In previous posts on the Public Sector View, we’ve looked at the benefits that video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions could deliver to patients in rural areas that may be unable to receive certain healthcare services due to convenience and distance. However, what happens when more than distance separates a patient from the healthcare that they need? What if it’s the thick walls of a correctional facility?
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were more than 740,000 people incarcerated in America’s county and city prisons at midyear in 2012. Like every other American, these individuals suffer from sickness, chronic conditions and other medical problems. Unlike the rest of America, these individuals can’t simply drive to their family physician or a specialist to receive treatment.
Getting medical attention for prison inmates can be a difficult and expensive process for many state and local governments. Inmates in need of healthcare services from a specialist often require transportation from their correctional facility to hospitals. Transporting inmates presents the largest opportunity for escape, which means that inmates leaving correctional facilities have to do so securely, with guards. This travel and utilization of a prison guard comes at a cost to the state.
And this problem and cost is only increasing. America’s prison population remains relatively steady, but did increase by 1.2 percent (approximately 9,000 inmates) last year. And inmate populations are also aging, leading to an increase in the amount of medical attention they require.
The use of telemedicine solutions in these implementations helps to overcome two major challenges that are facing states. First, telemedicine is helping to provide access to a broader range of healthcare services to prison inmates. Second, telemedicine solutions eliminate the need to transport inmates, decreasing the time and money spent transporting inmates to medical facilities.
It’s for this reason that American correctional institutions are embracing telemedicine as a way to get patients the healthcare services they need. According to a recent article in Government Computer News, states such as Colorado, Louisiana and Wyoming are turning to VTC solutions to deliver medical professionals to prisons.
According to the article, the Colorado Department of Corrections is launching a pilot program that will provide rheumatology, infectious disease, orthopedics and general surgery services to inmates. The Wyoming Department of Prison Health Services conducted approximately 2,000 physician visits via VTC in 2011. Also, the Louisiana Department of Corrections is expected to increase telemedicine access for inmates by nearly 600 percent. This growth is a testament to the benefits that telemedicine delivers to both inmates and the state.
Telemedicine solutions are capable of delivering quality healthcare services to those that previously didn’t have access to them – whether they’re simply geographically isolated or incarcerated. In today’s difficult budget environment, it makes sense to utilize these solutions in prisons to not only bring a broad range of healthcare services to inmates, but also reduce the cost that used to be associated with getting inmates the medical attention they required.