A: Telehealth can be used to provide or augment many types of care but does have limitations. The rules have been relaxed during the Public Health Emergency but in general, first-time appointments, care that requires a physical exam for diagnosis that cannot be completed with the available technology, and patients with symptoms that would be considered urgent or emergent are not good candidates for general telehealth. With established protocols, telehealth may be used to triage those with urgent or emergent symptoms to optimize time to treatment.
A: Yes, a patient must consent to telehealth and may withdraw consent at any time. All IHS facilities should include telehealth in their overall consent form. Barring that, verbal consent for telehealth should be documented in the patient’s EHR.
A: A variety of services may be available through telehealth. Your provider will decide whether telehealth is right for your health needs. Some possible telehealth services: I am interested in learning more about telehealth. What resources are available? There are several guides to help you start providing telehealth services or to help you fine-tune if you have already started. For example:
- Indian Health Service Telehealth Toolkit [PDF - 489 KB]
- Telehealth Implementation Playbook – from the American Medical Association
- COVID-19 Telehealth Toolkit – from the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers
- Telehealth Resources for COVID-19 Toolkit – from the Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center
- Revving Up Your Telemedicine Practice In The Time Of COVID (video) – from the Southwest Telehealth Resource Center
- Using Telehealth to Expand Access to Essential Health Services during the COVID-19 Pandemic – from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Telehealth Resource Centers (TRCs) have been established to provide assistance, education, and information to organizations and individuals who are actively providing or interested in providing health care at a distance and are a great place to start. (adapted from Telehealth.HHS.gov ) You can locate IHS facilities and contact information on the IHS Find Healthcare site.
A: Deploying telehealth services is a team effort. Buy-in and support from local clinical and administrative leadership is critical to success, so start there. Next, an assessment of the local IT infrastructure and equipment is needed. Once these are addressed, deployment is similar to other, in-person clinics.
A: IHS is a very decentralized system and telehealth programs are deployed at the site, regional, and national levels. Also, the types of telehealth services needed and offered vary widely by site.
Available opportunities for telehealth employment can be found at USAJobs.gov . Alternatively, if you would like to provide contract services to IHS, visit the Small Business Administration for information on becoming a federal contractor .