The State of Washington Legislature recently announced the decision to set aside $300,000 of legislative funding to purchase telemedicine kits for PNWU students. The decision arrives hand-in-hand with Senate Bill 5385, which allows telehealth visits to be reimbursed at the same rate as in-person visits.
The funding will allow PNWU to invest in telehealth kits which will be incorporated into the university’s curriculum in an effort to further equip medical students with the training needed to successfully deliver healthcare remotely. As a university with a mission of caring for rural and underserved communities, the technology will be a welcomed addition at PNWU, explained Dr. John Moore, the Chair of PNWU’s Family Medicine Department.
Coincidentally, Dr. Moore first learned of the news remotely as he worked from his home office amidst Washington state’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order. Reflecting on a conversation he had the previous day with an urgent care director working in Walla Walla, WA., he couldn’t help but think of how much better off we would all be if our providers had experience with telehealth starting at the earliest stages of their training.
Thanks to the legislative funding, that thought will soon become a reality for medical students at PNWU.
“Telehealth fits perfectly into our mission,” said Dr. Moore. “We are dedicated to the goal of helping those in underserved areas get care, and telehealth is a potentially powerful tool to help us get that job done.”
"We are dedicated to the goal of helping those in underserved areas get care, and telehealth is a potentially powerful tool to help us get that job done."
The telemedicine kits purchased with the legislative funding will be designed for independent use even in austere environments, explained Dr. Moore. The kits include data gathering, documentation, and communications technology. “We already teach limited telehealth skills to our students,” he said. "With these kits we can expand our teaching and give the students more hands-on experience.”
“When we are talking about telemedicine, we are really talking about the availability of healthcare,” explained Adam Story, PNWU's Director of Development and Strategic Initiatives. Story worked closely with university representatives to help advocate for PNWU and the benefits of telehealth to the state legislature.
“The problem is most current physicians haven’t been trained on how to perform a telehealth visit, and are learning on the fly,” said Story. “These telemedicine kits will give our students early encounters in telehealth so they are prepared for telehealth as physicians.”
“This success is a direct result of passionate advocacy work,” said Dr. Michael Lawler, president of PNWU. “I am eternally grateful for the commitment my colleagues continue to display for not only PNWU, but our shared mission and the health of our communities.”