Office of Telehealth & Telemedicine
Georgia’s Department of Public Health (DPH) has established a telemedicine network that is recognized as one of the most robust and comprehensive public health telemedicine networks in the nation and a best-practices model of care to bring specialized care to underserved and rural areas of Georgia. While several agencies across the state have the ability for two-way video conferencing, DPH expanded the use of their infrastructure to provide health care services over our own, secure, HIPAA compliant network to clients across Georgia.
Telehealth (video conferencing) connectivity is available in all 159 county health department. Utilization of this platform includes but is not limited to individualized nutrition education counseling to expectant mothers and their children, breastfeeding education, emergency preparedness planning efforts, epidemiology remote monitoring to case management, nurse evaluations, briefings, statewide meetings, trainings, and Project ECHO sessions for provider peer to peer education. Not only did DPH expand the role in telehealth, but they have also given their private network the capacity to deliver telemedicine, medical services such as dental care, HIV care, pediatric specialty care such as diabetes clinics, tele-audiology, genetics, neurosurgery, asthma clinics, monitoring of high-risk pregnancies, and much more, allowing connection to partners and providers ANYWHERE (patients at home, hospitals, universities, private practice offices, etc.).
DPH has over 50 telemedicine solutions deployed to health districts around the state, each equipped with a stethoscope, otoscope and a general exam camera. Cart solutions are placed in county health departments, while mobile solutions are stationed at the district level and can be deployed or placed throughout the state, as needed. An additional 50 solutions are expected to be deployed in the next two years. To date, there are approximately 500 end points connected to the network. In addition to permanent endpoints located at the network sites, secure connections can be made with other networks and mobile clients, allowing services to be provided at non-traditional sites and with partners outside of the DPH network.
The department has implemented a hybrid network model comprised of on-premise and internet-based technologies, allowing us to scale the network, as needed and has installed dedicated circuits throughout the state to ensure that clinics had the bandwidth necessary to support telehealth solutions.
The Georgia Department of Public Health relies on $2.4 million in annual state funding dedicated to telehealth to maintain the infrastructure of the network. Additional programmatic funding at the local level comes from state, county, and grant funds. The DPH telehealth network is one of the most robust and comprehensive public health telemedicine networks in the nation and is touted by both ASTHO and the American Telemedicine Association as a best-practice model of care.
Background: The original network buildout began in 2003 after pilot projects were initiated in the Augusta and Waycross health districts to collect data on utilization, efficiency, effectiveness and staff and patient satisfaction. Immediately following began a phased expansion of the original hub and the addition of four districts (Coastal, Dalton, Dekalb, Gainesville). Expansion continued throughout the next 14 years, with a priority program expansion push in 2012 by DPHs Commissioner, Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., until all 159 counties in Georgia were connected to the network in 2016
Suleima Salgado, MBA
Director of Telehealth, Telemedicine and Rural Health Initiatives, ECHO Project Manager
Georgia Department of Public Health
2 Peachtree St., NW
Atlanta, GA 30303-3142