Looking to expand regional access to telehealth, the NCACH Governing Board has earmarked up to $2 million to support building out regional infrastructure and access to this form of health services for communities in North Central Washington.

The NCACH Governing Board authorized the funds during the group’s monthly meeting on April 4.  Plans call for the money to be distributed to clinical and community partners over the course of 2 ½ years to support how they can assist in enhancing our region’s telehealth capabilities.

Use of telehealth services nationwide has risen during the past two years.  In 2021, NCACH began working with Ingenium Digital Health Advisors to assess the telehealth status and capabilities of our region’s clinical partners.  Additional work was conducted with the assistance of Washington State University’s Division of Governmental Studies and Services and the WSU School of Nursing to assess the needs and interests of providing telehealth in North Central Washington.  WSU was also involved in studying some of the current challenges and opportunities in bringing telehealth resources to the region.

“Many of our partners don’t have resources to invest in adding new services, such as telehealth,” said Wendy Brzezny, NCACH’s director of Clinical Integration.  “It can be costly due to capital investments, and it can tax limited staff capacity because they will have to learn new technology and do things in new ways.”

She added:  “By giving clinical and community partners a boost and assistance from expert consultants, organizations can get over this hurdle. And that’s important for our region, because residents travel large distances between home, work, and healthcare services.  Those who don’t have reliable transportation — including people who struggle economically or have disabilities — feel the negative impacts the most.”

NCACH plans to invest in clinical partners to optimize their systems, and to work with community partners such as the NCW Library system, community centers, and schools to build out infrastructure and provide technical support that will assist residents in accessing telehealth.

Improving the telehealth system in our region will help provide another way for individuals to access care locally.  This work will also help remove the geographic and socioeconomic barriers in accessing services, information, health specialists, and educational resources for both healthcare professionals as well as patients.