Telehealth program highlighted

Supervisors get hands-on demonstration of technology

Fulton County Public Health Director Irina Gelman, who was in another room, gives a a demonstration on the new Teleheath Program to the Board of Supervisors Monday at the County Office Building in Johnstown. Seated is the mock patient, Gloversville 1st Ward Supervisor Marie Born. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton County Board of Supervisors on Monday received a hands-on demonstration of the new Telehealth Program, which will be starting up soon.

County Public Health Director Irina Gelman served as physician, and Gloversville 1st Ward Supervisor Marie Born as the patient during the Telehealth portals demonstration at the board meeting at the County Office Building.

“We are on the cusp of something great here,” Gelman told the board.

She has 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. She said the county has an option to apply for more funding for the program in the future.

Gelman has been instrumental in the Telehealth Program becoming reality in Fulton County.

Fulton County Public Health Director Irina Gelman gives a presentation on the new Teleheath Program to the Board of Supervisors Monday at the County Office Building in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

The new effort began last summer, 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 Telehealth “stations” at Fulton-Montgomery Community College, county Office for Aging and Youth and the county Public Health Department.

“Soon these will all be up and running,” said county Administrative Officer Jon Stead.

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

In the demonstration, Gelman as doctor was in another room and Born as “patient” was at a computer monitor in the Supervisor’s Chambers. The two were able to interface via portals and Gelman asked a variety of questions, as any physician would during an exam. Questions included are you experiencing headaches, chest or abdominal pain, high fever, facial dropping and dizziness.

Gelman said the Telehealth appointments are not meant as cure-alls, as people follow up with their primary care provider in various ways.

Currently, she said there is one large health station set up at both the Public Health Department on Route 29 and the OFA on North William Street.

Gelman said an app for the community will be available, with smart phone access. She said presentations will be given in the area to get people used to this new form of health care interfacing.

The server for the program is housed with the Fulton County IT Department.

Bleecker Supervisor David Howard asked how patients will be scheduled, and Gelman said it would be similar to hospitals with providers on call anyway.

“This is really a point of access rather than a diagnostic tool,” she said of Telehealth.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at