Fulton County telehealth initiative moves forward

JOHNSTOWN — Fulton County supervisors last week authorized acceptance of nearly $17,000 in state funds for the county Public Health Department’s new telehealth pilot initiative.

The Board of Supervisors’ Human Services Committee voted Tuesday to accept $16,900 in funding through the North Country Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment, or DSRIP Program. An agreement is proposed for five years. The full board will vote Feb. 13 on the final resolution.

Watertown-based North Country Health Compass Partners supports initiatives to transform the healthcare delivery system, improve clinical outcomes and improve population health, according to its website. Its existing statewide DSRIP initiative focuses on reducing avoidable hospital use by 25 percent over five years, the site says.

County Public Health Director Irina Gelman said Friday the pilot telehealth program involving connections to St. Mary’s Hospital and Nathan Littauer Hospital is scheduled to start in the spring.

Gelman said recently that telehealth applications are being used in rural areas such as Fulton County.

Telehealth allows those in rural areas to visit a doctor over a video call. Gelman said the consultations include vital statistic-taking, such as blood pressure cuffs.

Gelman said Fulton County’s telehealth initiative includes Fulton-Montgomery Community College — the epicenter of the project. The college hosts a telehealth location in the physical education building. Other telehealth locations include the Fulton County Office for the Aging and Youth and the county health department.

Gelman told supervisors funds are being received on behalf of both her department and the OFA.

Gloversville 6th Ward Supervisor Warren Greene, chairman of the Human Services Committee, said Wednesday that Gelman will give another telehealth report at the committee’s next session on Feb. 28.

“She’s going to come back next [meeting] with a lot more detail,” Greene said. “Right now, they’re just on a pilot program with the three areas.”

Gelman told the committee that utilizing the DSRIP funding, in collaboration with the community, the telehealth program is a pilot for a larger scale countywide telehealth initiative.

She said telehealth serves county residents by improving access to care leading to disease prevention and risk reduction.

Gelman said the initiative is viable, and capable of being sustained long-term and has the potential to impact all county residents. She said telehealth also provides a “positive public health impact” in this region and is at the forefront of health innovation.