For Finger Lakes
Community Health (FLCH), a rural Federally Qualified
Health Center, a telehealth program was a solution
inspired by tragedy. In 2004, one of FLCH's RNs was
traveling to a Migrant Head Start site to provide
services to children, when she was fatally struck by
another car. Two years later, an FLCH community health
worker suffered brain damage from being hit head-on by
another vehicle after he had just transported a patient
to a specialty care appointment. Both of these incidents
occurred when providers were traveling between FLCH
Something had to be done to prevent future fatalities.
“Our workers compensation insurance was one of
the higher in the state of New York,” said
Director of Special Programs at FLCH, Sirene Garcia.
“The transportation costs and the liability
from going site to site were a huge expense for
FLCH decided to make better use of their staff's time and
reduce the liability insurance expense of providers by
Finger Lakes Telehealth Network (FLTN).
“Telehealth was kind of a
no-brainer,” said Mary Zelazny, CEO of FLCH.
“The return on investment was as great as the
In January 2015, the governor of New York signed a bill
mandating that telemedicine and telehealth be covered by
insurance, with Medicaid also reimbursing for telehealth
services beginning in January of 2016.
Reimbursements have become the Holy Grail of telehealth.
“Reimbursements have become the Holy Grail of
telehealth,” said Zelazny.
FLTN is unique in that it provides an open access network
to more than 20 partnering organizations, including
several health center sites, giving these establishments
the opportunity take advantage of telemedicine, distance
learning, and administrative telepresence applications,
without having to invest time, money, and effort in
infrastructure and network development. Partners are
required to pay a small subscription fee to join the
network, but are able to receive telehealth broadband
services at a 65% discount.
“This enables us to create bridges with other
agencies,” said Garcia. “It forces us
to communicate with each other so providers aren't
working in siloed environments.”
This enables us to create bridges with other agencies.
For patients, telehealth enables them to choose among a
variety of available providers, as well as offering
greater access to specialty care. Primary care providers
are able to work closely with specialists and hear
first-hand recommendations for courses of action. As a
result, quality of care for patients increases with the
greater availability of shared resources.
“It's going to transform our health
system,” said Zelazny. “Telehealth is
going to assist us as we shift to a value-based pay
For FLCH, this telehealth network represents a step
forward in finding ways for patients to receive care,
without increasing transportation costs. Telehealth
utilizes technology to reduce costs in the healthcare
system and improve the quality of care available to
“Better access to care equals better health
outcomes, which in turn means less stress on the
system,” said Zelazny. “That's why we