expands Telemedicine Program for the Homeless

October 30, 2018

New York is expanding its telemedicine services to more local area homeless people and those living with developmental disabilities.

Using a grant made possible by New York State lawmakers and reforms implemented by the administration of President Donald Trump, a concierge medical clinic based in Troy, New York is expanding its telemedicine services to more local area homeless people and those living with developmental disabilities.

A $61,000 grant provided by New York State will allow United Concierge Medicine to expand its telemedicine program with the ARC of Rensselaer County, a national community-based organization that serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, to include the Schenectady ARC and the Schenectady City Mission homeless shelter.Since 2014, United Concierge Medicine has offered telemedicine services such as virtual and on-call medical care. The clinic’s expanded program will give the Schenectady City Mission homeless shelter the ability to provide services via telemedicine tools to 105 shelter residents per day for up to one year.

Under a concierge medicine model, a patient pays a health care provider an annual retainer fee in exchange for access to enhanced care and longer, more patient-centered visits than most doctor’s offices provide.

Telemedicine services offer health care online through apps or virtual office visits.

The grant was awarded through New York State’s Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment program, which is part of a state-based Medicaid reform initiative that had previously been approved by the Trump administration’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS is granting waivers under Section 1115 of the Social Security Act to allow states to enact Medicaid reforms.

‘Significant Cost Savings’

Matthew Glans, a senior policy analyst at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Health Care News, says telemedicine is a low-cost alternative to emergency room visits and can benefit both patients and doctors.

“The great thing about telemedicine is that is has the capability of provid- ing routine health care services to more people and with significant cost savings,” Glans said. “Among those who can benefit from telemedicine are the indigent, who struggle daily to obtain quality health care services.

“Providing preventative services through telemedicine before a patient needs to go to the emergency room reduces the burden placed on already overtaxed emergency rooms, which are often used by lower-income and homeless people for a wide range of services,” Glans said.

‘Incredibly Excited’

Keith Algozzine, chief executive officer of United Concierge Medicine, says the telemedicine project will help society’s most vulnerable individuals while reducing the cost to taxpayers.

“In this particular case, we’re taking the most vulnerable and providing our treatment and triage approach,” Algozzine said. “The homeless and the developmentally disabled are two of the most vulnerable populations. They have some of the highest emergency room utilization [rates], and we are going to be applying our treatment and triage approach at the very moment something goes wrong and there’s a medical problem.

“We are incredibly excited we can begin to care for these vulnerable populations, as this is a mission at the core of our emergency medicine practice,” Algozzine said.

Obstacles vs. Examples

The progress in spreading telemedicine in several states is encouraging, but burdensome government regulations keep telemedicine from developing to its full potential, Glans says.

“Telemedicine reform efforts in states such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Vermont have been successful thus far, and they support the move toward making telemedicine more widely available,” Glans said. “A program like the one in New York, if it’s found to be successful after a year, could go a long way in convincing other states to start taking online provision of health services seriously.”

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Health Care
Author
Sarah Lee is a policy advisor for health care and a host of Heartland's Health Care News podcast.
slee@heartland.org