Hawai‘i, Alaska joined by health-care partnering agreement

Representatives of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) and the Alaska Federal Health Care Partnership (AFHCP) have signed an agreement in Honolulu to cooperate in the development and fielding of telehealth technology throughout the Pacific region.

The medical school’s Telehealth Research Institute and AFHCP will strive to bring better health care to more people at a lower cost through telehealth, which is the delivery of health-related services and information via telecommunications technologies. Telehealth is an expansion of telemedicine—encompassing preventive, promotive and curative aspects of health-care delivery as well a myriad of technology solutions.

Beneficiaries of the agreement, which was signed this afternoon at the medical school in Kakaako, will be the residents of Hawai‘i and Alaska, including federal health-care beneficiaries, those living in remote areas, and other Pacific Island native peoples.

Shaking hands after signing the agreement are (L to R) Samuel Johnson (Director, Alaska Federal Health Care Partnership), Jerris Hedges (Dean, UH Med School), Alex Spector (Director, Alaska Veterans Affairs Healthcare System), and Richard Dubanoski (Dean, UH College of Social Sciences)

Both states have similar challenges in heath care, notes JABSOM’s Sven-Erik Bursell, director of the Diabetes Telehealth Program in the Telehealth Research Institute. “They both have remote, rural settings that make it a challenge to deliver health care, and native peoples who suffer from disproportionately higher rates of serious illness including metabolic disorders such as diabetes,” he says. “In addition, JABSOM is the only accredited medical school in the nation with a department dedicated to the health of native peoples [Department of Native Hawaiian Health] and so, with that responsibility, we have shared endeavors with Alaska in the past and will continue to do so in the future.”

To facilitate the partnership, JABSOM’s Telehealth Research Institute will leverage its recently funded three-year, $980,000 grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration to establish the Pacific Basin Telehealth Resource Center. Preceding the establishment of the center, the Telehealth Research Institute led the Hawai‘i Telehealth Collaborative and Hawai‘i Telehealth Task Force. With 10 years of experience in eHealth Chronic Disease Management, the Telehealth Research Institute has ongoing research and development efforts in tele-homecare projects, chronic disease management in the telehealth arena, and lifestyle decision support for diabetic patients.

The AFHCP, which began in 1995, represents eight federally funded health-care activities in Alaska. It is in the second year of a three-year $750,000 federal Health Resources and Services Administration grant for Home Telehealth Monitoring. The AFHCP works to improve care quality and access to care for Alaskan federal beneficiaries, including those serviced by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium’s six regional native hospitals, and 39 independent native health agencies and their 203 tribal health centers and clinics statewide.

Alaskan residents using the home telehealth monitor. Like Hawaii, Alaska has remote regions where telehealth technology can improve access to health care.

Home telehealth monitor used by Alaskan residents in remote areas.

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