Southeast District Celebrates 20 Years of Telehealth

December 5, 2013

It was November 1993. The No. 1 song in the U.S. was "I would do anything for love (But I won't do that)," by Meatloaf. The movies playing at the local theater included "Mrs. Doubtfire" and "The Three Musketeers." Bill Clinton was the president. Gas cost between $.99 and $1.29 per gallon. Milk was just $2.27.  

Telehealth in the Southeast Health District in 1993.

Something else happened that month that would forever change Georgia’s Southeast Health District. On Nov. 16, 1993, the first patient consultation took place in the Ware County Health Department via the Georgia Statewide Academic and Medical System (GSAMS) videoconferencing network, now known as telehealth. 

Twenty years later, the Southeast Health District continues to lead the way in telehealth services, now acting as an operations center for the Georgia Department of Public Health's (DPH) telehealth network, which currently includes nearly 200 sites across Georgia. It continues to grow.

"We're getting ready to bring on more than 40 more sites," said Jackie Woodard, Southeast Health District telehealth manager.

The Southeast district was the first in the state to build telehealth capabilities and integrate them into its client services, such as HIV consultations, evaluations for the Babies Can’t Wait program and children’s medical services such as genetics counseling, asthma and consults for other pediatric specialties.

Suleima Salgado, DPH’s telehealth director, said the district made it possible for DPH to build its current telehealth network, which includes nearly all of Georgia’s 159 counties.

“The Southeast Health District was the first district to implement telehealth and continues to set the tone for the entire state,” Salgado said. “Their expertise in this field has allowed DPH to have the first state-run public health telehealth networks in the nation.”

Telehealth in 2013.

Every clinic and district building in the Southeast Health District has telehealth capabilities. Today, the district has expanded its services to include telemedicine and teledentistry.

From its inception to its current state, the telehealth program has seen enormous changes. Equipment is much more sophisticated, faster and easier to use. With funding primarily through the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and U.S. Department of Agriculture Special Projects, the Southeast Health District will continue to be a telehealth leader not only in Georgia, but in the nation.

Happy 20th anniversary, telehealth!

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