FIBER POWERS HEALTHCARE
CASE STUDY: WOUND CARE RESOURCES
Susan Davis doesn’t have to look very far to see what a broadband connection can do.
The inventory, employees and building that make up her Wound Care Resources (WCR) distribution business in Yorkville, Tennessee, are all possible because of her WK&T high-speed Internet service.
“We could not function without broadband,” says Davis. “Had this not been accessible, I could not have brought my business here.”
The company provides dressings, bandages, creams and other products to treat chronic wounds such as those caused from diabetes. Purchase orders from their customers stream in over high-speed lines every day. Each night, the computer system uses those same lines to back up its files to remote servers.
Opening in 2006, WCR has been shipping nationwide for nearly a decade. They’ve sent supplies everywhere from small clinics and individual families to giant medical centers like Johns Hopkins Hospital. “You name it and we’ve shipped there,” says Davis.
And those shipments mean 14 jobs that wouldn’t be in Yorkville if the town was still on dial-up connections. “We couldn’t live without our computer network because it is our lifeline,” says Davis.
Broadband technology enables Davis to interact with businesses and individuals across the country while still enjoying the small town life she loves. Her father is from Yorkville, but the family moved away and did not return until Davis was a teenager. Now she has put down roots and does not plan on going anywhere.
“Insurance doesn’t talk to you on the phone, they want it online,” says Davis. And thanks to her broadband connection, she doesn’t have to go anywhere. The service allows her to connect with customers and their insurance providers worldwide. With the help of broadband her business is thriving and helping locals make a good living in the small town of less than 300 people.
Employees work to fill orders at Wound Care Resources in Yorkville, Tennessee, where broadband Internet access is a vital tool for taking orders and networking with vendors.
THE TELEMEDICINE INDUSTRY: AN OVERVIEW
According to the American Telemedicine Association, the use of broadband technology in the delivery of health care services is “a significant and rapidly growing component of health care in the United States.” Consider these facts from the ATA:
- There are currently about 200 telemedicine networks, with 3,500 service sites in the U.S. Nearly 1 million Americans are currently using remote cardiac monitors.
- In 2011, the Veterans Health Administration delivered over 300,000 remote consultations using telemedicine.
- Over half of all U.S. hospitals now use some form of telemedicine.
- Around the world, millions of patients use telemedicine to monitor their vital signs and remain healthy and out of hospitals and emergency rooms.
- Consumers and physicians download health and wellness applications for use on their cellphones.
Telemedicine is especially beneficial to citizens of rural America. According to HealthIT.gov, in rural areas where distances between clinics are great and specialists are often few and far between, telemedicine technology can:
- Give health care providers instant access to information they need to make timely, vital decisions and save lives
- Decrease travel time for patients and their families
- Enable rural hospitals to utilize remote clinicians, pharmacists and staff members to improve and extend access
- Facilitate efficient transfer to other facilities for vital services not offered locally
- Facilitate efficient local care after intense care in a tertiary hospital by enabling patients to get care near their families and primary care providers
A 2011 study by Stanford University examined the impact of a care coordination approach called the Health Buddy Program, which integrates a telehealth tool with care management for chronically ill Medicare beneficiaries. The study evaluated the program’s impact on spending for patients of two clinics in the U.S. Northwest who were exposed to the intervention, and compared their experience with that of matched controls. “We found significant savings among patients who used the Health Buddy telehealth program,” the report states, “which was associated with spending reductions of approximately 7.7-13.3 percent ($312-$542) per person per quarter. These results suggest that carefully designed and implemented care management and telehealth programs can help reduce health care spending and that such programs merit continued attention by Medicare.”
A 2012 study by the Home Healthcare Division of Presbyterian Healthcare Services examined the Hospital at Home® model developed by the Johns Hopkins University Schools of Medicine and Public Health, which provides acute hospital-level care within patients’ homes. “Patients show comparable or better clinical outcomes compared with similar inpatients, and they show higher satisfaction levels,” according to the study. “Available to Medicare Advantage and Medicaid patients with common acute care diagnoses, this program achieved savings of 19 percent over costs for similar inpatients. These savings were predominantly derived from lower-average length-of-stay and use of fewer lab and diagnostic tests compared with similar patients in hospital acute care.” Again, broadband technology is critical to the delivery of home-based telemedicine services.
The benefits of broadband-enabled telemedicine are particularly seen in the area of electronic medical records, representing a “greater and more seamless flow of information within a digital health care infrastructure,” according to HealthIT.gov. These benefits include:
- Improved patient care
- Improved care coordination
- Practice efficiencies and cost savings
- Increased patient participation
- Improved diagnostics and patient outcomes