March 30, 2021 — NCACH has selected two finalists to move forward after releasing a request for proposals for telehealth infrastructure and access planning in January 2021. The selected proposals are from Ingenium Digital Health Advisors and a team from Washington State University (WSU)’s Division of Governmental Studies and Services and College of Nursing.

The two groups will work collaboratively to:

  • Help NCACH partners and other healthcare and service providers assess their own telehealth needs, and identify solutions to increase their own telehealth capacity.
  • Determine what barriers the community faces when accessing telehealth services and explore alternative models to deliver telehealth to expand service accessibility
    The goal of these efforts are to strengthen our region’s ability to effectively provide telehealth services and reduce existing barriers that keep people from accessing or providing services.

“We know that these barriers beyond access to broadband continue to exist with telehealth services,” says Whole Person Care Collaborative Manager, Wendy Brzezny. While COVID-19 forced many providers to rapidly adopt telehealth services, many providers report that it is common for their clients face to challenges including lack of reliable broadband and lack of access to private spaces and technology for patients to support an optimal setting for telehealth and tele-behavioral health appointments.

In response to some of the challenges created by the rapid expansion of telehealth, there are new opportunities, including evaluating how telehealth services are delivered and accessed. “If we were to design spaces in the community for telehealth delivery, like a private room in a local library with a secure internet connection, or a kiosk, would people utilize them for telehealth appointments? Could we use a similar model to connect students to services in schools? We are looking at ways to provide nontraditional access to resources and services in a way that best reaches people in ways that work best for them,” says Brzezny. The next steps for this work include reaching out to partners and community stakeholders for input and to assess the region’s current telehealth network.

More updates will be shared on these efforts as they progress.