Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) today announced that Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed telehealth legislation, Senate Bill 3049, into law. It will go into effect on January 1, 2019.
The measure, sponsored by Illinois Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) and Representative Sue Scherer (D-Decatur), requires Medicaid to provide reimbursements for behavioral health telehealth services. Prior to the passage of the legislation, Illinois laws and regulations limited telehealth use and reimbursement, especially for persons insured by Medicaid. The legislation will expand access to telehealth behavioral services for rural, underserved and disadvantaged patient populations throughout the state.
“We are thrilled to see this measure signed into law today by Gov. Rauner, as we know it will continue to expand the services we can provide through telehealth,” said Dr. Gurpreet Mander, chief medical officer at HSHS St. John’s Hospital in Springfield and executive director of the Illinois Telehealth Network. “Many thanks to Sen. Manar and Rep. Scherer for their partnership and work on the bill to pass it through the legislature and bring us here today.”
HSHS has been a pioneering leader and advocate of telehealth technology in Illinois, founding the Illinois Telehealth Network (ITN) through a HRSA Rural Health Network Development grant, other federal grants, and significant matching grants from the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis Foundation. Today the network consists of 26 health organizations across the state, both HSHS affiliates and non-HSHS affiliates. ITN’s mission is to promote the capacity of its members to improve access to health care in rural, underserved and disadvantaged communities through the application of telehealth and telemedicine solutions. ITN’s staff, board and members have received awards for their work in piloting services such as 24/7 emergency room tele-stroke services and direct-to-consumer virtual urgent care.
Telehealth at HSHS boasts 24 sites that use the technology with 10 specialties represented. Eight additional programs for telehealth are currently in development. Since the inception of the services, there have been 7,000 visits, with the number growing each day. All four divisions of HSHS – central Illinois, southern Illinois, eastern Wisconsin, and western Wisconsin – are using tele-stroke services and anytime virtual care for consumers. Other services include psychiatry, cardiology, critical care, and neonatal intensive care.
In the first four years of the HSHS tele-stroke program, more than 1,800 emergency room patients received care from a neurology specialist that may have been hundreds of miles away. Led by HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, O’Fallon and HSHS St. John’s Hospital, Springfield, services are provided to 14 hospitals with 24/7 tele-stroke emergency department coverage in mostly rural sites. In addition, average neuro specialist consult response times are an average of three minutes or less. This technology allows rural emergency departments to videoconference with stroke specialists, which saves precious time for stroke victims. CT scans and other tests are also shared electronically in a tele-stroke consultation. This technology is saving lives of those in rural communities who experience a stroke, where sometimes the rural community has no physicians with specialty stroke training.
A telehealth demonstration was held in Dove Auditorium at the Prairie Heart Institute at HSHS St. John’s Hospital after the bill signing.