More North Country Patients are Taking Advantage of Telemedicine


North Country Telehealth Partnership reports more than 1,700 telemedicine patient encounters have been recorded across tri-county region since 2014, with more than 1,300 recorded this year alone.

WATERTOWN – The North Country Telehealth Partnership, an initiative of the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization, is pleased to announce that more than 1,700 telemedicine patient encounters have been recorded across Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties in the past three years.

patient encountersMore than 1,300 of those appointments occurred during this year alone, building on last year’s exponential growth, when telemedicine appointments jumped from 40 in 2014 to 315 in 2015.

Telemedicine – or telehealth – initiatives allow rural patients to visit their local hospital, health center, private practice or clinic and speak with a medical specialist elsewhere in the state via secure videoconferencing technology. In the north country, there are more than 90 hospitals, provider offices and other health care professionals actively engaged in telemedicine initiatives, offering services such as telepsychiatry, telestroke and teleneurology.

“Our telemedicine program is built on an access-to-care model,” said David C. Johnson, North Country Telehealth Partnership program coordinator. “Patients are gaining access to the care they need, when they need it, and where it is most convenient for them. While questions about reimbursement and regulatory restrictions remain challenges to the implementation of telemedicine, this is only the beginning of its success in our region. Telemedicine is becoming and will be an essential part of the standard way to deliver care.”

“As we shift our health care system to one that rewards providers and hospitals for their quality, efficiency and patient experience, telemedicine is critical to support those efforts in the north country,” added Corey M. Zeigler, FDRHPO’s chief information officer.

Health care providers, especially those focused on behavioral health, are also seeing the benefits of reduced “no-shows” and greater efficiency as they strive to provide the best possible care to their patients. In fact, fewer than 30 telemedicine appointments – or less than 2 percent – of the more than 1,700 recorded throughout the region have been flagged as incomplete.

Dr. Steven L. Lyndaker, founder of Lowville Medical Associates, can attest to these benefits. His practice was one of the first in the tri-county region to adopt telemedicine and it has recorded 230 telemedicine appointments to date.

“Convenient access to high-quality psychiatric care through our tele-psychiatry service has been the single most impactful FDRHPO initiative at Lowville Medical Associates over the past few years,” Dr. Lyndaker said. “Numerous patients have received timely care, avoiding considerable delay from time of referral to time of consult and thereby, quite honestly, reducing their emotional suffering.  I am so grateful to offer this option to some of the most vulnerable in our practice.”

Telemedicine capabilities are constantly expanding with the emergence of new technology. For instance, Mr. Johnson said, the region is close to securing a portable retinal camera, which will allow patients to receive telemedicine-based diabetic retinopathy screenings locally.

To help celebrate the milestone of reaching 1,700 patient encounters, the North Country Telehealth Partnership recently launched a newly re-designed website, www.telehealthny.org. The site provides patients with general information about local telehealth initiatives, as well as more detailed information for local providers.

“We are confident that the new website will provide our partners, providers and patients with a more informative, user-friendly experience than before,” said Elijah C. Anderson, FDRHPO’s communications coordinator. “Plenty of thoughtful planning went into the website’s design, and we are excited to share it with the public as we reach an important milestone in the growth of the North Country Telehealth Partnership.”

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About the North Country Telehealth Partnership

The North Country Telehealth Partnership is northern New York’s leading agency focused on increasing access to health care through the innovative use of telehealth and telemedicine technology. With a fiber network spanning 12 counties across northern and central New York and Vermont, our mission is to provide local health care providers the technical assistance they need to develop and expand telehealth services, which improves access to high-quality care for medically underserved and rural north country residents.

About the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization

The Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization (FDRHPO) is an agency that strengthens the North Country Healthcare System for Fort Drum soldiers, their families and the surrounding tri-county civilian community. FDRHPO connects the Fort Drum’s Military Treatment Facility with the regional health care system. FDRHPO does not provide services; rather our role is to evaluate, plan and strengthen the link between Fort Drum and tri-county civilian community members and quality health care in northern New York. For more information about FDRHPO, visit www.fdrhpo.org.