The future of telehealth services in Alabama

Special Reports

BIRMINGHAM, Ala (WIAT) – Advances in technology are helping people living in rural areas gain access to healthcare through telehealth.

Telehealth technology allows a clinician to examine a patient from a different location with the use of live or recorded video or Bluetooth enabled medical examination tools. Telehealth has been used for years but continues to advance as technology advances. 

CBS 42 spoke with instructors in the School of Nursing at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, to learn how nursing school students are getting prepared to use telehealth technology. Tedra Smith is an assistant professor at UAB. Tedra Smith says students are learning about the barriers to telehealth, the latest advancements, and policies dealing with telehealth and it’s usage. The program at UAB focuses on learning to provide telehealth services to people living in rural areas.

“This is going to be how we receive our care,” said Tedra Smith, “There are already so many people, especially in the rural areas where hospitals are closing, clinics are closing, and this is the only way to receive care. So it’s important to us here at the UAB School of Nursing that we prepare our students to not only be able to use this equipment but be able to deliver care this way because we see it as the future.”

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is partnering with UAB Hospital and other hospitals in the state to also provide telehealth services. Michael Smith is Director of Telehealth for ADPH. Michael Smith says telehealth will ultimately benefit the people of Alabama.

“Access to care is a tremendous problem to Alabama where we have a lack of specialist, lack of providers,” said Michael Smith. “Telehealth can help provide those services to rural areas.” 

Michael Smith says ADPH is expanding its services. ADPH established telehealth services at 55 county health departments in the state. ADPH expected to expand telehealth services to 65 county health departments by this summer. Michael Smith believes telehealth services will expand drastically over the next 5 to 10 years.

“With advancements in the industry, you’re going to see not only, carts like this in a clinic setting, but you’re going to see entrepreneurs getting this type of technology into public venues,” said Michael Smith.

Tedra Smith says UAB will continue to ensure future medical professionals are prepared for a medical field embracing technology to provide healthcare to those in need.

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