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Implementation Considerations for Telehealth Programs Serving People Who Are Incarcerated

Providing telehealth services to people who are incarcerated in rural correctional facilities can ensure that inmates receive timely access to care. Telehealth programs can also help reduce safety risks to security personnel as well as costs, such as those associated with inmate transportation.

One study of telepsychiatry in prison settings found that technical issues were the most persistent challenge to providing telehealth services in correctional facilities, due to strong firewall protections that can make it difficult to gain internet access to the facilities. Other barriers include unreliable servers that can make it difficult to maintain live-video connection. Rural telehealth programs seeking to provide services to people in correctional facilities may need to build strong relationships with prison administrators in order to find ways to overcome technical barriers to telehealth adoption.

One important consideration for implementing telehealth in correctional facilities is the need for private spaces to hold consults. When small, private spaces are not available for telehealth visits, correctional facilities may be able to convert a larger area into separate cubicles, but privacy of each patient must be maintained.

Resources to Learn More

State Prisons Turn to Telemedicine to Improve Health and Save Money
Describes the benefits and challenges of implementing telehealth services in a state prison for treating prisoners. Discusses improved access to specialty care for prisoners, lessening the security risk for providers, and reduction in cost of care.
Author(s): Ollove, M.
Date: 1/2016

Telehealth and Telecommunication Opportunities in the Criminal Justice System
Provides examples of how telehealth can support the criminal justice system by increasing access to screening for behavioral health, case management, counseling, and medication management.
Organization(s): Council of State Governments Justice Center
Date: 1/2021

Telehealth: Increasing Access to High Quality Care by Expanding the Role of Technology in Correctional Medicine
Presents the results of a literature review demonstrating the uses and benefits of telemedicine that could lead to increased access to care, improved clinical outcomes, and decreased costs when implemented in prisons and correctional facilities.
Author(s): Young, J.D. & Badowski, M.E.
Citation: Journal of Clinical Medicine, 6(2), 20
Date: 2/2017