Telehealth connects patients in remote or underserved areas of the state with medical providers and educators, overcoming barriers of time and distance and delivering health services and education in places that lack those resources. CHCF's support for telehealth is part of its broader mission to promote innovations in health care that can deliver affordable, high-quality care to more Californians. A recent influx of funds into the state for telehealth initiatives created the need for an organisation to co-ordinate efforts.
Millions of dollars in new federal and state funds are available to support an expansion of California's telehealth infrastructure, including approximately a $30-million investment in broadband and connectivity through a pilot programme with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) - the California Telehealth Network (CTN) - and $200 million in Prop 1D infrastructure financing to expand telehealth and medical education through the University of California. The Prop 1D funding, approved by California voters in 2006, includes $10 million for a "Community Investment Fund" to help equip community health care sites partnering with the University of California to enhance access to medical services through telehealth.
"Recent investments by federal and state government give California an unprecedented opportunity to expand telehealth infrastructure statewide and make meaningful improvements in access to care", stated Mark D. Smith, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of CHCF. "Sandra Shewry, with her deep understanding of California's health care system and its challenges, is uniquely qualified to lead this exciting effort."
While the FCC and Prop 1D grant funds will expand the telehealth infrastructure, CCCH will be the co-ordinating body that fosters the vision for its future in California and links together the many groups and individuals necessary to make telehealth a reality.
The California Center for Connected Health will connect stakeholders including state agencies, provider groups, and public and private sector organisations to set the strategy and vision for a sustainable telehealth model in California. "Working together, we can realize telehealth's potential to improve access and quality for underserved populations", stated Sandra Shewry.
For many Californians in remote regions and underserved urban areas, getting access to affordable, quality health care is a major problem. Today, 51 out of 58 California counties face a shortage of medical professionals. Telehealth can help address the shortage of primary care physicians and specialists by optimizing the use of professionals that currently exist.
The California Center for Connected Health will:
- Promote a shared vision for telehealth in California;
- Maintain a broadband technology network to connect providers across the state;
- Support delivery of health care services and information over the network; and
- Promote regulatory and financing changes necessary to sustain the network of services.