Illini Community Hospital wins PCI Award for telehealth leadership

Rose Ghattas, Holly Jones and Kathleen Hull accept Telehealth Leadership Award

Rose Ghattas (left), Virtual Health Coordinator, Blessing Health System, Holly Jones (middle), Administrative Director of Nursing, Illini Community Hospital, and Kathleen Hull, President/CEO, Illini Community Hospital, accept the 2019 Award for Excellence in Telehealth Leadership from the Partnership for a Connected Illinois.

The Partnership for a Connected Illinois (PCI) recently conducted its 2019 Awards for Excellence in Telehealth Leadership luncheon in Chicago.  These awards are given to organizations and individuals that have made exceptional contributions to advancing telehealth in Illinois on behalf of their members, employees, communities, providers, and patients.

Representative Ryan Spain served as the keynote speaker, talking about the future of telehealth in Illinois. Representative Spain represents the 73rd District of Illinois. Last year, Representative Spain sponsored a bill which unanimously passed the Illinois General Assembly to become law.  The bill provided that, if an insurance policy provides telehealth services, it must reimburse for the services of licensed dietitians and certified diabetic educators who counsel senior diabetic patients by telehealth services provided in their homes.  It also provided that Medicaid must reimburse for those telehealth services to seniors in their home.

This year’s awards showcased four organizations, including Illini Community Hospital, Pittsfield, seeking to provide improved care for underserved populations. Illini Community Hospital took the initiative to bring telemedicine-based health service to its rural and underserved communities by offering inpatient and outpatient cardiology and GI services via telemedicine, as well as outpatient behavioral health services.  ICH partnered with a correctional facility to bring healthcare services to the prison population via telemedicine and is working with other Illinois Telehealth Network members to create a heroin and opioid treatment and education network model through telemedicine. Illini provides 1,500 telehealth visits a year.

"Telemedicine is a win in so many ways. Providers win because they can treat patients in a broader area without wasting time to travel. Patients win because they get the care they need locally without the time or cost of travel, and communities win because they have the ability to have expanded healthcare services in a very cost effective manner," said Kathleen Hull, President/CEO, Illini Community Hospital. "Telehealth allows a population to age in place and improves the economic development of rural areas that otherwise would not have healthcare options."

Other telehealth leadership winners included the Carbondale-based Southern Illinois Healthcare, a non-profit health system spanning the southern third of Illinois. SIH currently operates telehealth inpatient and outpatient programs for stroke, behavioral health, and cardiovascular services.  It also offers maternal fetal medicine services and prompt/urgent care e-visits on an outpatient basis. Recently, the SIH system made a full commitment to integrating telemedicine into its provision of service model by establishing a system-wide telemedicine division. This is a substantial commitment to improve access to primary and specialty care providers and help to remove barriers to access healthcare services for the rural and under-served populations.

Thresholds, a community mental health center that provides healthcare and housing for thousands of people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders, and the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, a 200-bed acute care facility with four community-based outpatient clinics, both located in Chicago, were also honored.

About the Partnership for Connected Illinois

Partnership for a Connected Illinois (PCI) is an Illinois 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The organization was formed in 2009 with the mission to ensure broadband access throughout the state of Illinois and to maximize its impact and adoption. PCI oversaw the expenditure of over $305 million for the expansion of broadband over 3,593 miles in Illinois. In 2015, with the completion of its Federal grants, PCI shifted its focus to broadband adoption through the use of telehealth. PCI created a project, the Illinois Telehealth Initiative, which conducts educational events on telehealth law, organizes telehealth demonstration projects, and recognizes organizations that have demonstrated leadership in advancing telehealth in Illinois.