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Teleretinal Program Roadmap for Community Health Centers

Best Practices from Telehealth Executive, Richard Albrecht

Leveraging his vast healthcare experience, Richard Albrecht provides pivotal leadership and telehealth insight to a group of Community Health Centers in Connecticut. As the Executive Director, Telehealth Network, for seven Community Health Centers that are part of Community Health Network of Connecticut Holdings, Inc. (CHNCTH), he focuses on developing and executing a telemedicine roadmap. In this role, Albrecht has transformed access to care for patients across the state. The implementation of a teleretinal program was one of the first initiatives he introduced to the organization in 2017.

“Teleretinal screening is fully aligned with transforming our practices to value-based care and enables our patients to get another important healthcare service without having to go elsewhere.”

Richard Albrecht
Executive Director, Telehealth Network, Community Health Network of Connecticut Holdings, Inc.

Initial focus on a teleretinal program was based on the challenging HEDIS scores the Centers were experiencing for diabetic annual eye exams. Albrecht researched different solutions and ultimately selected Welch Allyn’s RetinaVue care delivery model for CHNCTH to pilot in two centers. Following a successful pilot, another seven centers adopted the program over the next 24 months.

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The RetinaVue care delivery model is designed for primary care to help increase diabetic retinal exam compliance and improve patient outcomes and quality measures. The model consists of three core components:

  • Welch Allyn’s RetinaVue 700 Imager – an easy-to-use and affordable handheld retinal camera.
  • HIPAA-compliant, FDA-cleared RetinaVue Network software that integrates with EMRs.
  • Ophthalmologists and retina specialists at RetinaVue, P.C. interpret images and prepare a comprehensive diagnostic report delivered back to the provider electronically in one business day. Solution configurations are flexible and customers can choose to have images read by RetinaVue, P.C. specialists, or their own eye specialists.

Solution Selection

Several factors drove the CHNCTH leadership team to select the RetinaVue care delivery model for its Centers.

  • First was the portability of the cameras. Albrecht and his team felt a handheld camera would provide the most efficient workflow options for the Centers. “The team wanted a handheld device. We did not want to have to make the investment and deal with all the complications that come with a tabletop camera,” said Albrecht.
  • Ease of use was the next most significant attribute. Welch Allyn’s RetinaVue 700 Imager has been a game changer for the Centers’ staff. Training and adoption of the device has been successful, and staff are able to capture readable images quickly and easily on patients.
  • Last was the flexibility to manage overreads of exams with their own specialists.

Best Practices for Success

Albrecht offers several best practices for Community Health Centers considering a teleretinal program.

Strong Leadership Team

Like any telehealth initiative, having alignment from the Health Center’s leadership team is critical to success. “You need to have a good, strong leader who believes in the program and creates the expectation that the Center will make an investment to improve care and staff will utilize this new resource,” says Albrecht.

Establishing an Efficient Workflow

“The RetinaVue care delivery model allowed our teams to easily integrate retinal exams into our existing workflows,” says Albrecht. Centers put protocols in place to identify patients with diabetes in need of exams and use standing orders to streamline workflows. Medical assistants are trained to complete screening exams and use handheld cameras in different exam rooms for workflow flexibility.

Stay Focused on the Goal of Closing Care Gaps

If the driver for the program is quality care, it’s important to track and monitor how the program impacts care gaps. Albrecht recalls how one of the Center’s Chief Medical Officers reacted to the implementation: “This is great stuff. It is all about closing gaps in care. This will help us achieve that and why we made the investment.”

The Value of Ongoing Support

One of the unique aspects of CHNCTH’s relationship with Baxter, as they have continued to add devices for their Centers, is the support Account Managers and Customer Success Specialists provide. Albrecht’s experience with how quickly different Centers are able to pick up the new workflows and use the devices with patients varies. He relies on regular touchpoints with the Baxter team for insight into how to scale the program and drive the desired utilization across the Centers.

Albrecht recalls one Center that was only completing a handful of screenings per month. He reached out to the Chief Nursing Officer who was open to support from Baxter. The Baxter team provided valuable re-training sessions to reinforce workflows and proper technique for using the RetinaVue 700 Imager. As a result, the Center experienced a significant increase in screening volume.

Prioritizing Patient Care

The teleretinal program continues to be a focus for CHNCTH. The number of Health Centers that have joined the CHNCTH teleretinal program has grown to nine. Cameras are now in more than 30 primary care locations across Connecticut, which is more than half of the Federally Qualified Health Centers in the state. CHNCTH relies on support from Baxter to increase utilization and ensure patients have access to the care they need. “Our teleretinal program helps us to provide a full circle of care for our patients living with diabetes,” said Albrecht. “Teleretinal screening is fully aligned with transforming our practices to value-based care and enables our patients to get another important healthcare service without having to go elsewhere.”

* Baxter, Hillrom, RetinaVue and Welch Allyn are trademarks of Baxter International Inc. or its subsidiaries. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.