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Samsung partnership improves telehealth for rural hospitals
- March 14, 2022
- Steve Rogerson
Samsung, Vitalchat and Equum Medical have formed a telehealth partnership for rural hospitals.
As the Covid-19 pandemic’s toll worsens, the Access4Health programme offers support for grants, technology and physician expertise to promote equal access to care resources.
The same forces that are plaguing urban hospitals today – severe staff shortages from workers contracting Covid, nurse and physician burnout from the pandemic, overflowing emergency beds, and underused medical-surgical beds – are even more profound at rural hospitals. They were already underserved by physicians before Covid, and lack the resources to deploy costly staffing agencies.
Telehealth is becoming a critical piece of staffing across the USA, but rural hospitals struggle to pay for enterprise software designed primarily for large health systems, which have access to large information technology departments to implement them. Critical access and small community hospitals also lack staff with the expertise or time to take advantage of non-profit and state and federal grant funding for such initiatives.
To answer this challenge, two telehealth companies – Virginia-based Vitalchat and New York firm Equum Medical – and South Korean consumer electronics giant Samsung have joined forces on a project called Access4Health. Each represents a vital leg of the telehealth stool:
- People: Equum Medical delivers remote care from the right provider at the right time, from intensive care to specialists to expert nurses, using whatever technology the hospital staff has.
- Technology: Vitalchat delivers telehealth securely through its lower-cost software, connecting caregivers, patients and families using existing workflows. The company also has a number of affordable hardware options.
- Funding: Samsung has specialised resources that can help organisations identify eligibility and apply for a wide range of government and non-profit funding programmes that target rural health access and health equity.
“Telehealth is the great equaliser in medicine, and it is needed to bring life-saving medical interventions in cases where the local hospital lacks specialists, which we find almost everywhere,” said Corey Scurlock, CEO of Equum. “The problem has been that a solution that is affordable and tailored to a small hospital’s unique needs has proved elusive. Until now.”
Ghafran Abbas, Vitalchat’s CEO, added: “We know that if telehealth is to meet the needs of rural America, it needs be effortless for staff to use at a price that is actually affordable. We built a new software platform that can quickly and easily integrate into existing workflows, requires zero management from staff, and gives physicians the freedom to virtually round on patients at will.”
In the design process of this collaboration, executives of Equum Medical and VitalChat turned to Samsung because of its experience in linking innovation to funding in telehealth.
“There is a wealth of funding programmes available for rural health, but often it goes unused because it takes specialised grant writing skills to convey the importance of a project to the grantors,” said Ken Honeycutt, director of healthcare at Samsung Electronics. “We at Samsung, in partnership with the Grants Office, are proud to be a part of this effort to connect rural providers with the kinds of medical expertise previously only found in large, urban academic medical centres.”
While a national initiative, this collaboration will target states with evidenced shortages in beds and staff as tracked by Health & Human Services (HHS) databases. Commercial teams are preparing to present additional information and book executive briefings for early adopters on this initiative at this week’s HIMSS Conference in Orlando.