SPRINGFIELD, IL – Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) today announced that Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law Senate Bill 3049.  It is effective January 1, 2019.

The measure, sponsored by Illinois Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) and Representative Sue Scherer (D-Decatur), requires Medicaid to provide reimbursements for behavioral health telehealth services.  Prior to the passage of the legislation, Illinois laws and regulations limited telehealth use and reimbursement, especially for persons insured by Medicaid.  The legislation will expand access to telehealth behavioral services for rural, underserved and disadvantaged patient populations throughout the state. 

“We are thrilled to see this measure signed into law today by Gov. Rauner, as we know it will continue to expand the services we can provide through telehealth,” said Dr. Gurpreet Mander, chief medical officer at HSHS St. John’s Hospital in Springfield and executive director of the Illinois Telehealth Network. “Many thanks to Sen. Manar and Rep. Scherer for their partnership and work on the bill to pass it through the legislature and bring us here today.”  

HSHS has been a pioneering leader and advocate of telehealth technology in Illinois, founding the Illinois Telehealth Network (ITN) through a HRSA Rural Health Network Development grant, other federal grants, and significant matching grants from the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis Foundation.  Today the network consists of 26 health organizations across the state, both HSHS affiliates and non-HSHS affiliates.  ITN’s mission is to promote the capacity of its members to improve access to health care in rural, underserved and disadvantaged communities through the application of telehealth and telemedicine solutions.  ITN’s staff, board and members have received awards for their work in piloting services such as 24/7 emergency room tele-stroke services and direct-to-consumer virtual urgent care. 

Telehealth at HSHS boasts 24 sites that use the technology with 10 specialties represented.  Eight additional programs for telehealth are currently in development.  Since the inception of the services, there have been 7,000 visits, with the number growing each day.  All four divisions of HSHS – central Illinois, southern Illinois, eastern Wisconsin, and western Wisconsin – are using tele-stroke services and anytime virtual care for consumers.  Other services include psychiatry, cardiology, critical care, and neonatal intensive care.  

In the first four years of the HSHS tele-stroke program, more than 1,800 emergency room patients received care from a neurology specialist that may have been hundreds of miles away.  Led by HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, O’Fallon and HSHS St. John’s Hospital, Springfield, services are provided to 14 hospitals with 24/7 tele-stroke emergency department coverage in mostly rural sites.  In addition, average neuro specialist consult response times are an average of three minutes or less.  This technology allows rural emergency departments to videoconference with stroke specialists, which saves precious time for stroke victims.  CT scans and other tests are also shared electronically in a tele-stroke consultation.  This technology is saving lives of those in rural communities who experience a stroke, where sometimes the rural community has no physicians with specialty stroke training. 

St. Elizabeth’s recently received the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines®-Stroke Silver Plus Quality Achievement Award. The award recognizes the hospital’s commitment to ensuring stroke patients receive the most appropriate treatment according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence. The investment and utilization of a telehealth  robot was a major factor in achieving this recognition.  

St. Elizabeth’s is a designated Illinois Emergent Stroke Ready Hospital (ESRH) authorized to administer tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) which is the only FDA approved drug treatment for ischemic strokes. Telehealth provides patients access to top medical specialists who can beam in via the robot, evaluate the patient and perform a stroke assessment.

As recently as August 13, State Representative Katie Stuart visited St. Elizabeth’s Hospital to meet with hospital leadership and watch a demonstration of the Telehealth robotic equipment. Telehealth Project Manager Erin Kochan conducted the demonstration along with Intensivist Dr. Mahmoud El-Sayed of Vituity.
Photo:  State Representative Katie Stuart visited HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital recently to meet to watch a demonstration of the telehealth robotic equipment. Telehealth Project Manager Erin Kochan conducted the demonstration along with Intensivist Dr. Mahmoud El-Sayed of Vituity. Stuart was also joined by St. Elizabeth’s president and CEO Patti Fisher and Dr. Loren Hughes, president of HSHS Medical Group.
About Illinois Telehealth Network
The ITN is an established federal 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation comprised health care organizations that are committed to the following mission and vision: Mission: ITN promotes the capacity of Members to improve access to health care in rural, underserved and disadvantaged communities, through the application of telehealth and telemedicine solutions. Vision: ITN will connect and share resources, strengthen rural health care and save lives.  ITN strives to support all facets of telemedicine services—including technology, care delivery best practices/protocols and billing/reimbursement—and assists members in identifying and implementing solutions to strengthen rural healthcare and support patient care in their respective facilities.  For more information, visit www.illinoistelehealthnetwork.org.

Media Contact

Kelly Barbeau

Manager, Marketing & Communications
HSHS Illinois
Office: (618) 234-2120, Ext. 41270

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