County’s telehealth efforts making strides

Fulton County Public Health Director Irina Gelman gives a update on the Telehealth Program at the Board of Supervisors’ Human Services Committee meeting Tuesday at the County Office Building in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton County Public Health Department’s Telehealth program is making great strides, especially with Fulton-Montgomery Community College.

The program begun last summer is aimed at aimed at improving health care access throughout the county and decreasing rehospitalizations and unnecessary emergency room visits. The aim is eventually to provide the residents of the county, which has many rural areas, with easier physical and electronic access to health care providers through FMCC, county Office for Aging and Youth and the county Public Health Department.

Participants will have ready access to their health care providers, whether it be physicians, physician assistants or nurse practitioners. This can include clients’ minor-to-major emergent health issues or something as routine as prescription refills.

County Public Health Director Irina Gelman gave a Telehealth update Tuesday to the Board of Supervisors’ Human Services Committee. She said there will be more information Feb. 12 at the Board of Supervisors session.

“We will have a demo in time for the full board meeting,” she said.

Gelman said Fulton County is the first county in the United States to implement a “countywide Telehealth initiative” to provide a “viable solution” to the increased need for improved access to care.

“This innovative project includes the integration of public education and prevention, in the expanded access to care model,” Gelman said. “The benefits of Telehealth include evidence-based cost and time effectiveness and may have a major impact on overall health outcomes in our community.”

In collaboration with the community and the Board of Supervisors, Gelman said Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment engagement funding has been utilized to set up health stations at FMCC, OFA and the Public Health Department.

She said an encrypted complaint platform is utilized to connect county residents — in real time — to a healthcare provider at Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville and St. Mary’s Healthcare in Amsterdam, or any other provider of choice.

The server is housed with the Fulton County IT Department.

Gelman said Telehealth is viable and capable of being sustained long-term, and provides a positive public health impact for Fulton County residents.

The county official said the plan is to provide Telehealth to other parts of of the county, “hopefully, very, very soon.”

Gloversville 1st Ward Supervisor Marie Born, committee chairwoman, said when Gelman was hired a few years ago her Telehealth initiative was a “farfetched dream,” and now it is coming to fruition.

“We have Irina to thank,” Born said. “It’s wonderful. We’re so fortunate to have your insight.”

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]

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