telemedicine for patients

We recognize that not all patients live near the hospital or medical specialist they need access to. We’re here to help bridge that gap and ensure all patients have access to the care they need.

An in-person visit takes, on average, 121 minutes including time spent traveling to and from the doctor’s office, time spent in the waiting room, etc. A telemedicine appointment takes roughly 15 minutes, saving the average person 106 minutes on each visit! 1
Telehealth and telemedicine improve access to care — they are great methods to bring healthcare to patients in distant locations, especially rural locations. They reduce travel time and related stresses for patients and/or their family members. Additionally, with telemedicine as an option, patients do not have to take time off work or pull their children out of school to make it to distant appointments. Hospitalized patients whose care is supervised by a specialist via telehealth have the advantage of staying in their home community where friends and family can easily visit.

Using telemedicine, a patient can visit a provider or hospital located near them to connect electronically with a specialist in another area. The specialist can diagnose and provide care for the individual using video conferencing or other telemedical equipment, without the patient having to leave the familiar setting of their doctor’s office.

Patients in the North Country Telehealth Partnership’s service area have completed more than 350,000 appointments since 2014. Up until the COVID pandemic hit in 2020 the number of telehealth appointments was growing gradually, reaching its peak of 4,680 appointments in 2019. But beginning in 2020, the need for telemedicine appointments in order for patients to access healthcare services grew exponentially to 128,361 and further in 2021 to 211,793!!!

While the pandemic is nothing we want to re-live again, it did help both providers and patients become more comfortable with the use of telemedicine for medical visits. In fact, other benefits also resulted from increased use of telemedicine and still remain true today, including fewer cancelled and missed appointments, improved access to care for those with lack of transportation or childcare options, improved comfort levels (especially with behavioral health visits) for patients to speak with providers from the comfort of their homes, and more. All signs are pointing toward telemedicine continuing to be a convenient and comfortable healthcare option for patients.

To learn more, watch this short “Telemedicine 101” video:

What kinds of telemedicine are available?

Depending on where you live in our 11-county region, there are a number of telemedicine options available. Please click on any of the services below to reveal more information about it. If you are interested in where to find any of these telemedicine services in our region, please contact us for more information.

The most widely available service in our region is telepsychiatry, used by children, adolescents and adults. Telepsychiatry can involve direct interaction between a psychiatrist and the patient. It also encompasses psychiatrists supporting primary care providers with mental healthcare consultation and expertise. Mental healthcare can be delivered in a live, interactive communication. It can also involve recording medical information (images, videos, etc.) and sending this to a distant site for later review. 2
Telepsychology, also called telemental health, allows patients to receive mental or behavioral healthcare services in an environment other than a traditional face-to-face appointment. It could include: therapy over the phone, diagnostic interviewing via videoconferencing, use of mobile applications to track mood states, or consultations via email. 3
Employing similar methods used in telepsychiatry or telepsychology, telemedicine can also be used to treat neurological conditions like headaches, dementia, epilepsy, movement disorders, and multiple sclerosis.
Time is of the essence when caring for patients experiencing stroke-like symptoms. Telestroke services in our region allow for fast access to care from Central New York’s Comprehensive Stroke Center at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, giving our rural hospitals and patients the very best in stroke care.
Dermatology is the branch of medicine dealing with the skin, nails, hair and its diseases. Teledermatology allows a specialist to examine these parts of the body using audiovisual communications. Methods used in teledermatology include “store and forward” (SAF) — in which a physician takes a photo of a patient’s skin and forwards it to a dermatologist for diagnosis — and real-time diagnosis  — when a patient has a live videoconference with a dermatologist.
When it comes to healing chronic wounds, TeleWoundCare gives patients more access to a wound care specialist, faster than they would normally have it. This translates into quicker healing times, enhanced quality of life for patients, and a lower cost of care. Many of our region’s TeleWoundCare appointments involve Samaritan Medical Center’s Wound Care Center in Watertown.
Diabetic TeleRetinopathy
Diabetic TeleRetinopathy is one of the most recent services to come to our region, and it will be expanding across the region in the next couple of years. With portable retina cameras embedded in primary care offices throughout Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, medical staff are able to capture a detailed image of a patient’s retina and securely send it to a participating ophthalmologist or optometrist for assessment. Within hours, a diagnostic report is returned to the primary care provider, who follows up with the patient to discuss results and develop an individualized care plan.
Teledentistry is the use of electronic information, imaging and communication technologies, including interactive audio, video, data communications as well as store and forward technologies, to provide and support dental care delivery, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, transfer of dental information and education, where the originating site of care is the location at which the oral health professional is licensed. 4
Remote Patient Monitoring
With Remote Patient Monitoring, patients answer health-related questions on a tablet, computer or smart phone, and the answers are monitored daily for red flags indicating a need for intervention. This helps establish good self-monitoring routines and gain deeper education of one’s disease signs and symptoms.

How secure is telemedicine?

The providers and hospitals participating in our telemedicine network know that a patient’s privacy and personal health information is sensitive. Just like at a face-to-face appointment with your health care provider, all of your confidential medical information will be protected and only shared with the health care professionals involved in your care. Our telehealth network is encrypted and HIPAA-compliant. No patient information is stored.

Note: Your healthcare provider should always use secure platforms and ask for your consent (either verbal or written) before you begin using telemedicine. For more information about privacy and security, visit Chiron Health’s Definitive Guide to Telemedicine.

Is telemedicine covered by insurance?

Yes, all 50 state Medicaid programs cover telemedicine in some capacity, whether live videoconferencing, store and forward, Remote Patient Monitoring, or some combination of the three. Medicare covers telehealth but with some geographic and provider restrictions.

Private payers vary greatly depending on the state. Currently, 39 states and the District of Columbia require that private insurers cover telehealth the same as they cover in-person services. This is called coverage parity and was adopted in New York State in 2016.

Before you receive telemedicine services, you should consult your insurance plan, call your insurer, or talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about coverage. Another helpful resource is the Center for Connected Health Policy’s 50 State Report, which is updated semi-annually with information about insurance coverage for telemedicine.

Patient Testimonial:

I remember a year ago, laying on my sofa knowing I can’t go to the hospital in the middle of the night [if] I thought I was having a heart attack. The ambulance and ER would be $1,000 an hour and I can’t afford that – I have no insurance. I just stayed there petting my cat….they say petting your cat helps lower your blood pressure!

Then, I received free Telehealth equipment from ECHD to help me monitor my vital signs, blood sugar and weight. If you had told me a year ago it is all in the weight loss….I lost excessive weight and was able to stop 10 medications including blood pressure and blood sugar medications. The only medication I take now is ½ of a cholesterol pill every other day.

I depend on Telehealth now. Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night and test my vital signs and still can’t believe how well I am doing. I’m not going to die tonight, I tell myself! Telehealth made everything come together and yesterday I finished signing up for insurance for the first time. I was sobbing all the way through the process. If you think I was riding my horse fast last summer – watch me now that I have health insurance! I fly like the wind.

Liz Rowe, Community User of Telehealth

Want to learn more?

If you have questions about our telemedicine program or the North Country Telehealth Partnership, our team can help you out! Get to know us below to see who might be your best contact.


Robert Hunt
Fiber Network Manager & Telemedicine Network Program Coordinator
Nancy DelMastro
Telehealth Project Manager
Tom Zecher
Director of Health Information Technology