A not-for-profit startup company is finding a niche in Mississippi, offering telemedicine services in a variety of underserved areas while crafting partnerships that link patients in rural areas with providers.

TeleHealthONE is the state’s only private telemedicine company, and it’s using a cloud-based product to link patients with providers, testing approaches that will enable healthcare to be provided in a variety of community settings.

David Powe, former chief administrative officer for the University of Mississippi Medical Center, is the CEO of the new company. He retired from the medical center in June 2013, but caught a vision for how telemedicine could bring care to underserved areas of the state.

“A lot of people today don’t have primary care physicians, and they’re using ERs to get primary care,” Powe says. “With all the negative health indicators that we have in Mississippi, we’re just trying to provide better access to healthcare and serve the needs of the population in a rural state.”

TeleHealthONE is taking advantage of incentives intended to promote telemedicine initiatives in the state. At the urging of Gov. Phil Bryant, Mississippi recently enacted a law requiring health insurance plans to provide coverage for telemedicine services at the same level that the services would be covered if they were provided in person.

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The state continues to wrestle with health trends that require healthcare intervention. For example, Mississippi is tied for last in the nation for percent of residents considered medically obese (35 percent) and is last in the number of residents per 1,000 diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, just to name a few of the health challenges. At the same time, preventive health services are spotty, particularly in rural areas of the state.

That’s where Powe believes telemedicine can make a difference. TeleHealthONE is forging partnerships with providers to increase the availability of health services. “On your own, you can’t be as strong as when you have good partners,” Powe says. As traditional provider organizations take on population health initiatives, they realize they need to expand care services to more people, and telemedicine services make sense as they try to cost-effectively offer early-stage care to more people.

In business for only a year, the company utilizes SnapMD's advanced Virtual Care Management platform. SnapMD enables providers to brand its telemedicine cloud software platform as their own to virtually connect with patients and colleagues. TeleHealthONE uses nurse practitioners to handle patient interactions, with a physician available for overview of cases.

Even though it’s in the early phases of business, the company has been able to demonstrate that it’s not in competition with providers, Powe says. “Some people see us as competition, but we’re trying to be complementary to existing health organizations,” he adds. “We are trying to increase the number of people who connect to healthcare, and we feel we can increase the base of people who are receiving healthcare.”

TeleHealthONE is doing so by testing care connections in different venues. For example, it has established a telemedicine presence in a long-term care facility in the state, enabling consistent, cost-effective care for its residents.

The vendor also is working on a plan that would place telehealth-based clinics in drug stores operated by fred’s Inc., which operates a chain of about 100 pharmacies, many of which are housed in the same building as fred’s Super Dollar stores throughout the state. That would give the pharmacies the ability to provide a virtual retail clinic experience and extend the reach of healthcare services in underserved areas, Powe says. One site is in operation now, with a plan to expand telemedicine services to 10 pharmacies over the next couple months, he adds. Telemedicine also could aid the reach of specialty services, such as physical therapy, occupational and speech therapy and even psychological services, Powe believes.

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