Design and Initial Results of the Minneapolis Heart Institute TeleHeart Program
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Goals and Vision of the Program
Telehealth is an emerging care delivery method that is defined by the use of electronic information and telecommunication technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, and public health.1 Telehealth is emerging into chronic condition management and settings outside of the acute care hospital.2 The American Heart Association has recognized telehealth as critically important in the future of cardiac care—both to reduce the burden of disease and costs.3 However, there are limited reports of successful implementation of cardiac telehealth programs beyond heart failure monitoring and acute care settings.4 We report the design and initial results of a regional cardiac telehealth system, the Minneapolis Heart Institute (MHI) TeleHeart program.
The MHI has 36 clinic outreach sites across Minnesota and Wisconsin, ranging from 8 to 129 miles from the primary hospital, Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, MN (Figure). Many outreach sites have cardiology presence once a week or more, but more distant and rural sites may have on-site cardiologist presence only once or twice a month. These more distant rural sites were experiencing significant delays to cardiology appointments (range, 2.5 to 7.5 weeks) or challenging travel requirements for timely access to outpatient cardiology consultation, particularly in inclement weather.
Therefore, the MHI TeleHeart program was designed to improve patient access to care in rural Minnesota by decreasing wait times and travel for specialty cardiovascular care. The program was also designed to enhance regional partnerships and increase cardiovascular subspecialty availability at rural locations.
Local Challenges in Implementation
There were several barriers to program development and implementation.
Logistical: How will the physical examination be conducted? How does the group staff the visits?
Acceptance: Would …