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Hospital District Board Approves Telemedicine Plan, Local Pharmacy For County Jail

Hopkins County Hospital District this week agreed to move forward with telemedicine and pharmacy services for Hopkins County jail.
Hopkins County Sheriff Lewis Tatum, Hopkins County Judge Robert Newsom and Hopkins County Commissioner Court, and other emergency response officials in as a county delegation asked the hospital district board to consider utilizing a telemedicine provider for the jail as a cost, efficiency and safety measure as well as a step toward a state mandate which requires jails to use the remote access through the tele-link to provide psychiatric services by 2020. It’d mean fewer trips to the clinic and hospital for minor treatment, which requires law enforcement staff to drive and stay with the inmate until the inmate is seen and released back to the jail. That poses potential safety risks due to limited law enforcement available to guard the inmate, county officials said.
The telemedicine option would cut down on the trips, which rack up costs too. Smaller matters could be handled with a telemedicine consult rather than a clinic or depending on the day and hour an ER visit. Inmates who need emergency care for emergency issues would still be transported to the hospital for the appropriate care, according to the county officials.
Being able to consult via telemedicine should also be more efficient as far as ambulance and ER services go too, Director of EMS Services Brent Smith said.
The county will purchase the equipment for the telemedicine service; the equipment that had previously been suggested and considered would work with any of the services, regardless which telemedicine service provider is contracted, reported Smith. The agreement for the service, and a service contract would be determined at a later time.
Tommy Allison suggested reviewing contracts for these types of services used at another similar nearby facility for reference when drafting agreements or contracts related to telemedicine services, with appropriate wording included in the contract to protect the hospital board and physician.
HCHD Board President Dr. Suzanne Thomas pointed out that when telemedicine is used at the hospital for specialized services, there are trained staff member on hand to run equipment. She asked who would be responsible for equipment operations at the county jail.
“We would have a dedicated staff member to do that. We’d train him or her to use the instruments. If we get to the point where we need a nurse, we’ll cross that when we get there,” Hopkins County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Tanner Crump said.
The jail population determines whether a nurse is required to be at the facility, he explained.
“I’m all for telemedicine portal, there are things to work out, parameters,” said HCHD Board member Joe Bob Burgin.
Allison also asked what the jail’s procedure will be if an inmate doesn’t want to use the telemedicine service.
Tatum explained that the county, according to jail standards, is required to provide medical service, but is not required to transport them to the emergency room for day-to-day minor complaints such as a sore throat, if another option is available. Inmates would still be treated at the appropriate facility for more emergent medical needs and issues as they arise.
At the hospital district’s January meeting, the Hopkins County Commissioners Court, Sheriff’s Office and other emergency response representatives also asked the hospital district to consider going with a local pharmacy instead of the contracted one for more efficiency, and potentially less waste of medication.
Crump told the HCHD board Monday night that, after more research, it was discovered there is no waste of medication because of the way the medication is packaged. However, the county would still like to move the jail pharmacy service to Medicine Chest, where smaller quantities could be dispensed and received quicker. There’s a bigger consideration for individuals who require medicines, which have to be sent to the jail for distribution. Unless a life or death medication, all medications are currently shipped, which means it may be a day or two before they arrive. That could mean medications arrive after an inmate has been released from custody or transferred to another facility. Switching to the local pharmacy service would have medication arriving quicker and in smaller quantities to fit the needs of those in custody.
HCHD Board voted at the April 22 meeting to move forward with the telemedicine plan, with CEO Ron Folwell to look over any agreements or contracts, and to switch to the local pharmacy provider, for the county jail.
Folwell also during the meeting presented to the board financial statements for February and March for the hospital district. Smith reported on EMS services for the last quarter.
CHRISTUS Mother Frances Hospital Sulphur Springs President/CEO Paul Harvey reported things were good from a patient census standpoint in the last reporting period, with no heavy influenza season the first few months of the year.
Harvey said the outpatient volume has increased in a positive way, lead by cardiology, intervention pain management and GI services.
“There are three months left in the fiscal year. It’s looking very good,” Harvey said.
He also said the hospital is closer to attaining certification as a designated primary stroke center. The data analysis and paperwork are done, Harvey reported.
Following an executive session, the hospital district board opted to delay making a decision to select someone to replace Dan Roper, who resigned, for the remainder of his unexpired term, and no action was taken regarding a property acquisition the HCHD has been pursuing, reported HCHD Board President Suzanne Thomas.

Author: Faith Huffman

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